There are 44 names on the Player Ballot for the latest class eligible for the National Soccer Hall of Fame. I am, once again and for some strange reason, a Hall voter. We have until April 1 to cast our ballots, and, as I have for the last decade plus, I’m making my vote public.
Here are my picks and rationales for or against each candidate:
We’re allowed to vote for up to 10 players, and last year I voted for just six. Two of those (Brad Freidel and Tiffeny Milbrett) got in. The other four were Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo, Kevin Hartman and Frankie Hejduk. I’ve gone into my reasons for selecting each of them before, and, since I’ll vote for those four again, I won’t waste your time justifying it right now. We’ll move on to the others, starting with those on the ballot for the first time.
- Shannon Boxx – What a career she had. Besides the 195 USWNT caps, three Olympic gold medals and a Women’s World Cup title, she was also one of only three players to log time in all three recent iterations of the women’s professional game in America1She also played very briefly for the Indiana Blaze of the W-League, the team for which I worked for a few years. and a season in Germany. I’m not sure she’ll get in right away, but she should, and she gets my vote.
- Leigh Ann Robinson Brown – A solid player for club who rarely earned a call-up for country, she’s not likely to garner much support.
- Edson Buddle – There was a time (between around 2009 and 2011) when saying you could see him having a Hall of Fame-type career would not have been outrageous at all. While he did score 104 goals in 15 MLS seasons, he only managed 11 US caps, had some off-the-field issues and became a journeyman. I can’t see him in the Hall of Fame now.
- Lori Chalupny – A very, very good career, with 106 caps, 10 goals and Olympic and World Cup championships for the US and solid play for her professional clubs. She’s not a Level I Hall of Famer, and a borderline Level II. I’d be surprised to see her get in.
- Kenny Cooper – Kenny was a good player. At one point, I thought he’d be a great player. Let’s leave it at that.
- Stephanie Lopez Cox – A career to be very proud of. Just not Hall of Fame level.
- Todd Dunivant – Won five league championships and a Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. That’s a lot of rings. He was a solid contributor, but his sparse international resume (just two caps for the US) doesn’t help him.
- Lauren Cheney Holiday – Terrific player who packed a lot into a relatively brief career. Do you realize she’s only 31 years old now? And she’s been retired for four years? Great collegian who won a lot after leaving UCLA (two league titles, a World Cup and two Olympic golds) and scored 24 goals in 113 caps for the US2I would have to check, but my sense is that a lot of the stars of the US team rack up caps and goals in barely competitive money-grab friendlies in Cleveland or some such place.. She was also the NWSL’s leading scorer and MVP in 2013, and had her number retired. Level II Hall of Famer all the way, so she gets my vote.
- Karina LeBlanc – How many people get to play in five World Cups? LeBlanc did, and had a long club career. Unfortunately, her international career was for Canada and she was a backup for most of her club career, so she’s not getting in the Hall.
- Amy LePeilbet – Terrific defender whose club career would likely have been better had it not been for injuries3She also missed the 2008 Olympics because of injuries.. Twice Defender of the Year in WPS, and 84 caps for the US, but not really enough there to put her in.
- Heath Pearce – Only 35 caps for the US and 131 games in an okay MLS career = not getting in.
- Troy Perkins – Had one really good MLS season (2006) and was unlucky enough to be a goalkeeper at a time when Hall of Famers Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller were manning the nets for the US. Not a Hall of Famer.
- Donovan Ricketts – That’s funny.
- Homare Sawa – One of the world’s best players, she was very good in five years stateside in the WUSA and WPS. But an foreign international pretty much has to have a transcendent club career in the US to make our hall4In fact, it’s yet to be proven, because no one makes the hall without a significant US national team career., and hers simply wasn’t that.
- Bakary Soumare – Baky was a good, but raw player when he first hit MLS with the Chicago Fire when I was calling their games on TV. Seemed like a happy guy, good defender. But not a Hall of Famer.
- Rachel Buehler Van Hollebeke – Good career for club and country, but not enough to get her in.
- Abby Wambach – The only Level I Hall of Famer I see on this ballot. This is the only obvious choice, to me, and I would expect her to get 90-95 percent of the vote.
- Cat Reddick Whitehill – Another very good player whose career simply didn’t rise to the level necessary to be enshrined.
So I’ve committed to seven players, between the four holdovers and three newcomers. I’ve got three slots left5We don’t have to vote for 10, and I often don’t, but let’s look anyway., so let’s check the rest of the ballot to see if anyone’s been overlooked. As they’ve all been on the ballot previously, I’ve gone into why I have or haven’t voted for them in the past, so the explanations here will likely be a bit spartan.
- David Beckham – He’s not getting in. (But if you haven’t seen the James Corden bit with his statue, click here.)
- Gregg Berhalter – No. Good luck with the Nats, though.
- Brian Ching – Aloha also means goodbye. No.
- Jeff Cunningham – Seems odd to vote for Jason Kreis (as I did in the past) on the basis of retiring as MLS’ all-time leading scorer and for Kevin Hartman on his overwhelming numbers in net in MLS and yet not vote for Cunningham, whose 134 career MLS goals were third all-time coming into this season. But he was a journeyman who only twice made MLS’ Best XI and his Nats career was nothing to speak of.
- Thierry Henry – His five years in MLS were very good, but not transcendent. No.
- Stuart Holden – I wish. I really wanted to see how far a healthy Stu Holden would have gone.
- Eddie Johnson – No.
- Chris Klein – No.
- Eddie Lewis – No.
- Lori Lindsey – Last year I mentioned that if anyone knew how to get a hold of Lori, that I had one of her club team jerseys I wanted to send to her. Someone gave me her email address, we had a nice correspondence, and I sent her the jersey. Never heard a word. So there we are.
- Pablo Mastroeni – No.
- Clint Mathis – No.
- Heather Mitts – (Sigh) No.
- Jaime Moreno – Jaime is probably the guy who best represents the conundrum of this hall. What are we trying to do here, exactly? Is it represent the history of the game through the most outstanding players to perform domestically? To celebrate American accomplishments? Both? Moreno was clearly one of MLS’ all-time great players (a star for the league’s first dynasty, a five-time Best XI pick and 133 goals6One less than Cunningham in 25 fewer games, still fourth-best all-time). But he’s never received more than 42 percent of the vote, making it crystal clear what I’ve said before: this electorate requires, at the very least, a significant US Men’s or Women’s National Team career, and (except in the case of Earnie Stewart and a couple of others) a robust club career in MLS. That leaves guys like Moreno on the outside. For the last several years, I’ve voted that way, not really seeing the point of taking a symbolic stand when it was obvious it would do no good. But if you want change, sometimes you have to be that change first. So I’m voting for him and I hope more of the rest of the voters will, too. (I still do not expect two thirds to do so. But let’s start somewhere.)
- Ben Olsen – No.
- Pat Onstad – No.
- Steve Ralston – Pains me, but no.
- Tony Sanneh – No.
- Kate Sobrero Markgraf – Has almost doubled her initial support level (from 32 percent in 2014 to 60 percent last year), which seems to indicate she’s got a pretty good chance to get in. She would be the first person (male or female) I can find who started off below 40 percent and eventually made it7The aforementioned Earnie Stewart is the current leader there, having started at 42 percent in 2008 before getting in with 71 percent in 2011.. Her club career was solid but relatively short8And that wasn’t entirely within her control. WoSo got really unstable right after WUSA folded and she missed a season while pregnant with twins., but she was a terrific player for the US and worthy of a vote.
- Taylor Twellman – Was something to watch when healthy. But no.
- Aly Wagner – No, but she’s got a great career as a TV analyst ahead of her.
- Josh Wolff – No.
So here we are, then. My nine-person ballot consists of:
- Carlos Bocanegra
- Shannon Boxx
- Lauren Cheney Holiday
- Steve Cherundolo
- Kevin Hartman
- Frankie Hejduk
- Jaime Moreno
- Kate Sobrero Markgraf
- Abby Wambach
Agree or disagree as you will. I take this seriously, as it’s one of my few strong connections to the game anymore9Hopefully the folks at USSF keep sending me ballots.. And now that the Hall has an actual home, I’m going to make a pilgrimage later this year to see it in person for the first time. I hope you, dear readers, get the chance to check it out one day, too.