On the opening day of America’s premier football league, one of the most prominent voices was mourned and honored.
Major League Soccer revealed that following his death in December, a place in league press boxes would be reserved for the late Grant Wahl.
“In December, the football community lost a friend and colleague, Grant Wahl,” read a message from MLS’ communications department.
One of the most recognized and respected voices in football, Grant’s impact on the game has been immeasurable. As a tribute to Grant, MLS clubs reserve a place in the press box at their home opener in his honor.”
Press boxes across the league placed images of Wahl 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.
Tribute to American soccer journalist Grant Wahl was posted in MLS press boxes like this one in Philadelphia before the start of the 2023 Major League Soccer season
Wahl worked for Sports Illustrated from 1996 to 2021, covering football and college basketball, and then started his own website.
He also worked for Fox and CBS, and wrote the books ‘The Beckham Experiment’, about the move of English star David Beckham to Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy, and ‘Masters of Modern Soccer’.
Wahl – an accomplished sports journalist for more than 25 years – was in Qatar to cover his eighth Men’s World Cup and his twelfth World Cup overall.
During the match, Wahl suddenly collapsed in his seat in the press box at Qatar’s Lusail Iconic Stadium.
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 was a ruptured aortic aneurysm with hemopericardium, his wife, Dr. Celine Gounder in a blog post.
Earlier that week, Wahl had visited a medical clinic and complained of chest pains. He was given cough syrup and antibiotics because he thought he was suffering from bronchitis.
Gounder, a leading epidemiologist and professor at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine, refuted claims that Wahl’s death had suspicious motives or was in any way related to the coronavirus.
Other tributes to Wahl were left in stadiums (from top to bottom) in Atlanta, Nashville and Austin
Wahl had spent his journalism career working for such outlets as Sports Illustrated, Fox, and CBS
Grant Wahl (seen here with his wife) Celine Gounder to be honored by the United States Soccer Hall of Fame in May with the Colin Jose Media Award
“No amount of CPR or shock could have saved him. His death was unrelated to COVID. His death had nothing to do with vaccination status. There was nothing shameful about his death,” she wrote.
In the immediate aftermath of news of Wahl’s death, his brother Eric said Grant had received death threats after he was detained for wearing a shirt in support of the LGBTQ+ community at a match. Eric said he believed Grant was murdered, a statement he later retracted.
Before the games started, Eric shared his feelings about starting the season without his brother.
“Starting the first MLS season without Grant is hard for me, but he would be super excited for all the action and new developments, especially the MLS Season Pass on AppleTV+,” Eric wrote.
In the wake 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 husband – 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 always with you,” President Biden said.
“Celine, it may take many seasons, but I promise you there will come a day when the memory of Grant will bring a smile to your lips before it sheds a tear. My prayer for you is that this day will come sooner rather than later.’
Wahl died suddenly aged 49 from an ‘aortic aneurysm that ruptured’ during the World Cup in Qatar
Grant’s joyful spirit and compassionate heart were gifts to all whose lives he touched. His legacy will live on through you and the countless individuals he inspired,” Vice President Harris wrote.
US Soccer previously honored Wahl during two friendlies played in January wearing a jersey on an open seat in the press box with “Wahl” written on it, “along with a framed photo and flowers.”
“There will always be an open seat for Grant at all @USMNT and @USWNT home games from now until the 2026 World Cup,” US Soccer Comms said. in a tweet.
Wahl will be honored May 6 at the National Soccer Hall of Fame induction in Frisco, Texas.