The Soccer Hall of Fame finally has a physical location again. It’ll be in Frisco, Texas, folded into FC Dallas’ home stadium.
Coincidentally, voters decided to support more than one athlete this year. We have a two-player class from the general pool, both quite worthy — Brad Friedel and Tiffeny Milbrett. And plenty of voters wanted to see an even bigger class. Consider this breakdown of the top five vote-getters for the past few years, compiled at Kenn.com and updated with the latest from Soccer Insider:
We actually came quite close to the first three-player class since 2011 (Cobi Jones, Eddie Pope, finally Earnie Stewart) and had the highest total we’ve seen for fourth place in the modern era of voting.
So will you be spared my annual rant about stingy voters? Not quite, but it might be a little less intense than in past years.
You could call it progress that fourth-place Kate Markgraf, who was down near the 30-percent mark a few years ago, moved up a resounding 15.37 points to 60.2 percent. She just needs a little push to get in, and I think Anthony DiCicco may have provided it:
It’s not as if Markgraf was some one-year wonder. She has 201 caps. She won Olympic gold in 2004 and 2008. This ain’t hard, folks.
Two of her teammates, as DiCicco’s picture shows, are going on this year. Milbrett is mentioned above. Cindy (Parlow) Cone got the nod from the veterans’ committee ahead of teammate Tiffany Roberts and the luckless Marco Etcheverry, whose lack of induction here should (but won’t) put a damper on the conspiracy talk that MLS is controlling this whole thing. (And no, the Athletes Council members didn’t get on the ballot as part of some Carlos Cordeiro voting conspiracy — see Kenn’s appropriate head-shaking on that one and educate yourself on how players are nominated.) Let’s just say plenty of NASL 1.0 players with inferior resumes are in the Hall.
So that’s the good news. After years of baffling decisions (Briana Scurry barely made it after a few years of coming up close), voters are giving female players their due.
Things get a little weird on the men’s side, where ballot newcomer Carlos Bocanegra nearly made it while Steve Cherundolo’s support dropped by nearly 1 percentage point. I voted for both (more on that later), but I’m not that attached to Bocanegra, a solid center back who worked his way to Fulham, over Cherundolo, who means even more to Hannover than Brian McBride means to Fulham.
If I had been forced to vote for five players, I would’ve voted for Friedel (no doubt about that one), Markgraf, Milbrett, Jaime Moreno (another unjustly overlooked star of MLS’ early days) and Cherundolo. I added Bocanegra, Thierry Henry, Clint Mathis and Steve Ralston because I felt like I needed to remind people they can vote for as many as 10, and given our current backlog, we should be.
Did other voters feel the same way? Not really. After that pretty strong top five, no one really came close.
A few players gained a couple of percentage points: Moreno, Aly Wagner and Josh Wolff. We saw small drops for Eddie Lewis, Pablo Mastroeni, Steve Ralston, Heather Mitts, Mathis and Tony Sanneh. Support for Gregg Berhalter, Ben Olsen, Frankie Hejduk, Taylor Twellman and David Beckham plummeted.
Cone, again, earned her spot through the veterans’ vote. The builders’ committee picked longtime USSF president Dr. Bob Contiguglia, who just finished his lengthy tenure on the Board as past president, by a narrow margin ahead of USISL (now USL, PDL, etc.) founder Francisco Marcos.
So that’s four people. Wait, make that five. And the timing here is horrible.
Make no mistake — whatever you think of what he’s doing now, few people have done more to build the sport in the USA than Don Garber, who took over Major League Soccer in 1999 and steadied it through near-collapse. Without his leadership, pro soccer in the USA would’ve died in 2002, and no matter what the conspiracy theorists says, we would not have been better off if it had.
But Garber, like Arsene Wenger, is nowhere near his peak, and plenty of people would like to sincerely thank him for his service and say goodbye. Yes, the MLS metrics are better than Arsenal’s, but the TV ratings and declining original markets point to a worrying stagnation. As I wrote in January, he has a couple of pressing items to address in the last year of his contract, one of which is the fate of the Columbus Crew. Allowing the Crew to march southward to Texas would accomplish the rare feat of uniting old-school MLS fans and the league’s detractors, both against MLS.
Garber was actually elected to the Hall a couple of years ago but did something it’s hard to imagine anyone else getting the leeway to do. Like an NFL team winning the coin toss, he deferred.
Yes, the commenters have noted that another good way to honor the Hunt family would be to leave the Crew in that other facility the family built, the no-frills but lovable stadium in Columbus.
Maybe Garber could’ve waited another year? Or maybe he could’ve deferred until the Crew find local ownership?
So it’s a flawed class entering the Hall. But don’t let that detract from the justified congratulations.
And next year, let me repeat: Markgraf. Markgraf. Markgraf.