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Why the MLS Hall of Fame Needs to Happen

mls hall of fame

EDITORIAL – The National Soccer Hall of Fame museum opened in 1999 in Oneonta, NY. In 2015, the new Hall of Fame museum opened in Frisco, TX at the redeveloped south end of Toyota Stadium. The National Soccer Hall of Fame has its purpose. It also has its flaws. The politics of U.S. Soccer continue to affect the game at all levels, not just the hiring process for the USMNT. It’s time for a U.S. based MLS Hall of Fame to happen. It would be fitting for it to built in Columbus, Ohio.

A U.S. Based MLS Hall of Fame: Reasons it should Happen

Let’s start with the most frustrating aspect of the Hall of Fame and why MLS should have its own HOF. The voting process for inductees has been broken for years. It is getting better. But the way voting has been handled, the process for being voted in, and the actions of the voters has limited numerous qualified players, coaches, and builders from getting in. Half of the classes in the last decade had fewer than four inductees. 2020’s class was just Carlos Bocanegra. Given the qualified candidates from the USMNT, USWNT, MLS, increasingly the NWSL, coaches, and other officials, four or five inductees annually is just too few spots. The process and/or the selection committee have room to improve. The 2024 class includes Tim Howard, Josh McKinney, Tisha Venturini-Hoch, and Francisco Marcos.

Marco Etcheverry was not inducted till 2022, nine years after he left D.C. United, eight years after he retired. Three MLS Cups, two Supporters’ Shields, an MVP, and multiple doubles. In any other sport in America, that’s equivalent to a first ballot hall of famer.

The National Soccer Hall of Fame can still exist. If it wants to prioritize inductees based on what they did at a national level and specifically for the national teams, great. Keep doing that. But there’s so many good stories and personalities worth highlighting from an MLS perspective. It would be worth the time and resources to have an MLS Hall of Fame to focus on the premier domestic league in the country.

It seems only right to have it based in Columbus. Centrally located, in the city of the first ever MLS franchise. Columbus Crew have fantastic new facilities. The Hall of Fame could fit next to Field like how the National Soccer Hall of Fame museum is a part of Toyota Stadium. There’s plenty of space around Historic Crew Stadium, which doesn’t need as much parking as they have. It would be a great pilgrimage for MLS fans going to see their team play at Columbus to make a day of seeing the first soccer-specific stadium and the MLS Hall of Fame. Being in an Eastern Conference market and to the north geographically would be a nice compliment to National Soccer Hall of Fame being in the Western Conference and to the south.

Read More: Why The Canadian MLS Hall Of Fame Should Happen

MLS could have a similar induction process. There could be categories for players, coaches, officials, and builders. There’s already a robust format for voting for season awards with MLS executives, players, media, and even fans participating. Those groups are certainly more active and intentional than National Soccer Hall of Fame voters of years past. MLS could form a council of those who were around for MLS 1.0 to evaluate candidates from that era. This would allow the people who built this league get their due from an entity built by and for the league, unlike the National Soccer Hall of Fame.

There could be physical space for history on each club, which has been limited to an online presence for most markets. Let clubs (and their supporters groups?) build out those spaces as they see fit. A hall of jerseys would be cool. A few mini pitches for some pick up footy for the kids and a full size pitch for some legends games, or just use one of the Crew’s stadiums. Throw in a rotating exhibit for something topical for the year or the season. Have all the rivalry trophies present the week of Rivalry Week. Have a theater for the in-person induction ceremonies and shows, like the MLS Insider documentary series or 30 For 30s. Or a live podcast recording. During down times, have full game replays from matches that took place on this day. Tell me The Cooligans wouldn’t sell out a live show there and be a ton of fun.

Add in a hallway just for all the weird stuff that’s happened in MLS and it would be a hit. I want to see the envelopes that were used to determine whether Jermaine Jones went to New England or Chicago on display in fancy museum glass. What about the original RapidMan suit? Terrify children with a wax figurine of Steven Lenhart. Tell me Pablo Mauer wouldn’t crush it as the MLS Hall of Fame museum curator. MLS clubs needed their own club historians on payroll years ago anyways. Heck, have that be the new home of MLS Cup when it’s not during the playoffs instead of the league office?

This would be a way to honor and preserve the history of this league, built by and for the league, rather than the USSF. It would be fun for the fans. It would be good for the growth of the sport in this country.

Dec 9, 2023; Columbus, OH, USA; Teammates celebrate a goal by Columbus Crew midfielder Yaw Yeboah (14) during the first half of the MLS Cup final against Los Angeles FC at Field. Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-USA TODAY Sports


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