A homegrown star from the illustrious Diffley family of New City, John Diffley is one of the finest soccer players ever produced in Rockland County. No Rocklander has ever made the U.S. Olympic soccer team, but John came closest, missing the 1988 Seoul Olympics squad by one berth.
In his senior year at Albertus, John made first-team All-New York State and was a Parade High School All-America selection. He was a two-time first-team All-County honoree and scored a school-record 23 goals in the 1984 season. Playing on the varsity as a freshman, he helped the Falcons capture the Section 9 Class B championship in 1981. John was Rockland Journal News Male Athlete of the Season in the fall of 1984, and gained induction into the Albertus Magnus High School Hall of Fame in 2001.
“John’s advanced skills and mastery of all aspects of the game was unparalleled in the scholastic ranks,” says Bob Walkley, John’s coach at Albertus and the current Suffern boys’ soccer coach. “His impressive reÌsumeÌ should speak for itself.”
“I consider John the ultimate team player,” says Tom Collins, the former Albertus athletic director and keen observer of the Rockland sports scene for 50-plus years. “He made his team- mates better than even they thought they could be. I have witnessed many great athletes ply their skills in their respective sports, but I cannot think of too many athletes from Rockland County who performed better in their sport than John Diffley.”
At American University, John continued to excel. As a freshman starter in 1985, he played in the 1985 NCAA Division I championship game – a 1-0 loss to UCLA in eight overtimes, the longest game in NCAA history. He was a two-time, first-team All-Colonial Athletic Association recipient, an All-Region performer, and earned a berth in the prestigious Senior Bowl in 1988. A two-year captain, John set a school record for consecutive starts and games played, and he is one of the school’s all-time assist leaders. He was named American’s Athlete of the Year, for all sports, in the 1988-89 year, won the Charles Van Way Student Achievement Award, and was inducted into the American University Hall of Fame in 2006.
After graduating from American in 1989 with a BSBA degree in Real Estate/Urban Development, John thrived at the highest levels of the sport. He made 26 appearances for the U.S. national team, including eight international “caps,” pitting the U.S. first team against another country’s first team. He played in the 1987 U.S. Olympic Festival. Most impressively, John was one of four alternates on the 22-member U.S. Olympic soccer team in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, and the only defender so
named. He was called to Olympic training camp when a spot opened just days before departure to Seoul, but a severely turned ankle, sustained during the pre- season of his senior year at American, pre- vented him from attending the final tryout camp.
Professionally, John was the 27th player chosen overall in the inaugural Major League Soccer draft, and played for the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Kansas City Wizards. He also captained three different professional teams, played two years each in the Netherlands and the U.S. indoor pro league, and was a USISL All-Star in 1994 and USISL national championship team member for the Long Island Rough Riders in 1995.
John later used his knowledge and experience to enter the coaching ranks and has held many positions on the collegiate, club and professional levels, including a two-year stint as head coach at Dominican College. He also was First Assistant Coach at St. John’s University for four years, during which the Red Storm made four consecutive NCAA tournaments, reaching the Round of 16 each time, and won two Big East titles. John was instrumental in recruiting the nucleus of the team that reached the 2003 College Cup final and 2001 semifinal, and played an integral role in the development of six All-Americans, seven academic All-Americans and 13 team members who later played professionally.
John obtained an MBA from St. John’s and is currently senior associate athletics director at that school, a position he’s held since 2004. He is also chair of the NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Committee, and chair of both the Big East Men’s Soccer Championships Committee and NCAA Division I officiating subcommittee.
John, who is 45, lives in Floral Park, N.Y., with his wife of 14 years, Marcia, and four children: Jacqueline, 12; Nicole, 9; Kate, 6; and Jessica, 2.