On what is usually meant to be a happy occasion, Christmas Day this year proved to be a sad time for everyone connected with Toronto FC and MLS in general. As reported by Neil Davidson of The Canadian Press via CBC, Kevin Payne passed away on Sunday.
Payne, who was 69, died as a result of a lung illness. He passed away in Charleston, South Carolina.
Payne is best known in Southern Ontario for his time as TFC club president and general manager. It was hoped he could turn around the fortunes of a club coming off their worst season in franchise history in 2012.
Unfortunately for Payne, despite undertaking a major overhaul of the Reds, he wasn't given long enough and was fired after just 10 months in charge. However, this does not take away from the legacy he built during his time in MLS.
Kevin Payne, the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame and former Toronto FC President, sadly passed away on Sunday in Charleston, South Carolina, due to a lung illness.
Payne is best known for his time as President and CEO of D.C. United. He helped create the first dynasty in MLS, as D.C. won three of the first four MLS Cups.
Payne enjoyed two spells in D.C., between 1994-2001 and 2004-12. In total, he won four MLS Cups and two U.S. Open Cups.
Per Davidson, Payne spent time as a member of the MLS board of governors and its competition committee. He was also a U.S. Soccer board member and vice-chairman of the U.S. Soccer Foundation.
Payne was elected to the United States National Soccer Hall of Fame, as a builder in 2021. It was no surprise after everything he achieved, with him retiring for good at the end of that same year, from his final position of CEO and executive director of U.S. Club Soccer.
Condolences from around the league
MLS Commissioner Don Garber shared his thoughts on how much Payne meant to everyone involved with soccer in North America. As reported by the Associated Press, Garber released a statement which said:
"Kevin leaves a legacy not only of success in business and sports, but he will also be remembered for his strong moral compass, his kindness, and his devotion to his friends and family. His passing will be deeply felt by everyone at MLS and throughout the entire soccer community."
Toronto FC also released a club statement regarding Payne via their official Twitter account. It said:
"Toronto FC and the entire MLSE organization are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former club president, Kevin Payne. On behalf of the organization, and the club's supporters, we extend our deepest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues throughout the soccer community."
We join everyone else in offering our sincere and deep condolences to his wife, Pam, and their daughters, Ashley and Rebecca. He will be sadly missed, but leaves behind a strong and positive legacy both personally and professionally.
What do you remember most about Payne's time in MLS, whether it be with Toronto FC specifically, or the league in general? Share your thoughts and condolences in the comments section below.