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National Soccer Hall of Fame Celebrates Past, Present and Future of American Soccer
Oneonta, NY. – Just a five-hour drive from Fall River will bring you to the Mecca of soccer. The National Soccer Hall of Fame, located only 25 miles away from the Baseball Hall of Fame, celebrates the past, present and future of American soccer. After exploring the many exhibits in the five-year-old facility, it becomes apparent very quickly the Fall River area played a huge part in developing soccer in America. Not only are two Fall River teams enshrined, but also one of the best players in American soccer history, Billy Gonsalves, who played in Fall River, has his own section. Old programs from the Boston Shamrock Rovers (circa 1967) and Rhode Island Oceaners and other past area teams are also on exhibit.

Jack Huckel, Director of Communications at the National Soccer Hall of Fame, took time to explain the history of the Museum and soccer in general to the Sports Journal. “In 1950 [the Hall of Fame] was started by the Philadelphia ‘Old-Timers’ association in their effort to recognize the great players of the game. Philadelphia was quite a hot bed of soccer as a part of the old American soccer league that went from the Boston area right on down through Baltimore and D.C. So that was really the first incarnation of the Hall of Fame. After some years there, the United States Soccer Federation took over operation of the hall and in fits and starts it inducted players and builders involved and created a process for that, but it wasn’t their prime focus. In the middle 70’s a group from Oneonta was excited about soccer going on and the proximity to the Baseball Hall of Fame caused people to start thinking about, ‘well where is the Soccer Hall of Fame?’ and finding out that it was an idea and not a place led some crazy people to think “well lets build a place’. In 1983 the Federation gave the official sanction that Oneonta would be the home of the Hall of Fame and in 1998 they gave the Hall of Fame the responsibility for running the elections for how people should be chosen for the Hall of Fame.” The current 40,000 square foot Soccer Hall of Fame building opened its doors on June 12, 1999 and is surrounded by soccer fields.

A few of the items they have on display are the oldest soccer ball in the world (circa 1855 used in a match at Boston Gardens), the US Open Cup trophy (featuring 9 southern New England teams), Taylor Twellman’s jersey, Jason Kreis’ cleats and jersey from the game he broke the MLS all-time leading scoring record and the jerseys Claudio Reyna and Earnie Stewart wore in their 100th international appearances. The Soccer Hall of Fame also has the archives from the 1994 World Cup and the 1999 Women’s World Cup as well as a U.S. National Team jersey signed by President George Bush. The exhibits of interest to Fall River natives include the Billy Gonsalves era exhibit, which includes his 8 US Open Cup medals and a few American Soccer League medals among other things. The Hall of Fame also seems to have bright plans for the future. “We hope to grow in terms of people coming in our front door and seeing our building,” says Huckel. “I think that’s intricately intertwined with the growth of soccer as a fan sport. Here we have land to develop three or four more fields. We talked about one of them being an indoor facility so that we can have active soccer going on from December 1st to May 1st when we typically can’t use our fields. Those plans are still in the works. We have a group who has leased land from us to develop a team camp structure right here on campus and we should see construction on that in the next year. So that will be another step forward and more of a reason to bring people here. Each year we’ve gotten better and better about getting games on campus and we will be announcing shortly our Hall of Fame game, which will be really exciting. It’s going to match two MLS teams and that’s going to be the first time we’ve been able to do that. We’ve had national teams here, including the Woman’s National Team and the Olympic teams here so it’s another step on growing the museum.” The Hall of Fame game will take place on October 11th along with the induction ceremonies for the 2004 class of Hall of Famers. “For this first time we’ll induct players who’ve played their career on television,” Huckel said.

Jack Huckel believes Major League Soccer and the Hall of Fame are together starting to finally see a turning point. “I think Major League Soccer has finally got to the point were they are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Huckel said. “The early years they just focused on getting their product on the field and not spending an obscene amount of money to try to keep the league alive. I think one of the things they have seen out of that is now that the Hall of Fame offers them another way to connect with fans and so they have been really becoming a partner in growing the idea of the Soccer Hall of Fame and that there is a value to Hall of Fame recognition and getting that value out in front of people. U.S. Soccer has done the same. Evidence the game against Honduras where they were willing to give us two or three minutes of their press conference for us to receive Claudio [Reyna’s] shirt. All that’s a great, great process that we see growing and growing and I really expect that those things will happen on. I keep thinking we’re on this wave that’s cresting, I just don’t how far away up the wave we are, but at some point we’re going to hit that crest and things are really going to be bright and shiny. Right now we have to fund raise to make ends meet, although that is not different from most museums. We wish the fund raising burden were a little less than it is, but so far we’ve been successful and meet the demands.”

For a soccer fan it’s definitely worth the drive, especially if you’re from the Fall River area. “You want to see how soccer’s grown over the years, what kind of things have taken place that are a part of soccer,” Huckel explains. “We try to capture not just the history, but the culture from the 1800’s right through present day and particularly from the Fall River area there’s a great exhibit of Billy Gonsalves, who is arguably the greatest player in American soccer history. He played in the Fall River area in the 1920’s and early 30’s. He played for the United States World Cup team in 1930 and 1934, for the Olympic team in 1936 and won 8 Open Cup Championships, three with Fall River teams in 1930, 31 and 32. We recognize that great tradition Fall River has. In 1950 with Clarkie (John Souza) and Eddie Souza, who were part of the 1950 World Cup team. The American Soccer League exhibit which recognizes some of those early teams in the Fall River area right up to the 1980s and 90s when the Rhode Island Oceaners were playing in the American Soccer League and certainly up to today if you stretch to include the New England Revolution as part of the Fall River area. Taylor Twellman’s jersey is on display.” On the way to the Hall of Fame from Fall River, not only will you pass the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, but also the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. The five-hour drive to the Hall of Fame is well worth it for any diehard soccer fan or sports fans in general from the Fall River area.

For more information on the Soccer Hall of Fame visit: http://soccerhall.org
July 26, 2004 Sean Donahue



Email: sean@mlsfan.net

This is not the official site of MLS, for the official site visit MLSNet.com
Scores
Sat., Apr. 14th
6:00PM ET
Salt Lake 0
Columbus 0

Sat., Apr. 14th
7:30PM ET
New England 0
Toronto 0

Sat., Apr. 14th
7:30PM ET
DC United 0
Kansas City Wizards 0

Sat., Apr. 14th
8:30PM ET
Houston 0
Chivas USA 0

Sat., Apr. 15th
3:00PM ET
New York 0
Dallas 0

Sun., Apr. 15th
8:00PM ET
Colorado 0
Chicago 0

Standings
East
Team Name Pts
Chicago 3
Columbus 1
New York 1
DC United 0
Kansas City 0
New England 0
Toronto 0

West
Team Name Pts
Dallas 4
Chivas USA 3
Colorado 3
Houston 1
Los Angeles 1
Salt Lake 1

Top Ten Scorers
Top 10 Scorers
Player Name Gls
Ruiz 2
Cooper 2
Cunningham 2
Kljestan 1
Brown 1
Emilio 1
H. Gomez 1
Findley 1
Razov 1
Pause 1