The list of candidates for induction into the National Soccer Hall of Fame is out – and four first-timers deserve immediate approval:
Kristine Lilly: world-record 352 caps, 130 international goals, 5 World Cups, 3 Olympics, WUSA, WPS.
Brian McBride: 95 caps, 30 goals, 3 World Cups, Olympics, MLS.
Briana Scurry: 173 caps, 71 shutouts, 3 World Cups, 2 Olympics, WUSA, WPS.
Jaime Moreno: 15 MLS seasons, 133 goals, 102 assists, 4 MLS Cup titles, 5-time Best XI.
The first three should go because of exemplary service to U.S. national teams. Moreno (D.C. United) is a unique case because he is not American, but Bolivian, and made his mark as a foreign player in a domestic league. Over the years, others from abroad have excelled on the pro circuit and earned Hall of Fame status. None, however, played during the MLS era. Carlos Valderrama, Marco Etcheverry, Raul Diaz Arce and Mauricio Cienfuegos have appeared on the ballot for years but failed to earn enough votes. Moreno would be the first and, based on longevity, statistics and accomplishments, the most worthy of MLS’s imports.
Another deserving ballot rookie: Steve Ralston, who, in 15 years with Tampa Bay and New England, posted 76 goals and a league-record 135 assists in 378 regular season matches, the most by a field player in MLS history. Bolstering his case is 36 U.S. caps. He was not an national team star but a 10-year contributor who scored against Mexico in the 2006 World Cup qualifying clincher in Columbus.
Other notable first-timers: Eddie Lewis, Clint Mathis and Kate Markgraf.
Candidates returning to the ballot include Etcheverry, Jason Kreis, Shannon MacMillan, Cindy Parlow Cone, Tony Sanneh and Taylor Twellman.
Voters can choose up to 10 players. A candidate needs to appear on two-thirds of all ballots submitted to gain entry. Voting closes Feb. 7. The USSF will announce the inductees in subsequent weeks. A formal ceremony is typically scheduled around a U.S. match in the summer or fall.
Who votes? Current and former U.S. men’s and women’s national team coaches; MLS and NWSL coaches with four years’ experience coaching in a first-tier league; MLS and NWSL management representatives; MLS Commissioner Don Garber; NWSL Executive Director Cheryl Bailey; U.S. Soccer Secretary General Dan Flynn; U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati; designated media members; and the current Hall of Famers.
My choices: Lilly, McBride, Scurry, Moreno and Ralston.