John Kerr Sr., a major figure in American soccer’s development as a player, coach and union leader who spent decades in the Washington area, died at his home in North Carolina on Sunday night, friends and colleagues said. He was 67. The cause of death wasn’t immediately known.
A Scottish-born Canadian, Kerr joined the American Soccer League’s Washington Darts in the late 1960s and later played for the New York Cosmos and Washington Diplomats in the North American Soccer League. He also featured for Club America in Mexico and made 10 appearances for Canada’s national team, mostly in World Cup qualifiers.
His coaching career included an assistant’s role with the Diplomats in 1977 and, following the demise of the NASL, the head job with the Fairfax-based Washington Stars from 1988 to 1990 and the Richmond Kickers in 1993-94.
His greatest influence, however, came at the grass-roots level, guiding the Montgomery United Ponies and the Fairfax Spartans to national prominence. The Ponies won the U.S. under-16 and under-19 championships, and the Spartans claimed the 1986 National Amateur Cup.
Joined by Gordon Bradley, an Englishman who coached the Cosmos and Diplomats before guiding George Mason University’s program, Kerr helped chart the sport’s future in the nation’s capital. Bradley died in 2008 at age 74.
Among Kerr’s star pupils were U.S. Hall of Fame forward Bruce Murray and his son, John Kerr Jr., a Falls Church High School graduate who, at Duke, won the Hermann Trophy in 1986 as college soccer’s finest player. Kerr Jr., who played professionally in England for many years, has run Duke’s program since 2008.
After coaching, Kerr Sr. worked for the NFL and MLS players’ associations.
Details of the funeral and memorial service have not been finalized.