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Bob Hermann, soccer boss who helped found NASL, dies at 97

New York Cosmos

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - CIRCA 1977: Pele’ #10 of the New York Cosmos in action during an NASL Soccer game circa 1977 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Pele’ played for the Cosmos from 1975-77. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

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LADUE, Mo. -- Bob Hermann, the soccer executive who launched the Hermann Trophy given annually to the top college soccer players in the United States, has died at age 97.

His family said he died Monday at his home in the St. Louis suburb of Ladue.

A key figure in the rise of the professional sport in the U.S. in the 1960s, Hermann was inducted into the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2001.

Robert Ringen Hermann was born on Jan. 3, 1923. He went to St. Louis Country Day School and in 1944 graduated from Princeton, where he was on the crew. Commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Navy, he served on the aircraft carrier USS Savo Island in the Pacific theater and rose to lieutenant.

He founded the plastic containers firm Hermann Cos. in 1956 and in 1967 helped create the National Professional Soccer League, a 10-team circuit in the U.S. and Toronto. Hermann launched the league with the help of former Philadelphia Phillies owner William D. Cox, who had been banned from baseball for life in 1943 for betting on his own team.

Hermann co-owned the St. Louis Stars with Bill Bidwill of the NFL’s Cardinals. After the 1967 season, the NPSL merged with the United Soccer Association and formed the North American Soccer League. Led by the Cosmos and Pele, NASL raised the presence of the soccer in the U.S. until it folded after the 1984 season.

Hermann’s Stars moved after the 1977 season to Anaheim and became the California Surf. The club was taken over in 1980 by a group headed by Henry Segerstrom, then folded after the 1981 season.

In 1967, Hermann founded the Hermann Trophy, presented to the top men’s college soccer player by the Missouri Athletic Club. A women’s award, also named after him, began in 1988.

Hermann Stadium, the 6,050-seat home of the soccer team of St. Louis University, was named after him in 1999 following a $5.1 million renovation he helped fund.

In 1981 he founded the Veiled Prophet Fair, a Gateway Arch-area celebration around the time of the Fourth of July now called Fair St. Louis. He also served as chairman of the St. Louis Zoo.

His first marriage, to the late Lilly Busch Hermann, ended in divorce. His second wife, Mary Lee Marshall Hermann, died last August. He is survived by daughter Carlota “Lotsie” Hermann Holton, son Robert R. Hermann Jr.; four stepchildren, six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by daughter Christy Busch Hermann.

A memorial service will be planned later.