Thousands of members of the U.S. Soccer family have come to know Hank Steinbrecher as “The Preacher” because of his devotion to soccer and because of the passion that he manifests whenever he talks about the sport. His vision that soccer can stand as an equal beside other major sports in the U.S. has served as the basis for the growth and maturing of the sport in America. He has always served as a distinguished soccer statesman and as an effective agent in marshalling the resources necessary to make soccer strong. In February 2000, Bob Contiguglia, U.S. Soccer President, stated that “Hank’s values, energy, passion and commitment to the sport of soccer in his time at the Federation served as a crucial element in the sport’s rise to prominence in the 1990’s.”
Hank first became interested in soccer as a youth in New York and eventually found himself taking the field as a star collegiate player for national champion Davis and Elkins College, a small college soccer power in West Virginia. After graduating from D & E in 1971 and earning an MA in 1972 from West Virginia University, Hank launched his distinguished career in sports as the head soccer coach and athletic director at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, NC. During his five-year tenure in that position, while lifting a small college program to regional prominence, his inspirational effect on people around him was felt, leading many of the players that he coached to choose careers in college and club soccer coaching and administration.
In 1977, Hank moved to Appalachian State University, where he served for three years as head soccer coach and as an associate professor. His teams compiled an impressive overall 33-10-0 record and succeeded in winning every conference match, capturing the Southern Conference championship three consecutive years and earning a national #7 ranking during one of the three years. Hank was named Conference Coach of the Year each time and was chosen by his coaching peers to serve as a member of the ISAA (Intercollegiate Soccer Association of America) rating board and for a period as chairman of the southeast region committee. Hank left App State in 1980 to become head soccer coach at Boston University, where he remained until 1985, when he was hired by Quaker Oats Company as Director of Sports Marketing. During the next five years, Hank was responsible for the product placement and positioning of the sport beverage, Gatorade, negotiating contracts with all major sports leagues and teams to enhance their relationships with the beverage.
In November 1990 Hank assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer and Secretary General of the United States Soccer Federation. During his ten years in the post, USSF experienced unprecedented growth both on and off the field. One of Hank’s early moves was to re-christen the sport’s governing body with a snappy new logo and moniker. USSF simply became known to fans and followers as U.S. Soccer and the organization’s old logo was replaced with the now well known red-white-and-blue shooting ball. In Hank’s view, “The new marks helped us to create an identity. The vibrant logo was a must if we were going to convince people we were for real. The logo has become symbolic of our success.”
Perhaps most importantly, Hank took a lead role through direct day-to-day involvement in marketing the sport of soccer to potential sponsors, helping U.S. Soccer’s corporate family grow throughout the 1990’s. Part of his success in this area translated into strong funding of soccer’s national teams at all levels. By the end of the 1990’s, the U.S. Women had won two Women’s World Cup crowns and had built a record unrivaled in sport. The U.S. Men during that period appeared in three World Cups, won a Gold Cup and finished third at two Confederation Cups.
As Secretary General of U.S. Soccer, Hank was responsible for numerous innovations, including moving the Federation’s offices from Colorado Springs to Chicago, holding the 1993 Soccer Summit and implementation of Project 2010 and Project Gold. He also served as the Federation’s point person in serving as the host federation for two incredibly successful World Cups (1994 men’s and 1999 women’s) and the 1996 Olympic Soccer Tournament. Both the 1994 and 1999 World Cup tournaments are considered by many to be the most successful FIFA tournaments of all time.
Hank and his wife, Ruth Anne, reside outside Chicago in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, and have two sons, Chad and Corey.