A veteran of three World Cups and the first player signed by MLS and the MetroStars, Tab Ramos took his place in history today along with Marcelo Balboa and John Harkes when it was announced the three will be inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
"You can never be prepared for a moment like this," Ramos said. "I am extremely honored to be one of the soccer names that will live forever and I say that with great respect for the Hall of Famers that preceded me."
Ceremonies surrounding the announcement of the selection of the three took place in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Denver. At the ESPNZone in Times Square, Nick Sakiewicz, president of the Metrostars, was on hand to present Tab with a ceremonial No. 10 shirt.
"It is with great pride that the Metrostars are represented here today and that they are now represented in the Soccer Hall of Fame. We have an enormous amount of pride and respect for Tab, the first player ever signed by Major League Soccer, and the first player signed by our organization," Sakiewicz said.
Also present was Alfonso Mondelo, former MetroStars coach and current MLS director of player programs.
"Tab is one of the most amazing and passionate players ever to play the sport of soccer, and he is a real credit to the game of soccer and now to the Hall of Fame," Mondelo said.
The vote was pretty conclusive, with Ramos and Balboa deadlocked on 108 votes each (87.8 percent of the ballot) and Harkes just one vote behind.
"It's a credit to how soccer has advanced in this country," Ramos said, "when you see that American players are getting voted in. There are some great players who didn't make it this year, and I wish them the best in future years."
Jack Huckel, director of communications for the National Soccer Hall of Fame, said "It's always exciting to announce a new Hall of Fame class, and in particular its exciting to induct players like these who have played on the world stage and have been recognized on the world stage.
"These are the times of a great boost for U.S. soccer. These three guys have been pioneers of Major League Soccer, and MLS built itself around players like that."
With players like Ramos, Balboa and Harkes inspiring new generations and Major League Soccer, the future is bright, Huckel said.
"They're doing things right. They're building stadiums, controlling costs," he said. "They are doing this in a way that will give new players the ability to be successful."
But Ramos was the man of the moment in New York.
"This class this year was incredibly talented. It wasn't just Americans, and I think that the support we got from the media and the coaches and everyone else was simply overwhelming," Ramos said.
"It's all about doing the best you can, but until you get that support from the media and everyone else -- you can think that you've done a good job. But it is on a day like this that I know I have done a good job, and that makes me happy."
The addition of today's inductees means there are now five Hall-of-Famers from the team that played in the 1990 FIFA World Cup - the first U.S. team in 40 years to play in the biggest single sporting event in the world, after the 1950 team currently featured in the movie "The Game of Their Lives".
"Now when you look back to 1989 [when we qualified]," Ramos said, "it doesn't seem to have been such a shock. When you look at the guys that were there -- these are guys that wanted to make a difference. When you look at the five guys who were inducted to the Hall of Fame over the last two years, they're guys who were not afraid, no matter who we played."
With Major League Soccer entering its 10th year and the Soccer Hall having announced the induction of one-time MLS players for two years running, Ramos speculated on who could be recipients of the honor in another decade.
"There's just so many. So many great talents, young talents playing in Major League Soccer. There's too many to name. Some of the kids like Landon Donovan and Eddie Johnson are amazing." At the moment, Ramos is coaching his youth team, the under-11 New Jersey Soccer Academy Gunners, rated first in the state and 13th in the nation.
"I'm going to continue coaching my kids, they are a five- or six-year project and hopefully a lot of them will become something, but if not, they are going to have a lot of fun over the next few years," Ramos said. "As I am. I promise you that." The official induction for Ramos, Balboa and Harkes will be at the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, N.Y. on Aug. 29.
Laurence Moroney is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.