If any player should’ve been a first-ballot no-brainer for those voting for the 2020 National Soccer Hall of Fame class, it’s women’s national team legend Hope Solo.
Say what you want about Solo’s off-field antics over the years. On the way to becoming widely regarded as the best goalkeeper in women’s soccer history, her penchant for creating drama was admittedly relentless. Solo criticized then-USWNT coach Greg Ryan and 99ers icon Briana Scurry after being benched in favor of Scurry during the 2007 World Cup. She was arrested in 2014 on assault charges that were eventually dropped. She called Sweden’s players “cowards” after their defensive master class eliminated the USWNT from the 2016 Olympics.
Yet none of that should have come close to overshadowing her on-field accomplishments, first and foremost the two Olympic gold medals and 2015 World Cup title to which she backstopped the Americans during the decade-plus she spent as the USA’s undisputed first-choice keeper.
Tuesday’s shocking omission highlighted deep flaws in the Hall of Fame’s broken voting system.
Solo was the biggest name left off the list when the NSOF announced the 2020 class, but she wasn’t the only one. Just a single candidate, ex-U.S. men’s captain Carlos Bocanegra, made the cut — the fourth time since 2015 that only one player met the threshold for enshrinement.
Deserving candidates such as three-time men’s World Cup vet Steve Cherundolo, World Cup winners Shannon Boxx, Lauren Holiday and Kate Markgraf, and MLS great Jaime Moreno were passed over yet again by voters who apparently didn’t bother to read the bios that the Hall sends the selectors along with their ballots.
It’s a lot harder to blame ignorance when it comes to Solo, who won the Golden Glove at two World Cups and was named the world’s top keeper every year from 2012-15.
Across all sports, Hall of Fame voting is also a popularity contest. Baseball’s electors have proven that better than most, with some of the most decorated players in that sport’s history — Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Pete Rose — still on the outside looking in, basically as punishment for bringing the game into disrepute.
Bonds, McGwire, Roger Clemens and a host of other stars from the 1990s and 2000s have been pariahs ever since being outed for using performance-enhancing drugs, while Rose was banned for life by Major League Baseball after being accused of betting on his own games.
Solo’s transgressions are nothing by comparison. Yet an astounding 42.7 percent of those who voted in this year’s National Soccer Hall election didn’t see fit to select her.
Solo’s criticism of the U.S. Soccer Federation — she unsuccessfully ran for USSF president in 2018 — probably didn’t help her. That shouldn’t have mattered, either. Among the 300-odd voters are Hall of Famers, current and former senior national team managers, active MLS and NWSL coaches with at least four years of experience, the MLS and NWSL commissioners and members of management, the USSF president and CEO, and around 75 media members.
Shame on those who didn’t vote for Solo. And shame on the almost 20 percent who didn’t vote for Abby Wambach last year despite the fact that Wambach was, at the time, the top scorer regardless of gender in international soccer history. Those numbers have to make one wonder if it’s ignorance or misogyny that left so many unable to pull the lever for Solo and Wambach.
Whatever the reason, the process has been revealed as a farce. The ongoing lack of respect for the Hall-worthy accomplishments of a Cherundolo or a Moreno already had NSHOF and U.S. Soccer officials considering tweaks, Sports Illustrated reported in March. (A source told Yahoo Sports Tuesday that changes are likely to be adopted when the NSHOF board meets later this month.) The embarrassing omission of a household name like Solo is on another level entirely, and it ought to make them take a sledgehammer to the procedure instead.
For if Hope Solo isn’t deserving of a place in the National Soccer Hall of Fame, neither is anyone else.
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