Walt Daggatt, the man who helped bring professional soccer to Seattle, died at the age of 91 on Sunday at Rancho Mirage, California.
Rewind 38 years and it was a 1972 trip to Dallas where Daggatt met Lamar Hunt through mutual involvement with the NFL. Daggatt was looking to garner support from the league’s owners to bring a football franchise to Seattle. There he met Hunt, the owner of the Kansas City Chiefs, but also an avid soccer fan and co-founder of the North American Soccer League (NASL).
Instead of talking football, Hunt (who owned the Dallas Tornado of the NASL) wanted to talk soccer. The conversation inspired Daggatt to bring a franchise to Seattle and the product of his work was the Sounders.
While the teams and leagues have come and gone over the years, the name has stuck and still holds a special place in the heart of area soccer fans.
Born the youngest of four children in Portland, Daggatt grew up on a homestead near Lyle, in southwest Washington. At age 10, the family moved to Portland and Daggatt graduated from Grant High School in 1938.
Daggatt earned an economics degree from Dartmouth and it didn’t take long for his involvement in business and sports to grow. Climbing corporate ladders across the country, work took him from Los Angeles, then to Newark, but he was eventually drawn back to the Pacific Northwest by one of his college roomates, David “Ned” Skinner.
In 1972, Daggatt got involved with Skinner’s efforts to bring Seattle an NFL franchise, which ultimately led to the meeting with Hunt in Dallas and birthed the work to bring professional soccer to Seattle.
Daggatt was managing general partner of Seattle’s NASL franchise and it was his idea to have the fans vote for the team name. They chose the “Sounders” in favor of, among other names, the “Mariners.”
The NASL Sounders had great success on the field and in attendance numbers. The ownership group sold the team in 1979, however, and it folded when the league failed a couple years later.
In 2009, Daggatt came back to Seattle for pregame festivities before the season opener of Sounders FC, the new Major League Soccer franchise. Sounders FC owner and general manager Adrian Hanauer said Daggatt had been very supportive of the city’s USL and MLS franchises.
“He has a big place in the history of soccer in Seattle,” said Hanauer by phone Sunday night.
Daggatt is survived by his wife Janet of Seattle and Rancho Mirage, sons Andy and Russell of Seattle and Scott of Issaquah.