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Sigi Schmid, former Sounders coach, dies at 65

The Sounders reached the conference semifinals or better in each of Sigi Schmid's seasons. (AP)

Sigi Schmid, the coach who led the Seattle Sounders through their first seven-plus seasons and established them as a major player in the MLS, died Tuesday at the age of 65.

A statement from Schmid’s family was released Wednesday through the Sounders confirming his death.

“Our family is deeply saddened by his passing and is taking this time to grieve the loss of a tremendous husband, father, leader and mentor,” the statement reads. “We also recognize how much Sigi meant to so many people across the U.S. Soccer landscape and around the world at different levels of the game. That community meant a great deal to him as well. While we mourn his loss, we appreciate privacy during this challenging time.”

Schmid, who stepped down as head coach of the Los Angeles Galaxy in September, was hospitalized three weeks ago at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in need of a heart transplant, according to The Los Angeles Times. Cause of death has not been reported.

The Sounders quickly found success under Schmid’s leadership in their expansion season, and Seattle reached the Western Conference finals or semifinals in each of his seasons at the helm. He was replaced by one of his assistant coaches, Brian Schmetzer, midway through the 2016 season, and the Sounders went on to win their first MLS championship that year.

“Sigi was someone I respected immensely, not only for his success as a coach and dedication to his craft, but more importantly as a man and someone that truly left a positive mark on the people he encountered every day,” Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer said in a statement. “He will be missed greatly by a lot of people, and on behalf of the soccer community here in Seattle, I can say that we would not be where we are now without him.”

Schmid had an MLS-record 266 regular-season and postseason victories in 18 seasons Galaxy, Columbus Crew and Sounders. He led teams to two MLS titles, the first with the Galaxy in 2002 and the second with the Crew in 2008, and was a two-time MLS Coach of the Year. He stepped down as coach of the Galaxy in September with six games left in the regular season.

“Major League Soccer is devastated by the news of the passing of Sigi Schmid,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. “Sigi will go down as one of the leading figures in the history of our league. From Los Angeles to Columbus and Seattle, Sigi won more games than any coach in MLS history and led his clubs to multiple championships, including two MLS Cups and five Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cups. Sigi’s passion for soccer was unrivaled, and he was loved and admired by everyone in MLS. We deeply mourn his passing and send our heartfelt condolences to his wife Valerie, their children, and all of his loved ones.”

Born in West Germany in 1953, Schmid’s coaching career also included a 19-year tenure at UCLA in which he led the Bruins to three NCAA titles.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.