Several former Major League Soccer greats are on the ballot for election to the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2007, including a pair of veteran U.S. national team members and three international stars on the list of candidates for the first time.
U.S. national teamers Joe-Max Moore, a forward, and midfielder Brian Maisonneuve are joined by Bolivian Marco Etcheverry, Colombian Leonel Alvarez and Raul Diaz Arce of El Salvador as the newest MLS veterans on the ballot, though they are not the only ones up for the honor. Returning from the 2006 ballot are several others, including Polish midfielder Peter Nowak and former U.S. defender Thomas Dooley, who each received votes on over 50 percent of ballots cast a year ago.
In all there are 13 new names on the ballot in 2007, including former U.S. women's national team legends Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy and Joy Fawcett. Four groups will cast the votes that ultimately decide who will be elected. Ballots will be distributed this month to 1) nominated soccer media, 2) all current members of the Hall, 3) all U.S. national team coaches, past and present, and current MLS coaches with four years or more tenure and 4) a select group of soccer administrators.
"The Hall of Fame began its current voting process in 2000," said Jack Huckel, Hall of Fame director of museum and archives. "We have developed, over the past six elections, a solid core of knowledgeable voters that ensures only the most deserving are elected. We expect to receive a record number of ballots in 2007."
Moore spent six years of his prolific career in MLS with two separate stints with the New England Revolution (1996-1999 and 2003-2004). In just less than 100 games played for the club, he notched 41 goals and 35 assists. Moore was also a huge contributor to the U.S. team, earning 100 caps. Four of his appearances were in World Cup matches, while 20 came in WC qualifying.
Maisonneuve played eight seasons for the Columbus Crew, scoring 23 goals and providing 37 assists in 172 regular season games. He also is a World Cup veteran, having represented the USA at France '98. In total he earned 13 caps for the U.S. team and was also a member of the 1996 Olympic team.
Etcheverry is arguably the best player ever to have played in MLS. 'El Diablo' spent eight years as a member of D.C. United, helping that club cement its reputation as one of the league's most successful teams. Etcheverry was the league MVP in 1998 and racked up 34 goals and 101 assists in 191 appearances for the Black-and-Red. He was also a key member of the Bolivian national team and represented his nation at the 1994 World Cup.
Alvarez, another South American World Cup veteran, spent five years in MLS, splitting his time between Dallas and New England. He made 121 appearances, scoring five goals and supplying 21 assists from a mostly defensive role in the midfield.
Diaz Arce was one of the most popular players ever to play in MLS, and fans in five different cities had to pleasure of seeing him perform in their home colors during his six-year MLS career. A prolific goal scorer in his earliest seasons and a solid contributor throughout his career, Diaz Arce scored 82 goals in 150 MLS games, including a career high 23 in 1996. He also scored six goals in as many games in D.C. United's playoff run that year, helping the club capture the first-ever MLS Cup title.
In all, 49 players are eligible to earn Hall of Fame status this year. The two players that receive the most votes will secure election to the Hall, as long as their names are present on at least 50 percent of all the ballots cast. A third candidate can also secure the honor if he or she is on at least 80 percent of the ballots.
In order to become eligible for the Hall of Fame, a player must have played at least 20 full international games for the U.S. or five seasons in a U.S. first division pro league, and have met certain other qualifications. Results of the election voting are expected to be announced in February.
Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.