The overhauled system has resulted in both veterans getting inducted as part of a four-person class, but Hope Solo remains on the outside.
The National Soccer Hall of Fame’s overhauled election process, introduced last fall, has had the desired impact. A logjam of deserving athletes and builders is being shaken loose, and the indefensible exclusion of non-U.S. internationals who dominated domestic league play has finally ended. The NSHOF unveiled four new members Wednesday, marking only the second time since 2013 that there will be an induction class that large.
U.S. men’s national team defender and longtime Bundesliga stalwart Steve Cherundolo, USWNT defender and two-time Women’s World Cup winner Christie Pearce, Bolivian D.C. United legend Jaime Moreno and veteran executive Kevin Payne, who launched DCU’s 1990s dynasty before transitioning to youth soccer administration, comprise the 2021 class.
Their induction is scheduled for Oct. 2 at the NSHOF museum, which is attached to FC Dallas’s Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
Among this year’s near misses are USWNT goalkeeper Hope Solo, who fell short for the second time, USWNT midfielder Shannon Boxx, former DCU playmaker Marco Etcheverry and the late Clive Charles, who coached several U.S. national sides along with the men’s and women’s teams at the University of Portland.
Their Hall of Fame prospects are good, however, as the NSHOF board already has approved additional adjustments to the election process that could produce as many as six new members in 2022. Last year, the Hall reduced the number of candidates appearing on final ballots and also cut the number of voters to 96, dividing them among three categories: players, veterans (retired at least 10 years) and builders (coaches, administrators, referees, etc.).
Multiple rounds of balloting took place and for the first time, voters in each category met to discuss and debate the candidates. It was designed to channel expertise and participation while producing three to four new Hall of Famers across the three categories. Just one person, Carlos Bocanegra, was elected in 2020 and this year, at least two players were voted in for only the third time since ’13.
Cherundolo finally was elected in his fifth year of eligibility. Now the head coach of Las Vegas Lights in the USL Championship, Cherundolo, 42, appeared on 89.6% of the ballots cast by the players’ selection committee (compared to 57.3% in 2020). Likely the best right back in USMNT history, Cherundolo played in three World Cups and spent 15 seasons at Hannover 96 in Germany, where he served as captain. Pearce, 45, was elected in her first year of eligibility. She amassed more than 300 caps, also won three Olympic gold medals and played in the WUSA, WPS and NWSL for the New York Power and Sky Blue FC. She appeared on 93.8% of the ballots.
Solo finished third, showing up on 85.4% of the ballots, followed by Boxx at 83.3% and Josh McKinney, a longtime defender and midfielder for the U.S. Paralympic team, at 70.8%. This was the first time players from U.S. Soccer’s extended national teams were eligible. Starting next year, a third athlete will be admitted from the player ballot if they receive at least 75% of the vote. So Solo’s surprising wait very well could end in 2022.
Moreno’s wait for election not only was a surprise, it was a discriminatory stain on the NSHOF. Although several foreign NASL players had been inducted over the years, modern voters refused to acknowledge the contributions made by non-U.S. internationals to the growth of the American pro game. Moreno, a four-time MLS champion, was the best player in MLS’s first decade and remains one of only two with 100 league goals and 100 assists (Landon Donovan is the other). But he received an inexplicable 50.6% of the vote in his final year on the player ballot. Now in the veteran category, and evaluated by voters committed to examining his candidacy, he was named on 23 of 24 ballots cast, a rate of 95.8%.
Moreno’s club and country teammate, Etcheverry, also appeared on 23 of the 24 veteran ballots. Moreno was elected via a tiebreaker (voters ranked candidates as part of the initial screening process), but like Solo, El Diablo is in good shape for 2022. The new NSHOF procedures will allow for a second veteran if they’re on 75% of the ballots. Kate Markgraf, the current USWNT general manager, was named on 79.2% and was the only other veteran to surpass 50%.
Payne, who announced his retirement from U.S. Club Soccer in April, worked for U.S. Soccer and in soccer/sports marketing before helping to launch MLS in the mid-1990s. He was D.C. United’s president and GM from the start and played a massive role in building the league’s first flagship club. After leaving DCU in 2012, he ran Toronto FC for a year before signing on with USCS. Payne and Charles each were named on 79.2% of the builder ballots, with Payne earning election via the screening tiebreaker. Former referee Esse Baharmast appeared on 75% of the ballots and USL founder Francisco Marcos was on 70.8%.
Next year’s builders ballot will feature only referees, as voters cycle through individual categories before returning to an all-comers election in 2025. Coaches will be the focus in ’23, the next time Charles will be eligible.
Here are the top 10 finishers in each of the three categories:
PLAYERS (top two elected)
Christie Pearce: 93.8%
Steve Cherundolo: 89.6%
Hope Solo: 85.4%
Shannon Boxx: 83.3%
Josh McKinney: 70.8%
Lauren Holiday: 62.5%
Frankie Hejduk: 45.8%
David Beckham: 37.5%
Heather Mitts: 29.2%
Lori Chalupny: 27.1% (tie)
Keith Johnson: 27.1% (tie)
Aly Wagner: 27.1% (tie)
VETERANS (one elected)
Jaime Moreno: 95.8%
Marco Etcheverry: 95.8%
Kate Markgraf: 79.2%
Tisha Venturini-Hoch: 50%
Linda Hamilton: 45.8%
Steve Ralston: 41.7%
Shep Messing: 33.3%
Tony Sanneh: 29.2%
Clint Mathis: 16.7%
Angela Hucles: 8.3%
BUILDERS (one elected)
Kevin Payne: 79.2%
Clive Charles: 79.2%
Esse Baharmast: 75%
Francisco Marcos: 70.8%
Kari Seitz: 41.7%
Richard Groff: 25%
Tim Lieweke: 25%
Joe Cummings: 12.5%
Sandra Hunt: 8.3%
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