Kevin Payne, the first president of Toronto FC, has passed away at the age of 69 from a lung illness.
The longtime soccer executive was inducted into the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame as a builder in 2021.
“Kevin cared deeply about this sport and the people involved in it,” said Djorn Buchholz, executive director of the National Soccer Hall of Fame. “His passion will be irreplaceable. We will miss him and we will make sure his legacy will not be forgotten.”
MLS Commissioner Don Garber issued the following statement: “All of us at Major League Soccer mourn the loss of Kevin Payne, one the League’s most successful club executives. Kevin was instrumental in the formation of the League and helped build D.C. United into the first MLS dynasty — winning three of the first four MLS Cup Championships. D.C. United remains one of the most successful teams in League history.
“As one of MLS’ first club executives, Kevin played an important role in shaping the competition and commercial structure of the League. He served on the MLS Board of Governors for many years, both as a representative of D.C. United, the Anschutz Entertainment Group and Toronto FC.
“Kevin was committed to the growth of the sport in the United States at all levels and believed in the transformative power of the game. He was a long-time member of the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors and was one of the founding members and officers of the U.S. Soccer Foundation.
“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. We offer our deepest condolences to Kevin’s wife, Pam, and their daughters, Ashley and Rebecca.”
Payne led D.C. United from 1994 to 2001 and again from 2004 to 2012. He then became Toronto FC’s first president but was unable to recreate his earlier success.