FRISCO, Texas – Humble roots, startling growth and bright futures were the themes as the class of 2019 donned the red jackets at the National Soccer Hall of Fame on Saturday.
Former U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati and Abby Wambach, the all-time leading goalscorer in international soccer, were enshrined while photographer Tony Quinn received the Colin Jose Media Award as the Hall inducted its second class since reopening at Toyota Stadium.
The afternoon began with FC Dallas and Fox Sports play-by-play announcer Mark Followill introducing Gulati's successor, Carlos Cordeiro, to remark on the Hall of Fame's first year in Texas. FCD owners Dan and Clark Hunt took to the podium to mark the retirement of U.S. Soccer CEO Dan Flynn with a tradition the brothers started to honor retiring members of the national team: the presentation of an FC Dallas cowboy hat and custom Lucchese boots.
After the introductions were over, the National Soccer Hall of Fame paid tributes to the four Hall of Famers who’d passed away since the last induction ceremony.
Peter Collins, class of 1998, was known as the father of Long Island soccer. He led the Long Island Junior Soccer League for 27 years, expanding from 300 teams to 1,475. Efrain "Chico" Chacurian, class of 1992, was a member of the US men's national team and spent 45 years coaching youth and college soccer.
Gulati had a personal connection to Charcurian from their time coaching together in the Olympic Development Program. Two further departed honorees had strong links with MLS: Sigi Schmid was inducted in 2015 as a three-time College Cup and two-time MLS Cup-winning coach, while Fernando Clavijo – a member of the 1994 US World Cup team and an icon in the indoor game – was FCD’s technical director until cancer took his life.
The inductions began with a video presentation in which the likes of Anson Dorrance, Flynn and former federation president Alan Rothenburg described Gulati's near-40-year association with the federation, from carrying towels and buying balls during the 1990 World Cup qualifying campaign to overseeing the 2026 FIFA World Cup hosting bid. Carli Lloyd and Landon Donovan spoke of the role Gulati played in both national teams and the founding of both MLS and the NWSL.
MLS Commissioner and 2018 Hall of Fame inductee Don Garber introduced his friend and colleague in Gulati. He recalled that at his introductory press conference with the league, a journalist asked if Garber planned to ask Gulati to return to the organization he briefly served as deputy commissioner for. That question led to a meeting at a coffee shop on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan, and the start of a friendship and partnership that has seen both league and federation flourish.
Gulati himself joked that while most inductees see a video of their career highlights, his playing career as a youngster didn't involve many.
"The highlight of the playing career was when I borrowed a pair of shoes from Tab Ramos on a field in Washington 20, 15, 25 years [ago], I don't know, and scored seven out of 10 penalty kicks against Kasey Keller," said Gulati of a bet the pair made. "It should have been nine, I'm pretty sure VAR would have had him moving on two of them."
Abby Wambach during her induction speech | USA Today Sports Images
As the attention turned to Wambach, another video presentation featured the likes of Julie Foudy, Megan Rapinoe, Jill Ellis and Alex Morgan, who spoke of what Wambach brought to the locker room for the US women's national team. Her former teammate Christie Pearce introduced Wambach, sharing more of the personal side of bus rides and time spent with their families.
Wambach, like Gulati, didn't want to talk about personal accomplishments, but took the opportunity to talk about the growth of the game. She spoke of the future: The growth of the national teams, the potential of NWSL and her hopes of a prosperous working relationship between the national teams and Cordeiro. The pair also praised each other for their impact on the growth of the sport in the US.
As the evening moved outside, the Fray's Isaac Slade dedicated the band's 2012 song "Run For Your Life," to Marcela Gulati and Glennon Doyle, the spouses of Gulati and Wambach, to represent the sacrifices families make to help enable such great achievements. The class of 2019 was once again recognized before OneRepublic took to the stage to finish up the evening.