Back in April, I shared my 2019 National Soccer Hall of Fame player ballot. Only Abby Wambach – “The definition of a first-ballot Hall of Famer,” I wrote – appeared on 66.7% of ballots, the minimum needed for induction. She’ll go into the Hall this Saturday.
I’ll save you my long spiel about the voting process. You can watch a truncated version below. In two words: It’s broken. I’m not the only one who feels this way. Shout out to Brian Straus, who has been raising hell about this topic for far longer than I have.
In my opinion, there are two underrepresented constituencies: women, first and foremost, and players, both American and otherwise, who made their mark on the American game, predominantly in Major League Soccer.
Here’s my Top 5 list of MLSers on the 2019 ballot who won’t get in on their US national team contributions, though deserve serious consideration for a place in Frisco, Texas. For what it is worth, there’s a sizable group of stars from the American Soccer League, NASL and various indoor leagues whose professional exploits were enough for voters to enshrine them.
5. Taylor Twellman
Twellman accomplished so much during his six “prime” seasons in MLS that the premature end to his playing career ought not be punished. Had concussions not forced the New England Revolution striker to hang up his boots, it’s likely Chris Wondolowski would still be chasing the all-time goalscoring record.
And forget what-ifs. One-hundred-and-one goals in 174 games speaks for itself. Still 10th on the list. Two-time Best XI. Golden Boot. MVP. U.S. Open Cup champion. Loads of big playoff moments. Four trips to MLS Cup. When you think of the Revs, you think of Twellman. That ought to mean something, too.
4. Chris Armas
Chris Armas was a stalwart for a great Fire team and had a stellar national team career | USA Today Sports
Somehow, it seems only the old-heads in MLS circles appreciate Armas the player properly. We’re talking about arguably the best best defensive midfielder in league history. He was a five-time Best XI selection, including four straight seasons from 1998 to 2001, a streak stopped only by injury.
Armas has the collective success, too. He was an integral member of the 1998 Chicago Fire team that won the double in their very first year in MLS. He won the Supporters’ Shield. Four U.S. Open Cups. Two Gold Cups. He was U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year in 2000 and had 66 caps for the USMNT, too. This wouldn’t even be a question had he been fit enough to play in the 2002 World Cup.
3. Kevin Hartman
Longevity matters. It’s time to celebrate the career of the goalkeeper who owned every single record in the book until Nick Rimando and Kyle Beckerman (two more candidates on this list someday) came along and broke them. That bleach blonde hairdo is iconic.
Hartman’s a Galaxy legend and former MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, who has two MLS Cups, Two Supporters’ Shields and two Open Cups. He’s third all-time in MLS games played. He’s second in goalkeeper wins, saves and shutouts. He’s an MLS legend who also played for the New York Red Bulls and Kansas City Wizards (throwback).
Under pressure, I’d probably pick Armas for his USMNT resume combined with MLS excellence. But Hartman should absolutely be considered.
2. Steve Ralston
The final two names on this list were on my 2019 Hall of Fame ballot. In my opinion, their Hall of Fame credentials are not up for debate.
Ralston is the league’s long-time assist king. The only man whose been able to knock him off that perch is Landon Donovan, and it was only by a single assist, which ought to tell you something.
Ralston is one of the most under-appreciated players in MLS history, but not by his peers in MLS and the USMNT. His service helped make Twellman so productive in New England, and had the chips fallen a little differently, he’d have a couple MLS Cups to his name.
Don’t forget those incredible years in Tampa Bay with the Mutiny, either. Ralston deserves a place in Frisco.
1. Jaime Moreno
Jaime Moreno is one of the best MLS players of all-timel | USA Today Sports
We finish off this top five with the former MLS goal king and one of the shining lights of the first MLS dynasty. Jaime Moreno is a D.C. United and MLS legend, through and through.
Let’s go through the resume. Five Best XIs. 133 goals. 102 assists. Nobody in MLS history other than LD has triple digits in both. He’s also fourth in playoff goals, fifth in postseason assists. Those moments helped fuel four MLS Cup victories, four Supporters’ Shields, two US Open Cups, a CONCACAF Champions Cup and Copa Interamericana.
Oh, and Jaime is one of the most capped players in Bolivia history. He gave his career to MLS. He should be in the National Soccer Hall of Fame.