“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,” the United States Soccer Federation said in a statement Friday night. Don Garber, the commissioner of Major League Soccer, wrote that Wahl “was a kind and caring person whose passion for soccer and dedication to journalism were immeasurable.”
Wahl grew up in Mission, Kan., outside of Kansas City, before attending Princeton University, where he graduated in 1996. Princeton is where Wahl fell in love with soccer. As a reporter for The Daily Princetonian, he covered the team when it was coached by Bob Bradley, who later led the United States men’s national team at the 2010 World Cup.
At Sports Illustrated, Wahl wrote dozens of cover stories and introduced Americans to many of the world’s great soccer stars, like Neymar and David Beckham, not to mention American stars like Christian Pulisic and Alex Morgan, and was one of a handful of journalists who covered the sport on a full-time basis. He wrote a book about the years Beckham spent playing in Major League Soccer, called “The Beckham Experiment,” and another on how the game’s best players think, titled the “Masters of Modern Soccer.”
Wahl also did television work for Fox Sports, and more recently, CBS.
After 24 years at Sports Illustrated, Wahl’s tenure ended unceremoniously after he was fired by Sports Illustrated’s publisher, Maven, over a dispute about pandemic-related pay cuts.
But Wahl quickly struck out on his own, starting an email newsletter, Fútbol with Grant Wahl, that garnered thousands of paid subscribers, and a podcast with Meadowlark Media, a sports media company started by the ESPN veterans John Skipper and Dan Le Batard.
“He is in my view America’s pre-eminent soccer journalist. He had this space as kind of a pioneer,” said Chris Wittyngham, his podcast co-host. “He was just so nice. Midwestern charm is a cliché, but he had it in abundance.”
Wahl was writing daily articles and recording podcasts every other day from Qatar throughout the World Cup. In recent days, Wahl wrote about struggles with his health during a run of coverage that, he said, typically left room for about five hours of sleep a night.