On the opening day of America’s top soccer league, one of its most prominent voices was mourned and honored.
Major League Soccer revealed that a seat in press boxes around the league would be reserved for the late Grant Wahl after his passing in December.
‘In December, the soccer community lost a friend & colleague, Grant Wahl,’ read a message from MLS’s communications department.
‘One of the most recognized & revered voices in soccer, Grant’s impact on the game was immeasurable. As a tribute to Grant, MLS clubs will be reserving a press box seat in his honor at their home opener.’
In press boxes across the league, images of Wahl were placed alongside flowers, rainbow banners, memorabilia from his podcast, and cards encouraging people to share interactions with him as well as other memories from his life that impacted others.
Tributes to American soccer journalist Grant Wahl were placed in MLS press boxes like this one in Philadelphia ahead of the start to the 2023 Major League Soccer season
Wahl worked for Sports Illustrated from 1996 to 2021, covering soccer and college basketball, then started his own website.
He also worked for Fox and CBS, and he wrote the books ‘The Beckham Experiment,’ about England star David Beckham’s move to Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy, and ‘Masters of Modern Soccer.’
Wahl – an accomplished sports journalist of over 25 years – was in Qatar covering his his eighth men’s World Cup and his 12th World Cup overall.
During the match, Wahl suddenly collapsed in his seat in the press box of the Lusail Iconic Stadium in Qatar.
Paramedics on the scene treated him for about half an hour before he was transported to Hamad General Hospital in Doha, where he was pronounced dead on December 10.
An autopsy by the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office revealed the cause of death to be a ruptured aortic aneurysm with hemopericardium, his wife, Dr. Celine Gounder wrote in a blog post.
Earlier that week, Wahl had visited a medical clinic, complaining of chest pains He was given cough syrup and antibiotics with the belief he was suffering from bronchitis.
Gounder, a leading epidemiologist and a professor at the Grossman School of Medicine at New York University dispelled claims that Wahl’s death had any suspicious motives or was related in any way to the coronavirus.
Other tributes to Wahl were left at stadiums (from top to bottom) in Atlanta, Nashville & Austin
Wahl had spent his journalistic career working at outlets like Sports Illustrated, Fox, and CBS
Grant Wahl (seen here with his wife) Celine Gounder will be honored by the United States Soccer Hall of Fame with the Colin Jose Media Award in May
‘No amount of CPR or shocks would have saved him. His death was unrelated to COVID. His death was unrelated to vaccination status. There was nothing nefarious about his death,’ she wrote.
In the immediate aftermath of the news of Wahl’s death, his brother Eric said Grant had received death threats after he was detained for wearing a shirt supporting the LGBTQ+ community to a match. Eric said he believed Grant was killed, a statement which he later retracted.
Before the matches kicked off, Eric shared his feelings on the start of the season without his brother.
‘The start of the first MLS season without Grant is hard for me, but he’d be super psyched for all the action & new developments, esp the MLS Season Pass on AppleTV+,’ Eric wrote.
In the aftermath of Wahl’s death, Gounder shared two letters written to her by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
‘I know what it means to lose a spouse – your rock, your inspiration, your everything. I hope you find comfort in knowing that the love you had for Grant and the love he had for you will endure. He is with you always,’ President Biden shared.
‘Celine, it may take many seasons, but I promise you the day will come when the memory of Grant will bring a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye. My prayer for you is that this day comes sooner rather than later.’
Wahl died suddenly at age 49 from an ‘aortic aneurysm that ruptured’ at the Qatar World Cup
‘Grant’s joyous spirit and compassionate heart were gifts to all those whose lives he touched. His legacy will live on through you and the countless individuals he inspired,’ wrote Vice President Harris.
US Soccer previously honored Wahl at two friendly matches played in January with a jersey on an open seat in the press box with ‘Wahl’ on it, ‘along with a framed photo and flowers.
‘A seat will always be left open for Grant at all home @USMNT and @USWNT matches from now until the 2026 World Cup,’ US Soccer Comms said in a tweet.
Wahl is set to be honored at the US National Soccer Hall of Fame induction at Frisco, Texas, on May 6.