Kasey Keller Put the U.S. — and Washington
— On the Soccer Map
WASHINGTON YOUTH SOCCER CELEBRATES THE U.S. SOCCER CENTENNIAL BY HIGHLIGHTING THE EMERALD STATERS WHO HAVE IMPACTED THE AMERICAN GAME
By Brian Beaky, Editor, E-PlayOn!
Ask someone from Chicago what they know about Seattle, and you'll most likely hear some variation of the following — "Space Needle, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, coffee, lots and lots of rain."
The answers are the same in L.A., Dallas, Miami. Ask that question in London, however, and you're likely to hear this: "Seattle? Isn't that where Kasey Keller is from?"
It's rare that a celebrity can become more famous in a foreign country than in his own hometown, but in the case of Keller — a native of Lacey, it should be noted, not exactly Seattle — it's almost certainly true.
"I was shocked at how many times I'd be walking down a crowded London street with my hat and glasses on and my head down and somebody would shout out, ‘Hey, Kase!'" he says. "And I'd think, ‘Wow, I wouldn't even have recognized my cousin if he had walked by looking like that.'"
The former Washington Youth Soccer star and North Thurston High School alum played in Europe for 16 seasons from 1992-2008, including 12 years in England and two each in Germany and Spain. Name a "first" for American keepers, and Keller is likely the answer:
- First American keeper to play in both the English Premier League and the German Bundesliga? Keller.
- First American keeper to captain a top-flight German club? Keller.
- First American keeper named to four World Cup rosters? Keller.
- First male player ever to win three U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year awards? Keller.
And while official data doesn't exist, there's a good chance he's also the first American keeper to ever have an indie song written in his honor — the pop band Barcelona penned "Kasey Keller" after being floored by the Washington native's performance in the U.S.' stunning 1-0 victory over Brazil in 1998.
It's almost certain that no American soccer player has seen as much of the world's game — from Washington state, to the old USL, to the Premiership, Bundesliga, World Cup and beyond — as our very own hometown hero.
In 2009, Keller was able to return to the Northwest with his family to lead his "home" city into the forefront of the American soccer consciousness, captaining Seattle Sounders FC to three-straight U.S. Open Cup titles and three-straight MLS playoff appearances, a level of success unmatched by almost any expansion team in sports history.
Since retiring following the 2011 season, Keller has ironically been busier than ever — whether providing color commentary for Sounders FC games, serving as a studio analyst for ESPN’s MLS and U.S. Soccer coverage, or simply shuttling his 15-year-old twins from one event to another.
To us, he’ll always be an American soccer icon. But for now, he’s happy just being Dad.