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Trecker is added to Hall.

Windischmann earns induction on veteran's ballot, bringing 2004 class to four.

Akers, Wynalda and Caligiuri are voted to induction.

Hall of Fame

Ramos, Harkes, Balboa lead the induction of 11.

Tab Ramos
Tab Ramos was the first player signed by Major League Soccer,
-- National Soccer Hall of Fame web site photo --
By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

ONEONTA, N.Y. (Monday, August 29, 2005) -- Midfielders Tab Ramos and John Harkes, and defender Marcelo Balboa -- cornerstones of the 1990 and 1994 United States World Cup team, as well as founding members of Major League Soccer -- were among 11 individuals inducted today into the National Soccer Hall of Fame.

Ramos, Harkes and Balboa, inducted as players from the current era, were joined by player and coach Fernando Clavijo as a "veteran," former U.S. Soccer Federation secretary general Hank Steinbrecher as a "builder of the game," and broadcaster Seamus Malin. In addition, five "old-timers" were enshrined.

To be elected, a "current" player must be in the top three in the annual vote, receiving at least 80 percent of the votes. This year 123 ballots were cast. The three 2005 player inductees, all in their first year they were eligibility, met the requirements with Balboa and Ramos receiving 87.8 percent of the votes, and Harkes getting 86.99 percent. The next two highest vote-getters were defender Thomas Dooley with 58.54 percent and striker Hugo Perez with 50.41 percent.

Harkes, Ramos and Balboa were in on the ground floor of the current U.S. success in international competition and essential elements of the return of a top-flight professional league in America following the demise of the North American Soccer League more than a decade earlier.

The 1990 U.S. men qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 40 years. In 1994, the Americans hosted a highly-successful World Cup, stunned Colombia and advanced to the second round. The trio opted against playing professionally abroad to help MLS get off the ground in 1996.

"These are the guys from our first generation, who deserve the honor," MLS commissioner Don Garber said. "They were American soccer pioneers. They came home and they helped sell it."

All of the honorees appeared clearly moved by their selection. "We're still adjusting to life after playing."Ramos said. "How fortunate I am to be here. The Hall of Fame is so far beyond anything you could dream about. I feel like the luckiest player in the world."

Ramos and Harkes first played together as 13-year-olds in Kearny, N.J. "It's an unbelievably incredible honor to be inducted into this Hall," Harkes said. "I'm completely overwhelmed. I started so many years ago on my Dad's team in Kearny. Now we all need to continue to love the game and to push it forward."

John Harkes
John Harkes was the first American to gain great notoriety in England.
-- National Soccer Hall of Fame web site photo --
Harkes, 38, made 90 appearances for his national team, scoring six goals, in the 1990s, and he was named captain in 1995.

He was one of the first Americans to play in England. Playing for Sheffield Wednesday, he became the first American ever to play in Wembley Stadium when he helped Wednesday capture the League Cup title over Manchester United in 1991; the first American to ever play in an FA Cup final and the first to score in a League Cup final, performing both feats in 1993; and the first American to play in a UEFA Cup match in 1992.

Harkes joined D.C. United in the inaugural 1996 MLS season and helped the team win the first two league championships. The 1987 collegiate "Player of the Year" at Virginia went on to play in MLS for the New England Revolution and Columbus Crew, recording 16 goals with 42 assists in 167 career regular-season games. He added six assists in 22 playoff matches.

He currently heads D.C. United's youth and soccer camp programs, and serves as an analyst on United's local television broadcasts.

Ramos, 38, played in three consecutive World Cups (1990, 1994 and 1998), earned 81 caps and scored eight goals. On September 7, 1997, he scored one of the most memorable goals in U.S. history against Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying to secure a place in the 1998 Cup in France.

After two years in the American Soccer League, he then spent five years playing in the Spanish La Liga and Second Division with Figuere and Real Betis.

On January 3, 1995, he became the first player to sign with MLS, playing his entire seven-year career with the MetroStars.

Ramos now serves as president and founder of Tab Ramos Soccer Programs, which does camps, clinics and coaching in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He also is the president and founder of the New Jersey Soccer Academy, an elite soccer club for boys. And he is president and founder of Tab Ramos GOAL! Foundation, a non-profit organization helping inner city children with education through sports.

Marcelo Balboa
Marcelo Balboa was nicknamed the "Iron Man" for his 128 caps with the U.S. men.
-- National Soccer Hall of Fame web site photo --
Ramos and Harkes remembered Balboa for his dedication and his fierce play. "I played aggressively and I played angry. I played any way I could," Balboa said. "That's the way I was taught to play and to live. To be here today receiving this honor is something so unbelievable it has not really sunk in. I am truly honored."

Balboa, 38, also played on three World Cup teams (1990-98), making 128 international appearances and scoring 13 goals. Nicknamed the "Iron Man," he won the U.S. Soccer "Athlete of the Year" award twice (1992, 1994) during his 13-year national team career.

Balboa joined the Colorado Rapids for MLS's inception in 1996 after playing several years in the Mexican first division. He spent six years in Colorado before ending his career with the MetroStars. He became the first defender in MLS to post 20 goals and 20 assists for his career.

Balboa, who lives in Superior, Colo, currently does the color commentary of the U.S. men for ESPN. He is also involved in planning for the Colorado Rapids' soccer-specific stadium while coaching teenage boys for the Boulder Force club and working for the state's Olympic Development Program.

Clavijo, 48, currently the coach of MLS's Colorado Rapids, kept his playing career alive by playing many years of indoor soccer. "It's part of the game I truly love," he said. "I tried as hard as I could to do what I loved and now to be honored like this is overwhelming. I did it because I love it. I did it because it was in my blood."

Fernando Clavijo
Fernando Clavijo was 37 when he played for the 1994 U.S. World Cup team.
-- National Soccer Hall of Fame web site photo --
After coming to the U.S. in 1979, Clavijo obtained U.S. citizenship in 1987 and played 61 times for his adopted country. He was a member of the 1994 World Cup team at the age of 37, the oldest member of the squad.

Clavijo played 11 years in the Major Indoor Soccer League also played in the ASL and NASL. He served as coach of MLS's New England Revolution for three years (2001-03) and as Haiti's national-team coach in 2004.

Steinbrecher, 58, who served as secretary general from 1990-2000, expressed surprised of his selection. "I wonder if I really deserve this, but I am so very grateful," he said. "I have received far more from soccer than I have given."

Under his watch, the USSF grew greatly with a tripling of staff and an increase in the number of full-time coaches from one to 25. He is best-known for his role, particularly in marketing, that made the 2004 World Cup USA such a success.

Hank Steinbrecher
Hank Steinbrecher served for 10 years as the USSF secretary general and was a key figure in the success of the 1994 World Cup.
-- National Soccer Hall of Fame web site photo --
Malin, 64, is a recognizable face as a broadcast analyst of international matches. "I am thrilled and deeply moved to be chosen," he said. "I have been privileged to witness and play a small part in the exciting growth in the USA of the game we love and share with the world. It is profoundly gratifying, to a degree more than I can express, to be acknowledged in so special a manner for whatever I have been able to contribute."

In addition, five old-timers from the pre-NASL era were inducted:

  • Tom (Whitey) Fleming -- Played on four Open Cups winners and scored 94 goals in 234 games in the first American Soccer League.

  • Alex McNab -- A Scottish international winger, he was a key figure in American soccer from 1924-38.

  • John Nelson -- The second all-time goal-scorer in the first ASL, behind Archie Stark.

  • Werner Nilsen -- One of the great forwards of the years before World War II and a member of the 1934 U.S. World Cup team in Italy.

  • Fabri Salcedo -- A prolific goal-scorer with Brooklyn Hispano of the ASL between 1934-47. He won the ASL scoring title three times

    The National Soccer Hall of Fame is located in Oneonta, N.Y. To be eligible for induction, a player, man or woman, must be retired for at least three years, but not for more than 10 years; and must either have played at least 20 full international appearances for the U.S. (or 10 games if they were prior to 1990) or played at least five seasons in an American first-division professional league, won the league championship, won the U.S. Open Cup or been a league All-Star at least once.

    Because only recently have players from the MLS-era become eligible, most of those enshrined come from the NASL period. Only four men and three women players have been inducted from the 1990s period. U.S. men's defenders Paul Caliguiri, Michael Windischmann, midfielder Rick Davis and striker Eric Wynalda, are joined by women team's high-scoring trio of Michelle Akers, April Heinrichs and Shannon Higgins-Cirovski.

    Robert Wagman is a SoccerTimes senior correspondent. E-mail Robert Wagman.

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