(Reuters) – American soccer pioneer Jimmy Banks died on Friday at the age of 54 after a battle with pancreatic cancer, U.S. Soccer said.
Milwaukee-born Banks and team mate Desmond Armstrong became the first two African-Americans named on a U.S. World Cup squad when they were included on the roster for the 1990 tournament.
Banks made two appearances at that World Cup, playing in a 1-0 defeat to host Italy and a 2-1 loss to Austria.
The defender made 36 national team appearances in all.
“The entire U.S. soccer family is deeply saddened by the passing of Jimmy Banks,” U.S. Soccer Federation President Carlos Cordeiro said in a statement.
“At a time when few African-American players were reaching the elite level of the sport, Jimmy’s rise to play for the U.S. men’s national team at the 1990 World Cup inspired a new generation to reach the same level.
“His time as a player, coach and mentor will leave a lasting impact on the sport in this country, particularly his tireless efforts to grow the game through his inner city soccer programs.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Peter Rutherford)