National Soccer Hall of Fame - July 4, 2019
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Three ways US Soccer Hall of Fame voting can be improved | Andrew Wiebe

“The National Soccer Hall of Fame voting process is broken. That’s not news to anyone paying attention.”

I wrote that at the beginning of April, when I revealed my ballot for the 2020 class. As it turns out, the class would be comprised of one player for the fourth time in six years, and barely one at that. Carlos Bocanegra, who has been deserving in all three years of eligibility, was named on 68.5 percent of ballots, just 1.8 percent more than the minimum for entry to the Hall.

Let’s not bury the lede, though: Hope Solo, inarguably one of the greatest goalkeepers in the history of the game, came up well short (57.3%) in her first shot at induction. Same for Steve Cherundolo, Kate Markgraf, Shannon Boxx and Jaime Moreno, among many other deserving names. If that blows your mind, remember one in five voters didn’t vote for Abby Wambach last year.

So yeah, the National Soccer Hall of Fame voting process is broken. You’ve heard as much. You’ve read as much. You know as much. This column is way late to the think-piece party. Steven Goff nailed all the details. Brian Straus is always worth reading on this topic. Doug McIntyre spilled some good ink.

Déjà vu! Groundhog Day! American soccer disrespects its own rich, varied and impressive soccer culture and history while complaining others don’t take us seriously as a soccer nation! I’ve done the Extratime tirade you see embedded below a couple times over the years. I’ve written this exact column. Honestly, I’ve done it better than this, and I’m not going to do it again. I’m done with the ranting and raving and nothing changing.

Watch: Extratime on the NSHoF voting process

It’s time for the process, the voters or both to change. Only one group of people can make that happen: the National Soccer Hall of Fame board of directors. Chairman Dr. Bob Contiguglia. John Motta. Cindy Parlow Cone. Cobi Jones. Dan Flynn. Word on the Soccer Hall of Fame beat is the board is looking closely at the issue and those changes could come as soon as 2021. 

So instead of complaining (more), I’d like to use this time and space to suggest three changes, effectively immediately for 2021.

1) Voting transparency

First, every single ballot should be public. If you can’t stand by and explain your ballot in the court of public opinion, you shouldn’t have a ballot. Right now, anonymity gives almost half the voting block cover to, for instance, leave Hope Solo off their ballot with zero accountability. Anonymity abdicates voters of the responsibility to honor our history in a transparent and unbiased way. If the Baseball Writers’ Association of America can remove secrecy from their Hall of Fame voting, so can the National Soccer Hall of Fame.

As it stands, the voters and votes … don’t matter. The process is conspicuously silent. Frankly, nobody really cares, nor should they. There’s no story to tell. No debate about who deserves to be inducted or discussion about what makes a Hall of Famer in the first place. We get a press release with an inductee (maybe two or three, if we’re lucky) and outrage pieces about the process and snubs. Then it ends, all to repeated next year.

We can’t ask voters about their inclusions, exclusions and snubs. We don’t know which media members even have a vote unless they reveal their choices. We can’t do the math and figure out why MLS legends who don’t double as US national teamers never even sniff 66.7 percent. We can’t know which voters submit ballots far short of 10 names. We’re in the dark, and we don’t have to be.

The National Soccer Hall of Fame at Toyota Stadium, home of FC Dallas | Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

2) Voter accountability

Second change, if you don’t use your vote, you lose it.

It’s charitable to allow voters to miss a year and continue voting in the future, but I’m a charitable guy! Things come up. Emails get stuck in junk inboxes. People are forgetful. Everyone gets a one-year pass. But make that two years in a row or two of three and you lose your vote. Poof! Gone! That ought to close the gap with the 20 percent of voters — a massive improvement on previous years, incredibly — who failed to submit a ballot for 2020.

3) Multiple inductees

Third, there ought to be a minimum number of player inductees every single year. I think three sounds about right.

There are so many deserving names to catch up on and so many yet to be eligible that it won’t mean cheapening induction in any way. That may mean changing the process (percentage of ballots vs. highest vote getters etc.) or requiring a minimum number of names on ballots. If we had the voting data, we could study how such changes might affect the outcome. Of course, we don’t.

But the National Soccer Hall of Fame board has that information. They can be the ones to solve all of this. They have to be. They can proudly attend induction ceremonies, when and if we get back to that, that include more than one solitary player. They can make the Hall feel alive and vibrant, a reflection of the totality of our soccer history rather than a representation of what’s broken within it. This whole process can feel like a celebration instead of a box to check.

The ball is in the final third. Finish it, or we’ll be right back here doing the same old thing next year.