Soccer Hall of Fame 2014 vote: Perfect 10

One bit of news from the NSCAA convention: Those of us who care about U.S. soccer history are gaining momentum.

The Society for American Soccer History might kick itself into gear in the coming months. Academics such as David Kilpatrick, who works with the Cosmos, are working to get serious papers published. And we’re still looking for creative ways to get the Soccer Hall of Fame out of storage, so fans can learn and enjoy this country’s colorful relationship with the world’s game.

Now we’ll have our annual vigil to see how many people will be unjustly snubbed in the Hall of Fame vote this year.

I typically vote for five, six, maybe eight people. And so do most voters with whom I’ve spoken, though it’s a small sample.

And yet, last year, NONE of the players on the ballot got the required 66.7% of the vote for induction. As set out in the Hall’s rules, they took the five top vote-getters for a second round, and Joe-Max Moore made it.

This year, we shouldn’t have that problem. Kristine Lilly and Brian McBride are on the ballot, and if you don’t vote for them, just pull a Dan LeBatard and hand your ballot to Deadspin.

Some idiot won’t vote for Lilly, but in general, the biggest women’s stars have been nearly unanimous. The highest vote percentages in Kenn Tomasch’s archive: Mia Hamm 97.16, Claudio Reyna 96.08, Michelle Akers 95.89, Eric Wynalda 93.15. I’ll guess Lilly is somewhere in the 93-95 range, and McBride will be in the low 90s.

Could we get a rare three-person class? The rest of the newcomers (in alpha order): Chris Klein, Eddie Lewis, Lilly, Kristin Luckenbill, Kate Markgraf, Clint Mathis, McBride, Jaime Moreno, Steve Ralston and Briana Scurry.

If Briana Scurry could be voted the best U.S. women’s goalkeeper of all time (with some debate, sure), she’d have to be a Hall of Famer as well. Right?

Kate Markgraf didn’t make the all-time Best XI back line, but that’s only because she was behind current Hall of Famers Carla Overbeck and Joy Fawcett, along with future Hall of Famers Brandi Chastain (eligible in 2016) and Christie Rampone (eligible when she has been retired for three years, so … 2049?).

Then you have Jaime Moreno. Third in MLS history with 133 goals (one behind co-leaders Landon Donovan and Jeff Cunningham). Fifth in MLS history with 102 assists. The common thread in all four of D.C. United’s MLS Cup wins.

The NASL has plenty of foreign players in the U.S. Hall. MLS is long overdue to get one.

But I’ve been beating this drum for years for Moreno’s teammate, Marco Etcheverry. The Bolivian playmaker was the cornerstone of D.C. United’s dominance in the early year, and even after fading in his latter years, he finished his MLS days with 101 assists in 191 games.

That’s six players who should be in the Hall. No question. And I’ll add one more — women’s soccer super-scorer Shannon MacMillan.

(Yes, 99er-bashers, I will be voting for your favorites when the time comes. Hope Solo is absolutely a Hall of Famer. And Abby Wambach, obviously. I’ll vote for Heather O’Reilly and Carli Lloyd. As long as Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe stay anywhere close to their current form for a couple more years, I’ll vote for them as well. The defender with the most HOF potential to me is Becky Sauerbrunn, who has considerable pro accomplishments along with her WNT play.)

Last year, I had three more names on the ballot — Jason Kreis, Robin Fraser and Cindy Parlow. I’ll add them again. I don’t feel as strongly about them as I do about the other seven, but they certainly wouldn’t be out of place in the Hall. At the very least, they deserve to have their names carry over on the ballot for another year and remain in the discussion.

That’s my maximum — 10 players. And I’m still passing up all-time MLS assist leader Steve Ralston, 100-goal scorer Taylor Twellman, midfielder monster Chris Armas, reliable midfield leader Ben Olsen, and 2002 World Cup contributors Clint Mathis and Eddie Lewis. Based on the old criteria for the Hall of Fame (pre-2000), all of those players would be in. So would John O’Brien and Tony Sanneh. We’ve raised the bar, but we’ve overcorrected.

One of these years, we’re going to have to induct a huge class and clear the logjam. Will it be this year?

Probably not. I’m predicting a three-person class, with these percentages:

– Lilly 95
– McBride 92
– Scurry 72
– Markgraf 63
– Etcheverry 55
– Moreno 52
– MacMillan 47
– Parlow 35
– Ralston 35
– Armas 23
– Kreis 20
– Mathis 18
– Fraser 15
– Twellman 15
– Olsen 13
– Lewis 13

Or maybe this will be the year my fellow voters prove me wrong. I’m not expecting 10 people to make it. But can we aim for four or five?

Fun and frustration of voting on soccer awards

Even without Hope Solo’s Twitter jab at Julie Foudy, the voting for the U.S. women’s national team’s all-time Best XI was sure to be controversial, full of difficult cross-generational comparisons.

Michelle Akers was a certainty (the one voter who omitted her from his/her ballot should really speak up and explain why). But what about the other two-thirds of the Triple-Edged Sword from 1991 — Carin Jennings Gabarra and April Heinrichs? Do you take Alex Morgan ahead of them even though Morgan is still in the early stages of a surely great career?

How about Megan Rapinoe? The midfield competition is even tougher. If you go with a 4-3-3 to add a third forward alongside obvious choices Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach, you have only three midfielders, leaving Rapinoe to displace Akers, Kristine Lilly or Julie Foudy. And that omits Shannon Boxx and two-time Olympic hero Carli Lloyd.

And then you get to the choice that started all the debates, Solo or Briana Scurry. (Note the single ‘n’ in Briana. Now that she’s on the centennial celebration all-time Best XI, do you think we could spell her name correctly?)

My ballot had 10 of the 11 honorees: Joy Fawcett, Carla Overbeck, Christie Rampone, Akers, Lilly, Foudy, Hamm, Wambach, Morgan and Brandi Chastain. But it wasn’t an easy pick. I didn’t turn in my ballot right away — I slept on it and went back and forth on the Morgan/Gabarra choice. My last decision was to put in Chastain and go with a 4-3-3 formation rather than a 3-4-3, in which I would’ve picked either Boxx or Lloyd. (I hadn’t decided.)

Yes, I was debating whether to include the person who gave U.S. soccer its most indelible image AND played forward in a winning World Cup campaign AND was a defensive anchor for two Olympic champions as well as the ’99 Cup winners. That’s how difficult these choices got.

The voters clearly had the same questions I had. Among field players, the obvious picks of Fawcett, Overbeck, Rampone, Akers, Lilly, Hamm and Wambach got at least 46 of a possible 56 votes. Foudy, the captain of multiple Olympic and Cup triumphs, got 40, even though she pointedly omitted herself from her picks on ESPN. (In this politicized environment, I’d guess a couple of other people left her off their ballots for non-soccer reasons, as surely as some people used off-field issues as a tiebreaker between Solo and Scurry.)

Chastain and Scurry also got more than half the votes — 31 each. Then it got tough. Solo (24) actually got more votes than Morgan (15), but having two goalkeepers wasn’t an option.

The race for the 11th spot was a barnburner. Morgan won with 15. Gabarra had 13. So did midfielders Boxx and Lloyd, nearly pushing the final formation to 4-4-2. Heinrichs had 12. Tiffeny Milbrett, who lost some time in her career when she fell out with then-coach Heinrichs, had 10. Kate Markgraf, whose 200-plus caps and defensive steadfastness would make her an automatic pick in any other national team, got 9.

If you were picking a Best XX from this group, then Rapinoe (6) barely pushed ahead of Heather O’Reilly (5) and the lovely protest vote for Lori Chalupny (5). That’s a strong Best XXII.

So I feel relatively happy with this vote. I’ve seen one vociferous protest over Gabarra’s omission, and that’s a worthwhile lament. Scurry-Solo could be debated forever, though it’s probably not a good idea.

The men’s Best XI? I don’t envy those voters one bit. They’re judging players who pulled off astounding World Cup feats (and then had few other opportunities to play in noteworthy games) before most of the voters were born. How do you compare Bert Patenaude’s hat trick, the first in World Cup history, with Brian McBride’s decade of excellence? Some players in the Hall of Fame aren’t on the ballot.

Which brings me to the good I hope will come out of this Best XI discussion — better-informed Hall of Fame voting.

I’ve ranted many times about the high bar some Hall of Fame voters are setting. Those of us who go public with our ballots typically vote for five, six, even 10 people. Those who keep their ballots private are clearly less effusive.

Kenn Tomasch has a good archive of our voting shame. Earnie Stewart, the man who steadied the USA through countless World Cup qualification campaigns, needed several years to get in. No one made it in 2008, prompting the Hall to lower its acceptance threshold to 66.7%. And that’s how Joy Fawcett finally made it.

Fawcett was a unanimous choice for the Best XI. So are we finally getting smarter? Maybe not — the pool of voters for the women’s Best XI was carefully picked, with most of them having solid credentials in the women’s game. The Hall of Fame voters aren’t gender-specific — though we should note that Mia Hamm and Michelle Akers were still nearly unanimous first-ballot selections.

Now we’re having discussions. How do these players stack up? Which players did the Best XI voters consider that the Hall of Fame voters might not?

Maybe, just maybe, we’ve pushed voters to think a little more. We’ll see.

In the meantime, tread lightly on Twitter.

Soccer Hall of Fame: Can we induct some people this year, please?

The National Soccer Hall of Fame: It’s so exclusive, it doesn’t even exist.

That’s not to make light of the Hall’s current plight. It’s a real pity to have so much soccer history stored away in North Carolina warehouses instead of in display cases somewhere. If the Hall can’t have a permanent building, perhaps we can at least build a “Virtual Hall” with all that memorabilia on a good website, then scatter some of it in various soccer facilities across the country. We do have a few people making tremendous efforts to keep the history alive — I bumped into Jack Huckel at Indianapolis, and Roger Allaway regularly posts mini-histories at BigSoccer. The U.S. soccer history movement is reeling, though, not just from the loss of the Hall but the loss of David Wangerin, whose two books are essential reading.

But as with other Halls of Fame, we have elections to honor people of tremendous accomplishment. And all such elections are controversial. Baseball writers, dealing with a decade or so of inflated numbers through drug use, has elected no one to the Hall this year. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame finally listened to fans (and musicians) and will welcome Rush to Cleveland at long last.

I’ve been a Hall of Famer voter for nearly a decade, and I usually use most of the space on my 10-player ballot. So do most writers who go public with their picks. Yet even with the bar for election lowered from 80% to 66.7% (after people like me whined, and after we had no players inducted in 2008), we’re still electing two or three people per year.

This year, I’d like to offer a challenge. If you have a Hall of Fame ballot, and you’re listing three or fewer people, explain why. Don’t just return a blank ballot and hide out. Tell us why.

In the meantime, let’s go through the annual rite: I’ll list all the players for whom I’m voting, then I’ll guess at which two or three will actually make it …

RETURNING (good data source: Kenn Tomasch’s archive of vote totals)

Last year, I voted for Tony Meola, Claudio Reyna, Marco Etcheverry, Roy Lassiter, Shannon MacMillan, Carlos Valderrama, Joe-Max Moore, Robin Fraser and Jason Kreis. And I hesitated to omit Peter Vermes, Cindy Parlow, Chris Armas and Mauricio Cienfuegos.

The election results: Reyna (96.08%) and Meola (90.20%) got in. That’s it. The rest, in order: Etcheverry, Moore, MacMillan, Valderrama, Parlow, Vermes, Armas, Kreis.

Vermes and Valderrama are no longer on the ballot — they’re up for the veterans committee to consider. That leaves these groups:

– Early MLS international stars (Etcheverry, Cienfuegos). The NASL is represented in the Hall not just by Pele, Beckenbauer and Chinaglia, but also by Willey, Granitza and Child. If Etcheverry and Valderrama don’t make the Hall, it’s going to be impossible to make a case for any foreign player who has played in MLS to date. Including David Beckham. We’ll have to see what the veterans do with Valderrama this year.

Overshadowed national teamers (Moore, MacMillan, Parlow)Not “the” stars of their national team eras but important players nonetheless. Moore was crucial to several World Cup qualifying campaigns; MacMillan was a supersub who changed the course of vital games for the U.S. women in 1996 and 1999. I left Moore and MacMillan off the ballot a few years ago, but as years go by, I think their accomplishments stand up. I haven’t voted for Parlow, and I hesitate to say that because she’s already teasing me mercilessly about going to Duke and having to be the reporter to ask her about her own goal in the NCAA Tournament one year. Seriously, I’m reconsidering, and I’ll toss it up for discussion: What do you all think of Parlow’s case?

– MLS but not U.S. standouts (Armas, Kreis, Fraser, Lassiter). Ill-timed injuries cost Armas dearly — he was a sure starter before missing out on what turned out to be a great run in 2002. Fraser was one of the best defenders of his MLS years, then in and out of the national team. Kreis is still fifth on the MLS career goal-scoring list, but he never had much of an impact on the national team. I’m at a loss to explain how Lassiter isn’t in the top 10 — maybe the extra publicity from Chris Wondolowski’s pursuit of his scoring record will give him a boost.

I’m once again voting for Etcheverry, Lassiter, MacMillan and Moore. I’ll consider Fraser, Kreis and Parlow.


It’s a small group of nominees: Wade Barrett, Angela Hucles, Ben Olsen, Tony Sanneh and Taylor Twellman.

Olsen and Twellman had injury problems that robbed them of their prime years. Twellman still scored 101 goals in only 174 MLS games, but the Hall hasn’t been forgiving of other members of the league’s 100-goal club who didn’t break through on the World Cup scene. (See Kreis.)

Hucles and Sanneh had solid careers and one spectacular tournament each. Hucles was a defensive midfielder who moved up to forward after Abby Wambach’s injury in 2008 and became a scoring machine to the shock of everyone but Pia Sundhage. Sanneh bumped around between positions and suddenly became a lockdown defender in time for the 2002 World Cup.

I have room on my ballot for at least three of these players, but I’m not sure I see one who stands out. As with MacMillan and Moore, I could be persuaded. That said, next year’s vote is going to be a logjam — as Roger Allaway points out, we’ll be considering Brian McBride, Kristine Lilly, Briana Scurry, Kate Markgraf, Jaime Moreno, Steve Ralston, Clint Mathis and Eddie Lewis. Yikes.

So what will happen this year?


Like Thomas Dooley and Earnie Stewart before him, Etcheverry is overdue, and I sense that people get that. MacMillan has surged from 27.34% in 2008 to around 50% each of the last three years, and this is an ideal year for her to bump up over the threshold. Moore has been steadier in the high 40s and 50s, and he’s probably a little less likely to make it. That leaves us with yet another class of two or possibly three players from the general voting pool.

I’ll also guess that the veterans committee, which tends to elect U.S. national teamers of the early 90s, will continue the trend and elect Peter Vermes.


Marco Etcheverry
Shannon MacMillan
Joe-Max Moore
Roy Lassiter

Jason Kreis
Robin Fraser
Cindy Parlow


– If you’re a voter who hasn’t been voting for Etcheverry, can you explain why?

– Out of the MLS-but-not-U.S.-standout group (Fraser, Kreis, Armas, Sanneh, Olsen, Twellman), who would get your vote?

– Is the 2008 gold medal run enough to get Hucles in the Hall?

– Parlow’s World Cup resume: Two Cups, 11 games, four goals — the most meaningful being the first goal in the USA’s 2-0 win over Brazil in the 1999 semis. Overall: 158 caps, 75 goals. Also a decent run in the WUSA with Atlanta. Is that enough?

Soccer Hall of Fame: Decisions, decisions

Last year, justice was done in the Soccer Hall of Fame voting. Cobi Jones and Eddie Pope were easy calls, though the fact that Jones got more votes than Pope is a little alarming. The Veterans Committee rectified the voters’ error of omitting Bruce Murray. And at long last, voters realized that Earnie Stewart scored the first winning goal for the USA in a men’s World Cup since 1950, then stuck around to make sure the USA kept getting back to the big show.

(Speaking of 1950 — let’s take a moment to remember Harry Keough and be glad that his exploits finally got a bit of respect in his lifetime.)

To me, that leaves one egregious omission — Marco Etcheverry. The Hall is full of foreign players who did a bit of time in the NASL. To omit El Diablo is to suggest foreign MLS players need not apply. He was the driving force of the early D.C. United dynasty — MLS MVP in 1998 and a finalist the years before and after. He was fourth in voting last year, continuing to hover around 50%.

I have three more returnees from my ballot last year:

– Shannon MacMillan. Fifth in last year’s voting. I may have left her off in the past, but she had too many vital moments with the U.S. women’s team to overlook. She’s staying in my ballot.

– Carlos Valderrama. After Roberto Donadoni, he was the most famous foreign player to sign on with this crazy thing called MLS in 1996, and he was the first MVP. Then he stayed for several years, shuffling his feet and dropping the ball on a dime to forwards for seven seasons. Perhaps a less obvious choice than Etcheverry, but El Pibe is going to keep getting my vote.

– Roy Lassiter. I know this one’s controversial. Even Dan Loney won’t vote for him, and Loney would probably vote for 15 people if he could. Other players are up near the 50% mark in each year’s vote — Lassiter checked in under 20% last year. He has the single-season scoring record in MLS, but people are writing off 1996 as a “live ball” era in which defenses weren’t quite as locked-down as they are today. So at this point, I’m probably voting for him just to make sure he stays on the ballot and has a bit of momentum when he ends up in the Veterans Committee’s hands.

So that’s four. Now we consider the newbies, and for reasons Dan already explained, it’s a pretty easy choice — Tony Meola and Claudio Reyna are no-brainers. No one else is really in the mix.

That’s six. I could easily call it quits there. But I think it’s time to re-examine a few people. If I’m voting for Lassiter to keep him in everyone’s thoughts until the vets weigh in, why not Robin Fraser? Or Jason Kreis? Or another guy getting 50%, Joe-Max Moore?

In Kreis and Fraser’s cases, perhaps I’m being swayed by the fact that they commanded enough respect in the soccer community to get coaching jobs — and Kreis has taken his opportunity and run with it. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Moore is actually close enough to have a shot at the Hall this year. I always thought of him as a complimentary player rather than a star. But he averaged a goal every two games in his first MLS stint, comparable to Lassiter’s pace. And he scored a few vital goals for the U.S. men, just as MacMillan did for the women.

So I’ll include Moore this year, with apologies for my past ballots. And while Kreis and Fraser (and Lassiter) would need a sea change among voters’ attitudes to get in, I think they at least deserve the recognition of a few Hall of Fame votes.

Voting for nine of the maximum 10 may seem generous. But I’m still omitting some players whose resumes are better than some current Hall members. Peter Vermes evolved from U.S. forward to standout MLS defender. Cindy Parlow was a matchup nightmare for anyone who faced the U.S. women. Chris Armas may frankly be one poorly timed injury away. And Dan is going to punch me in the stomach one day for omitting Mauricio Cienfuegos, whose contributions to MLS aren’t far behind Etcheverry’s or Valderrama’s.

The final nine: Meola, Reyna, Etcheverry, Lassiter, MacMillan, Valderrama, Moore, Fraser, Kreis.

Prediction for the 2012 induction class: Meola, Reyna, Etcheverry. If voters are suddenly getting generous after years of being misers, then MacMillan and Moore.