Cases For the Six Goalkeepers on the 2017 Soccer Hall of Fame Ballot

Last week the National Soccer Hall of Fame released their nominees for the 2017 class. The ballot contains six hopeful goalkeepers, most notably 1999 World Cup legend Briana Scurry, looking to join the ten goalkeepers already enshrined in the Hall.

The Hall has an odd history with goalkeepers. Originally they were quick to induct goalkeepers, seeing seven goalkeepers inducted over the first few decades. This created a nice representation of the top goalkeepers in a variety of generations. However after 1976, goalkeepers struggled to make the cut. In the last 43 years, only three goalkeepers have been inducted that would otherwise be largely forgotten. Although while goalkeepers were a hot commodity at one point, voters simply haven't known what to do with them since.

Part of the reason for low goalkeeper numbers is due to, somewhat ironically, the lack of organization throughout the Hall's history. The 1960s saw a grand total of five players make the Hall of Fame, for example. Another reason is the voting process has recently pushed away from valuing club performance and almost exclusively leaning on the number of caps a player gained. Clearly this makes it tough for goalkeepers, as caps are harder to come by for them, but also any non-American players struggle to have the right eye candy voters want.

The Hall did a wonderful job of including top goalkeepers from multiple generations but now it's resorted to more a checklist for the most capped players. If the Baseball Hall of Fame can enshrine a pitcher from every year of MLB, it seems reasonable that they can put one goalkeeper from each decade in the Soccer Hall of Fame.

Since there are a million different ways to set a standard for the Hall of Fame, let's move on to the six nominees looking to make the cut.


1. Briana Scurry

Does she belong?: Without question. She's the 1999 World Cup Champion with the iconic penalty save in the shootout final to set up the win. Plus, goalkeepers with 173 caps and two Olympic gold medals don't come along every day. If she's not good enough, no goalkeeper is. It's already inexcusable that one of - if not the - premier goalkeeper in the world has been passed on for three years.

Outlook: Hard to say. In 2015 she just missed the cutoff with a handful of votes but she's been a "shoo-in" since her first year. (I couldn't find 2016 voting numbers.) There's not a very clear reason for why she hasn't been inducted outside of a poor voting system.


2/3. Kevin Hartman and Joe Cannon

Do they belong? Let me first stay that I am aware they are two different goalkeepers with their own careers. Clearly one chewed gum while playing in goal and the other did not. That said, they're in the same boat. Regardless that they have a combined 758 games (over 22 full seasons) and three MLS Goalkeeper of the Year awards, voters love the USMNT. Hartman and Cannon only combined for seven caps so if international performance is the bar to clear, they simply don't meet the criteria.

However it's worth noting that their short international careers weren't due to poor performances but simply a crowded field. Legends like Meola, Friedel, Keller, and Howard managed to keep a number of MLS goalkeepers at bay. While they rarely were featured with the USMNT, Hartman and Cannon set a standard of consistency in MLS that has rarely been matched since their retirement.

Voters need to consider what it would have taken for Hartman and Cannon to become worthy of selection. If it's earning more caps in the career by unseating more than one of the top ten goalkeepers in the world, that seems like an unreasonable bar to set for players.

Outlook: It'll be at least five years if not closer to ten. Their best bet may actually be landing with the veteran committee, where they only need 50% approval of votes, not two-thirds.


4. Pat Onstad

Does he belong? Onstad returns for his third year but the goalkeeper is no stranger to sticking around past everyone's expectations. The Canadian legend was playing everywhere he could before MLS came around. While he only has 57 caps for the Canadian National Team, Onstad's Hall of Fame bid is solely based on his play in MLS. He's one of nine goalkeepers to earn 200 starts despite being 28 when MLS finally started up, playing all the way until age 43. For a goalkeeper who obviously couldn't impact the USMNT, he's one of the most influential Canadian soccer players on the American game.

Outlook? He didn't gain 15% of votes in 2015 and I think a mostly American-voting base isn't too fond of voting for Canadians over their own. My bet is he ends up on the veteran committee at some point and gets in then.


5. Mary Harvey

Does she belong? Out of all the American goalkeepers from the early 90s, she had as good as career as any of them. Unfortunately it seems that playing for the USWNT just isn't as respected as playing for the men's team. Harvey earned 27 caps, only eight behind Arnie Mausser (2003 inductee), placing her sixth all-time with the USWNT. She played overseas when playing domestically wasn't an option, something very few American players did at the time.

Harvey was the number one goalkeeper for the early 90s and started for the USWNT in their first World Cup win (1991). If a goalkeeper on the men's side earned on 27 caps but was the starting goalkeeper in their first World Cup win, I would imagine he'd have a strong chance of getting in.

Outlook? She only received 19% of votes in 2004 and wasn't in the top five for the veteran's vote in 2015. If Scurry can't make it, Harvey's chances are most likely close to zero.


6. Shep Messing

Does he belong? I don't think voters have a good answer for wondering what a Hall of Fame career would look like for a player in the middle of the NASL collapsing. For someone that did anything he could to continue playing until age 38, his career is easy to forget given the time.

Messing never earned a cap for the national team, which is fairly damning for nearly every Hall of Fame voter. But realistically Messing played in an era when the USMNT didn't mean anything. If the 1978 Cosmos team played the USMNT at the time, it'd likely be a toss up. So it's hard to criticize a player for not being a part of an organization when it didn't take itself seriously enough to warrant participation.

Messing is probably the most iconic NASL goalkeeper and it would be nice to have another goalkeeper from a forgotten era, which there is precedent for when looking at the first inducted goalkeepers.

Outlook? Similar to Harvey, he hasn't had the support in the past and there appear to be more favorable names for the veteran's committee than Messing. He did earn 39% in 2015 (needed 50% to get in) but it was still fifth overall and they only approve one per year with the veteran's vote. At this point, if he hasn't made it yet he most likely never will.


Goalkeepers in the National Soccer Hall of Fame
bios taken from

Peter “Pete” Renzulli (1951) - Goalkeeper who played for a string of American Soccer League clubs in the 1920s and won three U.S. Open Cup titles. Renzulli played in the original ASL from 1922 to 1930, for Todd Shipyards, Paterson, Indiana Flooring, New York Nationals and New York Giants. He won Open Cup titles with Robins Dry Dock in 1921, Paterson in 1923 and New York Nationals in 1928.

George Tintle (1952) - Goalkeeper who was the first famous goalie in American soccer history, making Scandinavian tours with the U.S. National Team in 1916, Bethlehem Steel in 1919 and a St. Louis all-star team in 1920. Tintle played for a string of different teams during his career, including Harrison AA in the first two seasons of the original American Soccer League. 

Jimmy Douglas (1953) - Goalkeeper who played for the United States in both the 1924 Olympic Games and the 1930 World Cup. Douglas also played nine seasons in the original American Soccer League, for eight different teams. He played nine full internationals for the United States between 1924 and 1930, including both of the U.S. games at the 1924 Olympics in Paris and all three of the U.S. games at the 1930 World Cup in Uruguay.

Stanley Chesney (1966) - Goalkeeper who played 17 seasons in the American Soccer League for the New York Americans. He won an ASL championship with the Americans in 1936 and the U.S. Open Cup in 1937. Although he never played for the full U.S. National Team, he gained the nickname “The International Man” for his frequent appearance for ASL selections against foreign teams, including three games against the touring Scottish all-stars in 1935 and 1939.

Gene Olaff (1971) - Goalkeeper who played for the Brooklyn Hispano team that won the American Soccer League-U.S. Open Cup double in 1943 and took the Open Cup again a year later. Olaff, who played for Hispano from 1941 to 1953, was the premier American goalkeeper of the 1940s but played only one game for the U.S. Men’s National Team, which went 10 years without a game because of World War II.

Frank Borghi (1976) -  Goalkeeper who is often considered the top contributor to the United States’ 1-0 upset of England in the 1950 World Cup. That game was one of nine full internationals he played for the United States between 1949 and 1954, games that included three in the World Cup and five more in World Cup qualifying. Borghi won numerous honors with several club teams in St. Louis, including winning U.S. Open Cup titles in 1948 and 1950 with Simpkins.

Gino Gard (1976) - Goalkeeper who was a member of the United States squad at the 1950 World Cup in Brazil. Gard, who was born in Italy and whose name was Gardassanich before he moved to the United States, played from 1949 to 1959 for Slovak of the National Soccer League of Chicago. He reached the National Amateur Cup final in 1953 with Slovak.

Arnie Mausser (2003) - Goalkeeper who played 10 seasons in the North American Soccer League and was the first-choice ’keeper for the U.S. Men’s National Team through most of the NASL era. Mausser played 35 full internationals for the United States between 1975 and 1985, including 11 World Cup qualifiers. He played for seven different NASL teams and was the only American chosen as a first-team NASL all-star in that league’s last nine seasons.

Tony Meola (2012) - Goalkeeper who was captain of the United States team in the 1994 World Cup. Meola played 100 full internationals for the United States between 1988 and 2000, including seven games at the 1990 and 1994 World Cups and five World Cup qualifiers in 1989 and 2000. Meola played 11 seasons in MLS, winning both a league title and the MLS most valuable player award with the Kansas City Wizards in 2000.

Kasey Keller (2015) - Goalkeeper who started for the 1989 U20 World Cup team that earned a US-best ever 4th place finish. He would go on to earn 102 caps with the senior team from 1990 to 2007 and appear on four USMNT World Cup rosters. Keller was one of the first American players to have a successful and lengthy career abroad, playing for Millwall, Leicester City, Rayo Vallecano, Tottenham, and Borussia Mönchengladbach before returning to the Seattle Sounders for his final years, earning the 2011 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award.


A full list of the Hall of Fame's members can be found here.