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USMNT Veteran Jimmy Banks passes away at 54

The former USMNT defender passed away after battling pancreatic cancer

Soccer: Women’s World Cup Champions Celebration Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday, April 26, 54-year-old former United States Men’s National Team defender Jimmy Banks passed away from pancreatic cancer.

According to a U.S. Soccer statement,

Banks began playing soccer at age six through a Salvation Army program near the city’s Westlawn Housing Projects. He went on to play for Custer High School as well as the famed Milwaukee Bavarians, where he first became acquainted with future U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Bob Gansler. Beginning his collegiate career at UW-Parkside in 1983, Banks transferred to join Gansler at UW-Milwaukee.

Banks began his USMNT career during his senior year of college and went on to win 36 caps. His former college coach Bob Gansler was named USMNT manager in 1989. Banks proved to be an important member of the USMNT’s 1990 FIFA World Cup Qualifying Campaign, which resulted in the team qualifying for its first World Cup in forty years.

In 1990, Banks and Desmond Armstrong became the first two African-American players named to a USMNT World Cup Roster. At the 1990 World Cup, Banks appeared in the USMNT’s 1-0 loss to Italy and a 2-1 loss to Austria.

After Banks graduated from UW-Milwaukee, he turned to indoor soccer (the U.S. did not have a professional outdoor league at this time). He was drafted #1 overall by both the Milwaukee Wave of the America Indoor Soccer Association and the Kansas City Comets of the Major Indoor Soccer League.

Banks signed with the Milwaukee Wave and spent his entire professional club career (1987-1993) with his hometown team. He was inducted into the Wave Hall of Fame in 2013.

In 1999, Banks was named the head coach of the Milwaukee School of Engineering’s men’s soccer team. He coached the team until his death and lead it to 198 wins, two Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference (NACC) championships, and two appearances in the NCAA Division III Tournament.

Banks is survived by his sons Jordan, J.C., and Demetrius.