Soccer Hall of Fame still sets bar too high

Beau Dure
Beau Dure
Jan 16 · 7 min read
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Photo by Sheldon Kennedy on Unsplash

We old-timers in the soccer community have an annual complaint.

Why are so many soccer legends of our time kept out of the Hall of Fame?

If you’re unfamiliar with the discussion, catch up with my September piece for Soccer America, written after Hope Solo was the latest player to join Kate Markgraf, Jaime Moreno, Steve Cherundolo and Shannon Boxx in that inexplicable limbo-land of non-inductees.

In that piece, I suggested a voting overhaul, broadening the pool of voters to include rank-and-file U.S. Soccer members and fans, while emphasizing experience in the media or club management.

The Hall did indeed do an overhaul, not quite along those lines but with a few good innovations:

The committees will also rotate. I wasn’t selected this year, which means I won’t cast a ballot for the first time in about 15 years, but I’m guessing they needed to hold some people out for future rotations. Some of the selections were perplexing, but a lot of good, knowledgeable people are in the mix.

But the Hall did not address the biggest problem:

It’s still too hard to get in.

Each year’s induction class is limited to some combination of the following:

  • 2 Players, 1 Builder, 1 Veteran. (The Hall requires Players to earn 50% of the vote, but it’s unfathomable that they won’t have at least two meeting that criterion.)
  • 2 Players, 1 Builder or Veteran. This would happen if either the Builders Committee or the Veterans Committee fails to vote someone in AND the Players Committee doesn’t give 66.7% of its votes to at least three players. That’s possible.
  • 3 Players, 1 Builder or Veteran. Same as the last option, but with the three players meeting the 66.7% threshold.
  • 3 Players, no Builders or Veterans. If the Builders and Veterans committees turn up their noses at the nominees AND at least three players get 50% of that committee’s votes, the top three are in.

(The Colin Jose Media Award, bestowed upon Andres Cantor in 2010, may or may not be given in a given year.)

That’s simply not enough, especially now that the Hall is including “extended” national teams — Paralympics, beach soccer and futsal.

And the best way to demonstrate it is to pretend I’m on the committee(s) and keep up my annual list of those who deserve to be at an induction ceremony headlined by … Willie Nelson? Wow!

A quick reminder of my vote from last year: Carlos Bocanegra, Shannon Boxx, Lauren Cheney Holiday, Steve Cherundolo, Thierry Henry, Clint Mathis, Jaime Moreno, Kate Sobrero Markgraf, Kelly Smith, Hope Solo.

Bocanegra made it. Mathis, Markgraf and Moreno have joined the logjam of worthy applicants for the Veteran spot, along with Eddie Lewis, Chris Klein, Kristin Luckenbill and Steve Ralston. The other athlete to drop off the list was Smith, who probably didn’t get many votes aside from mine.

So I’m carrying over Boxx, Holiday, Cherundolo, Henry and Solo.

In the new selection process, the Player Screening Committee comes up with 20 players to submit to the Player Voting Committee. To do so, each member ranks deserving candidates 1–20.

Here’s one opinion:

Other committees

Veterans: Like Clark Griswold asking to have his boss wrapped up and brought to him in Christmas Vacation, I’d like to have a word with the voters who snubbed Kate Markgraf in all the years she was on the Players ballot. She’d better go in this year from the Veterans committee. Then change the rules to let in Jaime Moreno, Carlos Valderrama and Marco Etcheverry.

Builders: Ideally, this committee would pick no one this year so that we’ll have a chance to get three players in the Hall. But legendary referee Esse Baharmast needs to get in someday.

Most likely

I see 10 people who have to be in the Hall — Solo, Cherundolo, Pearce, Boxx, Holiday, Markgraf, Moreno, Valderrama, Etcheverry and Baharmast. At some point, voters need to recognize MLS careers just as prior generations recognized NASL careers — if Pele is the Hall, why not El Pibe? If Karl-Heinz Granitza is in the Hall, why not Moreno?

Pearce will get in. I’m optimistic about Markgraf with the revised Veterans committee. I have no idea what the Builders committee will do, so maybe they’ll pass and let us get Cherundolo and Solo in the Hall in the same year.

The conversations won’t get any easier over the next couple of years, with Dempsey, Donovan and Heather O’Reilly due to join the ballot.

Ranting Soccer Dad

A journalist, a dad, a ref and a coach walk into a blog …

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