MLS Soccer

Sounders honor Northwest soccer pioneer John Best

There was a moment of silence Friday as Seattle Sounders FC paused to honor Northwest soccer pioneer John Best, who died last weekend during a visit to Ireland.

The tribute came before the Sounders’ match against the Vancouver Whitecaps, which was fitting because Best played an important role with both North American Soccer League franchises, as well as the indoor Tacoma Stars.

“It’s a very sad day for soccer in the Northwest,” said Joe Waters, who played for the Stars from 1984-92 and now coaches at Bellarmine Prep. “He was involved with the Sounders at a very successful period for them. … He was involved with the Whitecaps when they won the old NASL championship. And he was involved with the Stars. So he built three pretty successful franchises in the soccer community at the professional level.”

Best was born in England in 1940 and began his playing career at age 18 at Liverpool. He came to Seattle in 1974, coaching the Sounders to a 39-24-3 record over their first three NASL regular seasons. He went on to become general manager of the Whitecaps. Then he became a driving force in the creation of the Tacoma Stars of the Major Indoor Soccer League, along with his wife, Claudia.

He was inducted into the Tacoma-Pierce County Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.

“He was a promoter of the game, and any form that the game took,” said Jimmy McAlister, who played for the Sounders in the ’70s and the Stars in the ’80s. “He could make you like the Stars even if you hated soccer. He was that good of a speaker. … Soccer in the Northwest wouldn’t be like it is today if it wasn’t for John Best. There’s a few guys that it wouldn’t be the same if they weren’t here, and he’s one of them.”

Best suffered from kidney problems over the final two decades of his life, undergoing transplants. He died Sunday from a lung infection. He was 74.