We had to turn in our 2017 Player Ballots for the National Soccer Hall of Fame a couple of weeks ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to publicly posting my ballot. I am a Hall of Fame voter for the 12th straight election, and, as I have every year, I’ll make my ballot and the rationale for my selections public.
Among the first-timers is one David Robert Joseph Beckham, OBE, who apparently had a career of some distinction here in America. How much distinction is open for some debate.
The Beckham Question promises to overshadow discussion of the rest of the ballot1It already has; I didn’t title this post “I don’t think Joe Cannon’s making the Hall Of Fame.”, which is unfortunate, because I enjoy discussing the entire ballot (as you might have guessed by now).
So let’s get Goldenballs out of the way first and then deal with the rest of the 2017 candidates.
I’ve written before about my philosophy on there being different “levels” of Hall of Famer2For players, that is. This is separate from the striations the Hall itself has, that of Player, Veteran and Builder., and I’ll refer back to that as we go along. First, let’s apply it to Beckham.
- A Level I Hall of Famer is one of the very best players to ever play the game.
- A Level II Hall of Famer is an outstanding player who had a very long career, contributed to championships and to the growth of the game in this country, and had some success internationally (either at the club or country level, or both), but who may not have been considered one of the very best ever.
- A Level III Hall of Famer is an excellent player who made a significant contribution to the game, especially at a critical juncture. You could potentially make the case for Becks here, as MLS grew in size, stature and accountability when he arrived.
- A Level IV Hall of Famer is an excellent player who represents an overlooked facet of the history of the game in this country.
Is Beckham one of the very best players to ever play? A no-brainer, obvious choice? Not based on his play in this country, where his 2011 season was his only really stellar campaign in MLS. Three more of those seasons and maybe we’re okay calling him an outstanding MLS player.
Beckham was a wonderful player, did have a long career (most of it elsewhere, obviously), the Galaxy did win two championships while he played here (and lost another in penalties) and he obviously had some international success3Does winning championships in three of the world’s best leagues count?. I believe he contributed to the growth of the game (there are several reasons you can divide MLS into pre-2007 and 2007-and-on, and he’s one). I just don’t think his MLS career was as consistently brilliant for long enough to justify inclusion.
Now, you may very well say, “But what about Pele? He only played here for two and a half years.4A friend of mine actually made that argument, while also trying to say Pele’s NASL career wasn’t that great.” But Pele was quite good during his time here (injured at the tail end of his first season, he then had two very good campaigns, culminating in a championship, and no NASL player had more than his 25 assists in the 1975-77 time period.) And Pele’s impact – bringing attention to the NASL, which ultimately failed but planted the seeds for what we have today, and igniting the Soccer Boom, which made everything else happen – is undeniable.
Beckham very likely will be on some voters’ ballots5I don’t know if we’ll get voting totals; the Hall has been reticent to release them in recent years., but not on mine. Now let’s talk about those who will be:
There are 33 players on this year’s ballot, and 12 of them (including Beckham) are up for election for the first time in 2017. Let’s look at the other 11:
- Chris Albright: Good player. Can’t make a case for him as a Hall of Famer.
- Danny Califf: Same.
- Joe Cannon: Was a really good club player for a lot of years. Was, unfortunately, facing a glut of good goalkeepers in front of him at the international level, so he only recorded two caps6Supposedly he found out late in his career that he could have been eligible to play for Canada, where he likely would have been more in the mix. Still, that would not help him on the US HOF ballot.. Two-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year for whom you could make a case that he was one of the league’s best. Close, but not there.
- Steve Cherundolo: Yes. Easily. Though he never played for a club team stateside, his European career and time with the US Nats were stellar. (Had injuries not kept him out of a World Cup and a Gold Cup, it likely would have been even better.)
- Brian Ching: Can’t see it. Terrific MLS player. He had 11 goals for the US, and I can’t actually remember many of them.
- Tina Frimpong Ellertson: Club and international careers that don’t reach the level of the Hall of Fame.
- Eddie Gaven: Do you realize Eddie Gaven is still only 30 years old? And he’s been retired long enough to be on the Hall of Fame ballot? Deserves a day in his honor in Columbus, but not a plaque7Are they going to have plaques? We haven’t had an actual Hall of Fame in so long, I don’t know. in Frisco.
- Amado Guevara: No team on these shores with Amado Guevara on it ever won a damn thing. He was the 2005 MLS Most Valuable Player, but his best performance was probably this one. (In case it’s not clear, no, I’m not voting for him.)
- Kevin Hartman: Like Cannon, only managed a handful of caps with the national team, but his MLS career was so long and outstanding, I voted for him8For the same reason I voted for Jason Kreis: I can’t in good conscience not vote for one of the domestic league’s all-time leaders.. If he gets in without that significant US career, it will signal the start of a paradigm shift among the voters. I’m not counting on it.
- Pablo Mastroeni: Very good player. Will get some support for his club career here (especially in Colorado, but he was very good in Miami as well) and an international career that saw him garner 65 caps and play in a pair of World Cups. I don’t think he’ll get in right away. He may not at all. But he had a fine career as a player9As a coach, not so much..
- Leslie Osborne Fine player, skimpy pro club career, an injury cost her the 2008 Olympics. Can’t see a way to get her in the Hall of Fame.
So, that’s Cherundolo and Hartman from the first-timers. Holdovers for me include last-time-eligibles Chris Armas and Jason Kreis (the reasons for voting for each I’ve previously written about) and Frankie Hejduk, Tiffeny Milbrett and Briana Scurry.
That’s seven, and I have 10 available slots. Let’s look at the rest and see if there’s anyone else worth considering10They’re all worth considering, but not all worth voting for.
- Gregg Berhalter: Had a brief club career stateside and some success with the Nats, but not enough of either to merit a vote.
- Jeff Cunningham: Could qualify for the same reason I voted for Jason Kreis (voting for MLS’ all-time leading goal scorer), but he wore out his welcome in a lot of places.
- Chris Klein: Another good player for good teams. Not a Hall of Famer.
- Eddie Lewis: Liked him. Not Hall of Fame level.
- Kate Sobrero Markgraf: I can only figure that the unfortunate timing that kept her from having a more robust club career here is what’s kept her down in the 30 percent range among voters. Really successful Nats career, though.
- Clint Mathis: Mercurial. Fun. Reckless. Not a Hall of Famer.
- Heather Mitts: Have always liked her. Can’t see her as a Hall of Famer unless a whole bunch of others get in first.
- Jaime Moreno: Does draw support because he was one of MLS’ best in the early years. But he’s not getting in, unless, again, there’s a paradigm shift among the voters112023 update: There was, eventually, but it took dropping all the voters and only inviting back ones who would give the Hall the optics it felt pressured into by the blogotwittersphere..
- Ben Olsen: Solid player. Not a Hall of Famer.
- Pat Onstad: Being Canadian works against him.
- Steve Ralston: Tough one. I loved Steve Ralston and think he was one of MLS’ best players ever. Could not get it done when he had chances with the US.
- Ante Razov: Always looked so smooth playing the game. I loved watching him play when he was on and not pissed off about something. Can’t realistically vote for him.
- Tony Sanneh: Another good player.
- Taylor Twellman: Have talked about this one before. Now that Terrell Davis has actually made it to Canton, maybe the What Might Have Been Exemption will become a thing here. Maybe not.
- Aly Wagner: Can’t see it.
- Josh Wolff: Unrealized potential because of injuries, but very good player.
So, my final ballot is Chris Armas, Steve Cherundolo, Kevin Hartman, Frankie Hejduk, Jason Kreis, Tiffeny Milbrett and Briana Scurry. I would imagine the results will be announced sometime soon here.
What are your thoughts? Everyone has their favorites, and every year brings controversy and discussion, which is part of the point of a hall of fame. But we have a fairly wide electorate to take those things into account and they haven’t made a lot of mistakes, I don’t think.