In her first year of eligibility, Abby Wambach was elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame, well-deserved recognition for one of the sport’s greats. But only 81 percent of eligible voters included her on their ballot.
Wambach easily surpassed the two-thirds threshold for induction. Considering her accomplishments, though, the absences were striking.
Wambach scored 184 goals in 256 U.S. national team appearances and was part of two Olympic gold medal-winning teams and the 2015 Women’s World Cup championship team. Wambach is the world-record holder for goals in international matches, a mark that includes male and female players.
Voters include all past and present men’s and women’s senior national team coaches; all active MLS and NWSL head coaches with a minimum of four years of experience as a head coach at the highest U.S. level; MLS and NWSL team representatives; MLS Commissioner Don Garber and NWSL President Amanda Duffy; U.S. Soccer Federation President Carlos Cordeiro; U.S. Soccer Federation chief executive Dan Flynn; designated media members; and all Hall of Famers.
Each voter can select up to 10 candidates, which means 19 percent of voters did not believe Wambach belonged on a long list.
The U.S. Soccer Federation does not reveal the identities of all voters or how they voted.
Last year, former goalkeeper Brad Friedel appeared on 88 percent of ballots submitted. Tiffeny Milbrett was also elected (75 percent).
Wambach was the only player elected this year. Former USSF president Sunil Gulati was chosen in the builder category. No one met the 50 percent criteria in the veteran player category. The 14 candidates included Tisha Venturini-Hoch and Shep Messing.
Wambach and Gulati will be formally honored this fall at the newly completed Hall of Fame in Frisco, Tex.
Among the recently retired players, former U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra was closest to joining Wambach. He appeared on 65 percent of ballots, almost his same percentage as last year.
Other eligible candidates with impressive portfolios did not come close. That group included longtime Bundesliga defender Steve Cherundolo, national team defender Kate Markgraf, national team midfielder Lauren Holiday and Bolivian-born forward Jaime Moreno (133 goals, 102 assists and four championships in MLS).
Over one year, Markgraf fell from 60.2 percent to 41.6. Cherundolo’s support grew by about 4 percentage points to 51.7.
Here are the top 15: