The voting for the 2020 U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame closes on Tuesday, and there is a good chance we will continue to see worthy candidates passed over due to a flawed voting system made worse by voters refusing to cast full ballots.
Voters are allowed to vote for up to 10 players per ballot, but that hasn’t kept the number of successful candidates being voted in from being reduced to a trickle in recent years. A grand total of seven players have been voted in over the past six years, with the threshold of needing to appear on 66.7 percent of all ballots proving to be too much to produce more successful candidacies.
Since U.S. Soccer has kept individual voter ballots secret, there is no way of knowing just who is voting, and who voters are voting for, but a look at voting percentages of recent candidates suggests a serious lack of variety in selections, making it near impossible for candidates to make their way onto enough ballots.
Consider the fact that Abby Wambach, the definition of a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer, was left off of 19 percent of ballots. That statistic led to some rightful criticism of what was a clear example of voters not being thorough in their selection of candidates. Other examples include the voting percentages received by long-time USMNT standouts Carlos Bocanegra and Steve Cherundolo, who have both fallen short of reaching the 66.7 percent threshold despite boasting very impressive resumes.
What would a good ballot look like? There are three categories that most candidates fall into, Major League Soccer standouts, USMNT standouts and USWNT standouts. Selecting the top three options in each of those categories, along with a 10th wild card selection from any of those categories, gives you a well-balanced ballot, and if enough voters seriously researched all three categories, then there is a good chance we would see far more than the one or two inductees we have seen for so many years.
Of course, some will argue that a Hall of Fame class shouldn’t have so many inductees. There’s a case to be made for that, but the reality is that the woefully small classes recently voted in have only served to form a logjam of worthy candidates, which will inevitably lead to some viable options missing out, especially with a strong crop of candidates looming on the horizon.
The tiny Hall of Fame classes have also served to diminish the efforts to bring more attention to the Hall of Fame, which has a new home now in Frisco, Texas. There are several worthy candidates after several years of stingy voting, so the reality is you could have a 10-player class in 2010 that would feature all worthy choices.
There is no chance we will see a 10-player class, but the reality is there are six candidates who absolutely should be voted in this year (though we are probably going to have to get lucky to see even half of them actually make it given the way voting has gone).
Here is a look at the six players who should make up the 2020 U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame class (along with the four other players on my ballot):
Carlos Bocanegra. There is no good reason for Bocanegra to have waited this long to be voted in. He fell just short of the 66.7 percent threshold each of the previous two years (64.61 in 2019, 64.52 in 2018). The long-time USMNT captain made 110 appearances for the national team, finishing as the leading goal-scorer among defenders, and taking part in two World Cups.
Steve Cherundolo. One of the best defenders in USMNT history, Cherundolo should be a lock Hall of Fame choice based on his combined national team and club team success, but the sense you get is not enough voters give him the credit he deserves for spending 15 seasons playing high-level soccer in the German Bundesliga (how else do you explain him receiving just 51.69 percent of the vote in 2019?). He made 87 appearances for the USMNT and was part of three World Cup teams, including a starting role in 2006 and 2010.
Jaime Moreno. One of the best players in MLS history, he boasts four MLS Cup titles and scored 145 career MLS goals. He would be a first-ballot Hall of Famer in an MLS-only Hall of Fame, but given the current voting setup (he received just 36.52 percent of the vote in 2019), he continues to be overlooked and is a long-shot to be voted in.
Hope Solo. The outspoken goalkeeper won’t win many popularity contests, but there is no denying her accomplishments on the field. Regarded as the best goalkeeper in the world for several years, Solo finished her career with 202 USWNT caps, helping the team win the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, as well as the 2015 World Cup.
Shannon Boxx. The best USWNT field player on the ballot, Boxx was a dominant midfielder for more than a decade, compiling 195 caps and winning three Olympic gold medals and the 2015 World Cup. Her resume was arguably worthy of a first-ballot selection, but she only received 42.13 percent of the vote in 2019.
Kate Sobrero-Markgraf. A key member of the 1999 World Cup-winning USWNT squad, Sobrero-Markgraf played 201 matches during her impressive career, including three World Cups and three Olympic tournaments (two of them leading to championships). Overshadowed by more high-profile teammates for years, Sobrero-Markgraf has been woefully overlooked by voters, receiving just 41 percent in 2019 (after coming close with 60 percent in 2018).
Steve Ralston. Another MLS all-time great, Ralston retired having played the most first-division matches in American soccer history, while also retiring as the MLS all-time assists leader. Ralston played 411 MLS matches, along with earning 36 USMNT caps. The lack of MLS Cup titles, and modest national team role makes him a player too many voters overlook (He received just 24.16 percent of the vote in 2019).
Pablo Mastroeni. On his MLS resume alone, Mastroeni is a worth candidate, having captained the Colorado Rapids to a 2010 MLS Cup title and put in 16 seasons. His USMNT exploits help round out his candidacy, as he was a part of two World Cup teams, including the successful 2002 World Cup squad. He failed to crack the Top 15 in last year’s voting, after receiving 15 percent of the vote in 2018.
Frankie Hejduk. A member of two World Cup teams, two Olympic teams, and two Gold Cup-winning squads, Hejduk played 85 matches for the USMNT. He played 12 seasons in MLS, captaining the Columbus Crew to an MLS Cup title, while also putting in five years in Europe. He received 41 percent of the vote in 2019.
Eddie Lewis. The wild card selection on my ballot, Lewis played 82 matches for the USMNT, including the 2002 and 2006 World Cups. On the club side, Lewis fashioned a nine-year career playing in England, to go with seven seasons in MLS. He failed to crack the Top 15 in the 2019 voting, and is the biggest long shot on this list.
What do you think of the six-player class suggested above? What candidate not listed would you put into the 2020 Hall of Fame class?
Share your thoughts below.