Oldest living U.S. international Gene Olaff watches "packed stadium in Portland" on TV

05 June 9:13 am

Oldest living U.S. international Gene Olaff watches "packed stadium in Portland" on TV

By Brian Costello

Courtesy of Roger Bennett.A colorized image of the American
Soccer League All-Stars team.
Olaff is at center in the baseball cap.

""It has been so exciting to savor MLS's growth," he exclaimed with enthusiasm. "When I watch television and see that packed stadium in Portland, I cannot believe it is in America. I could never have dreamed of a scene like that when I grew up in the 1920s and soccer was strictly for immigrants," he admitted. "But when you look at my life, you see, it has taken a good long time for it to get to where it is today."

Those are the words of  U.S. soccer legend Gene Olaff. Before Landon Donovan or Alexi Lalas, before John Harkes or Paul Caligiuri, Olaff was blazing a new trail for American soccer. Now 92, he is the oldest living former U.S. international and was a goalkeeper in the old semi-professional American Soccer League.

As the U.S. Soccer Federation celebrated their 100th year this past weekend, Roger Bennett of Grantland and ESPNFC.com fame wrote a brilliant piece about this living legend where he describes some of the early rise of soccer in America. It is a must read for soccer history aficionados. Also check out their great look at an all-time most influential U.S. XI for more history.