Caligiuri, Wynalda elected to Hall of Fame
a goal now referred to as "The Goal Heard 'Round the World" -- to clinch the USA's first World Cup appearance since 1950.
On Wednesday, Caligiuri looked back fondly at his time as a player for the U.S. national team, Columbus Crew and Los Angeles Galaxy. He now focuses his energy on being the head coach of the men's and women's soccer programs at Cal Poly-Pomona.
"My commitment to the game is far from over. There's so many things I have to think about and have great memories of, from making friends to traveling to far places and having great experiences on and off the soccer field," Caligiuri said.
Caligiuri, a long-time U.S. international, amassed 110 caps (mostly as a defender) and appearing in both the 1990 World Cup in Italy and the 1994 World Cup in the United States. He followed up the goal that secured the USA's qualification with the first U.S goal in a World Cup in 40 years, a tally against Czechoslovakia in the first game of the 1990 group stage.
Caligiuri played six years in MLS from the league's inception until 2001, the first with Columbus Crew and the last five with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Akers referenced the history of soccer in the United States and humbly acknowledged her place alongside the people who have built up the sport in this country.
"This sport is a great one, and it's been going on a long time," she said. "There have been a lot of outstanding individuals over the course of that time that have put it on the map. It's really an honor for me to be included with some of those people."
Akers is widely considered one of the best female soccer players in the history of the game, and one the best living soccer players regardless of gender. In early March, she was named to the "FIFA 100," actually a list of the world's 125 greatest living soccer players, compiled by Pele and approved by FIFA.
Akers appeared in three FIFA Women's World Cups, leading the USA to world championships in 1991 and 1999. She scored 105 goals in 153 appearances with the national team.
In a statement, MLS Commissioner Don Garber lauded both Wynalda and Caligiuri, saying both had a "trail-blazing spirit" that was exhibited through their ventures with the U.S. national team, in European soccer and in MLS.
"This spirit, exhibited throughout your U.S. men's national team careers, from your pioneering experiences among the first wave of Americans plying their trade overseas, to your overwhelming commitment to return stateside and develop the American professional game through Major League Soccer, has provided multiple generations of soccer fans and players with the opportunity to pursue their soccer dreams," Garber said.
"Now that your playing careers are over, you continue to tap into that spirit to promote the game we all love and push the sport forward at all levels through your coaching and broadcasting efforts, something we all appreciate. Adding to the list of firsts, we can proudly say that Paul and Eric are the first two Hall-of-Famers in MLS history."
All three players will be enshrined Columbus Day weekend, Oct. 9-11, at the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, N.Y.