American soccer's virtual hall of fame will welcome three new members -- Brian McBride, Kristine Lilly and Bob Bradley -- the U.S. Soccer Federation announced on Monday.
The two former players were elected in their first year of eligibility. Bradley, the two-time MLS Coach of the Year who managed the U.S. national team to the second round of the 2010 World Cup, will be inducted as a "builder."
In recent years U.S. Soccer has staged an induction ceremony at the site of a men's national team match. Monday's announcement indicated that details concerning the 2014 event "will be announced at a later date." That forthcoming ceremony, and the traditional red sport coat and medal each inductee will receive, remains the Hall's only tangible manifestation. The museum in Oneonta, N.Y., closed in 2010, and for now, the National Soccer Hall of Fame (it's official name) exists only on U.S. Soccer's website and in storage at a warehouse located a few miles northwest of Durham, N.C.
McBride, 41, is a legend on both sides of the Atlantic. He tallied 30 goals in 96 senior internationals, was the first American to score in two World Cup tournaments and spearheaded the U.S. run to the 2002 quarterfinals.
His club career was equally impressive. The Chicago area product was the first pick at the inaugural MLS draft and spent eight productive seasons with the Columbus Crew before transferring to English Premier League club Fulham in January 2004. His courage and composure in front of goal so impressed the denizens of Craven Cottage that the stadium's sports bar was named in his honor. McBride finished up with his hometown Chicago Fire and retired at the end of the 2010 MLS season.
"It’s such an honor to be part of this select group. My first reaction after hearing about this was I got chills," McBride said in a U.S. Soccer release. “For me, it's not something you think about while playing. I’m just honored to be thought of in this light by my peers and the press."
Lilly, 42, was the ever-present iron woman of the planet's best women's soccer team. She amassed a world-record 352 caps across a 24-year career (scoring 130 goals) and won two Women's World Cup titles and two Olympic gold medals. Lilly grew up in Connecticut and spent most of her pro club career with the Boston Breakers.
"One of the most humbling parts of this is being inducted with so many of the greats that came before me," Lilly said. "It’s always an honor to be recognized for something you’ve done, especially for something we did for so long on the U.S. team. It was amazing to wear that U.S. jersey for so long, and I’m forever grateful for the time I was able to play and really grateful for this honor."
Hall of Fame players must appear on 66.7 percent of the ballots cast by past and present national team coaches, MLS and NWSL coaches and executives, U.S. Soccer officials, Hall of Famers and members of the media.
This year's voting suggests that men must have significant U.S. national team success to make the cut. Club careers like those enjoyed by Taylor Twellman, Jason Kreis, Steve Ralston and Chris Armas, along with several others on the ballot, would make them shoo-ins in other sports. But none of them excelled consistently at the international level or made their mark at a World Cup.
The National Soccer Hall of Fame also allows entry to foreign players who spend sufficient time in a U.S. league. It's tough to think of a one who accomplished more than Jaime Moreno, who tallied 145 MLS goals, won an MVP award and led D.C. United to 12 major trophies. But he wasn't elected in his first year of eligibility.
Other noteworthy omissions from this year's class include goalkeeper Briana Scurry, who backstopped the U.S. to the 1999 Women's World Cup title and a pair of Olympic gold medals, and 2002 World Cup stalwart Tony Sanneh, who played in both MLS and the Bundesliga.
Builders are voted on by a more select group that comprises USSF and league officials and Hall of Fame members.
Bradley rose to prominence after leaving Princeton University for fledgling D.C. United in 1996. He won two MLS Cup titles as Bruce Arena's assistant, then led the expansion Chicago Fire to the championship in 1998. Bradley took over the U.S. national team on an interim basis in late 2006 and earned the position permanently the following spring. Shortly thereafter, he guided the Americans to the CONCACAF Gold Cup title. Bradley's squad won the silver medal at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup and became the first U.S. team to top a World Cup group since 1930. "The game has grown tremendously in the United States through the efforts of a great number of people, and I have always respected those who have given so much to move the sport forward," said Bradley, who now manages Norwegian club Stabæk. "Many of them have been recognized in the National Soccer Hall of Fame, and I am honored to be included."