CHICAGO – Jimmy Banks, a defender and winger who made two appearances for the United States at the 1990 World Cup, died Friday. He was 54.
Banks died of pancreatic cancer at Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital in Milwaukee, the U.S. Soccer Federation said.
Banks had 36 international appearances from 1986-91. He did not play in the opening loss to Czechoslovakia at the 1990 World Cup, then was inserted into the lineup following Eric Wynalda’s red card in the opener and started in losses to Italy and Austria.
“It’s frustrating that we didn’t make it to the second round,” Banks said after the U.S. was eliminated. “We have the feeling we didn’t play as well as we could have.”
The U.S. qualified for soccer’s showcase for the first time since 1950, and Banks and Desmond Armstrong were the first two African Americans to make a U.S. World Cup roster.
“At a time when few African American players were reaching the elite level of the sport, Jimmy’s rise … inspired a new generation to reach the same level,” U.S. Soccer Federation president Carlos Cordeiro said in a statement. “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.”
Banks was born in Milwaukee and played college soccer for future national team coach Bob Gansler at Milwaukee.
At a time when the U.S. did not have a major outdoor league, Banks played for the Milwaukee Wave of the American Indoor Soccer Association from 1987-93.
He coached the Milwaukee School of Engineering from 1999-2019, making two NCAA Division III tournament appearances.
Banks is survived by sons Demetrius, J.C. and Jordan.