As a soccer fan in the U.S., you spend a lot of your time (a) trying to convince your friends that the game is worth watching; (b) watching SportsCenter highlights to see if 15 seconds of soccer coverage made it in; (c) sitting in bars and restaurants with strangers watching TV broadcasts of the US National Team in some faraway land; or (d) all of the above.
Once in a while, though, you find yourself surrounded by soccer people, and you realize that you’re not alone.
Today was a day like that.
For the second consecutive year, I went to the National Soccer Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Oneonta, NY. (Yes, the Hall of Fame is in Oneonta. Don’t ask.) This year was the first all-MLS class to be inducted, and it featured one of the all-time great players in American soccer, Tab Ramos of my beloved MetroStars. Also inducted were Marcelo Balboa, John Harkes, Fernando Clavijo, and Hank Steinbrecher.
Just like last year, the Hall was filled to overflowing with soccer fans who had traveled from around the U.S. (and from Europe) to witness the induction of five men who helped shape the modern game here in the U.S. Everywhere you looked, you saw soccer royalty, from the heads of U.S. Soccer and MLS to folks like MetroStars GM Alexi Lalas and veteran broadcaster JP Dellacamara.
The Hall itself is wonderful, filled to the brim with soccer history and memorabilia from the game’s earliest days to its modern era. But perhaps the coolest thing is to see all the young kids roaming wide-eyed through the exhibits. They already know many of the names, and they remember the best goals and games.
If you’re a soccer fan, you really can’t do any better than Induction Weekend. From now on, many of the great MLS players and Men’s and Women’s National Team players will make up the inductee ranks, and each year promises to bring in a larger crowd. A crowd of soccer people. As Hall of Famer Hank Steinbrecher said today: “Our time has come.”