“The entire U.S. Soccer family is heartbroken to learn that we have lost Grant Wahl,” U.S. Soccer wrote in a statement. “Fans of soccer and journalism of the highest quality knew we could always count on Grant to deliver insightful and entertaining stories about our game, and its major protagonists: teams, players, coaches, and the many personalities that make soccer, unlike any sport.”
Wahl, 48, had written about some of his health issues in Qatar in the days leading up to his passing. Earlier this week, he wrote: “My body finally broke down on me. Three weeks of little sleep, high stress, and lots of work can do that to you.”
He said he had a cold turn into something more serious on the night the United States played the Netherlands. “I could feel my upper chest take on a new level of pressure and discomfort,” he wrote.
In a well-covered incident at the tournament, Wahl was detained by Qatari security guards at a stadium when he arrived at a game wearing a rainbow soccer ball T-shirt. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar. Wahl, on his Substack, wrote that security guards refused to let him in, held him for 25 minutes, and demanded he removes his shirt.
In its statement, U.S. Soccer added: “Grant’s passion for soccer and commitment to elevating its profile across our sporting landscape played a major role in helping to drive interest in and respect for our beautiful game. As important, Grant’s belief in the power of the game to advance human rights was and will remain, an inspiration to all.”
Wahl joined Sports Illustrated in 1996 and worked at the magazine until 2020. Over more than two decades, he became one of the leading soccer writers in the country. He covered men’s and women’s World Cups, European soccer, and the growth of the sport in the United States.
Former Sports Illustrated colleague and NFL writer Peter King recalled covering the World Cup in 2010 with Wahl and how gracious he was to introduce him to so many contacts that helped his reporting. “He loved soccer the way Peter Gammons loves baseball,” King said. “He was selfless. All he wanted was more soccer coverage, and he loved that I’d be spreading the word about soccer to a bunch of football fans.”
Wahl tweeted commentary throughout Argentina’s victory Friday. His final tweet came at the end of the second half after the Netherlands tied the game. “Just an incredibly designed set-piece goal by the Netherlands,” Wahl wrote.