Grant Wahl was one of the most respected and influential sports journalists in the United States, especially in the field of soccer. He covered the sport for more than two decades, writing for Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports, and CBS Sports, as well as authoring several books. He died unexpectedly on December 10, 2022, at the age of 49, while covering the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. He collapsed after experiencing chest pain and was later pronounced dead at a hospital. The cause of his death was later revealed to be a ruptured aortic aneurysm, a rare and often fatal condition that occurs when the wall of the main artery of the heart tears.
Wahl’s death shocked and saddened the sports world, as he was widely admired and loved by his colleagues, peers, and fans. He was also survived by his wife, Dr. Celine Gounder, a prominent infectious disease specialist and CNN medical analyst, whom he married in 2001. Wahl and Gounder had no children, but they shared a passion for travel, humanitarian work, and soccer.
Wahl’s net worth at the time of his death was estimated to be around $8 million, according to Wealthy Spy. This was based on his salary, earnings, and assets from his long and successful career as a sports journalist and author. Wahl reportedly earned around $64,577 as his yearly salary from CBS Sports, where he worked as a soccer analyst since 2020. He also made money from his podcast and newsletter, which he launched after leaving Sports Illustrated in 2020, following a 24-year stint with the magazine. He was one of the most prominent and senior writers for Sports Illustrated, covering college basketball and soccer, and receiving several awards for his work. He also wrote two books, The Beckham Experiment (2009) and Masters of Modern Soccer (2018), which were both critically acclaimed and best-selling.
Wahl’s Early Life and Education
Wahl was born on December 2, 1973, in Mission, Kansas. He grew up with an older brother, Eric, and was a fan of the Kansas City Comets, a local indoor soccer team. He graduated from Shawnee Mission East High School and was an Eagle Scout. He then attended Princeton University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Politics in 1996. He was also a reporter for the Daily Princetonian, covering the Princeton Tigers men’s soccer team, coached by Bob Bradley, who would later become the US national team manager. Wahl credited Bradley for sparking his interest in soccer, as he gave him the opportunity to study abroad in Argentina and spend time with Boca Juniors, one of the country’s most popular clubs. He also returned to the US for the 1994 FIFA World Cup, which further ignited his passion for the sport.
Wahl’s Professional Career
Wahl began his professional career as an intern for the Miami Herald in 1996, but declined an offer to become a staff writer there. He then joined Sports Illustrated in November 1996, starting as a fact-checker and later becoming a senior writer. He covered soccer and college basketball for the magazine and its website, SI.com. He reported on 12 NCAA basketball tournaments, eight FIFA men’s World Cups, four FIFA Women’s World Cups, and five Olympic games. He also wrote numerous cover stories and profiles on athletes, such as David Beckham, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant. He received four Magazine Story of the Year awards from the U.S. Basketball Writers Association for his work.
Wahl published his first book, The Beckham Experiment, in 2009, which focused on the move of David Beckham to the LA Galaxy in Major League Soccer and his impact on the league. The book became a New York Times Best Seller and was praised for its insightful and candid portrayal of the soccer superstar and the challenges he faced in the US. Wahl also gained attention for his attempt to run for the FIFA presidency in 2011, as a protest against the incumbent Sepp Blatter, who was widely criticized for his corruption and mismanagement of the sport’s governing body. Wahl withdrew his campaign after failing to receive an endorsement from a football association, which was a requirement for the candidacy.
Wahl joined Fox Sports in October 2012, after participating in the network’s coverage of the UEFA Euro 2012 tournament earlier that year. He worked as a correspondent and analyst for Fox Sports, covering soccer news and events, such as the FIFA World Cup, the UEFA Champions League, and the Copa America. He also launched his own soccer section on SI.com, called Planet Fútbol, where he wrote columns and features on the sport. He wrote his second book, Masters of Modern Soccer, in 2018, which explored the skills and strategies of some of the best players and coaches in the game, such as Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Christian Pulisic, and Javier Hernandez.
Wahl left Fox Sports and Sports Illustrated in 2020, after a dispute with the latter’s management over his contract and the magazine’s layoffs of several staff members. He then founded his own podcast and newsletter, called Fútbol with Grant Wahl, where he continued to cover soccer news and interviews with prominent figures in the sport. He also joined CBS Sports in October 2020, as a soccer analyst and editorial consultant for soccer documentaries and matches. He was part of the network’s coverage of the CONCACAF Nations League, the UEFA Champions League, and the FIFA World Cup.
Wahl’s Legacy and Impact
Wahl was widely regarded as one of the most influential and respected soccer journalists in the US, as he helped popularize and elevate the sport in the country. He was known for his in-depth and insightful reporting, his engaging and conversational writing style, and his passion and enthusiasm for the game. He was also admired for his professionalism, integrity, and kindness, as he treated everyone with respect and dignity, regardless of their status or background. He was a mentor and friend to many young and aspiring journalists, as well as a role model and inspiration to many soccer fans and players.
Wahl’s death was met with an outpouring of grief and tributes from the sports world, as well as from his colleagues, peers, and fans. Many expressed their shock and sadness at his sudden and tragic passing, and praised his legacy and impact on the sport and the industry. Some of the notable figures who paid homage to Wahl included David Beckham, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Bob Bradley, Jurgen Klinsmann, Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Carli Lloyd, Abby Wambach, Hope Solo, Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm, Michael Bradley, Tim Howard, Jozy Altidore, Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Sergino Dest, Gio Reyna, Tyler Adams, Cobi Jones, Brian McBride, Taylor Twellman, Alexi Lalas, Rob Stone, Kate Abdo, Ian Darke, Rebecca Lowe, Arlo White, Derek Rae, Grant Hill, Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, and many others.
Wahl’s wife, Gounder, also shared a heartfelt and emotional statement, thanking everyone for their support and condolences, and honoring her husband’s life and work. She said that Wahl was her best friend, soulmate, and partner in everything, and that he was a loving, generous, and adventurous person, who lived life to the fullest. She also said that Wahl loved soccer and journalism, and that he was proud of his work and his impact on the sport and the people. She said that Wahl’s legacy would live on through his books, articles, podcasts, and documentaries, and that she hoped that his death would raise awareness and prevention of aortic aneurysms, which are often silent and deadly.
Wahl’s funeral was held on December 18, 2022, at the Riverside Church in New York City, where he and Gounder were married. The service was attended by hundreds of people, including his family, friends, colleagues, and peers, as well as several soccer stars and celebrities. The service featured speeches, songs, videos, and photos, celebrating Wahl’s life and achievements. A memorial fund was also established in his name, to support causes that he cared about, such as soccer development, journalism education, and global health.