Sporting KC

National Soccer Hall of Fame exists only in cyberspace

Updated: 2013-08-20T15:49:48Z

By TOD PALMER

The Kansas City Star

Unlike Royals great George Brett, or more recently former Chiefs defensive tackle Curley Culp, the induction of Sporting Kansas City coach and technical director Peter Vermes into his sport’s hall of fame will be a bit more subdued.

Brett’s entry into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., granted him a plaque. At Culp’s ceremony on Aug. 3 at the National Football League Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, he was honored with a bust. Those awards will forever be on permanent display.

For his induction into the National Soccer Hall of Fame on Oct. 11 in a ceremony at Sporting Park before the U.S. men’s national team plays Jamaica in a World Cup qualifier, Vermes gets a webpage.

That’s because the National Soccer Hall of Fame doesn’t physically exist anymore.

Still, it should be a terrific moment for Vermes because he’ll get to share it with his hometown fans.

“We kind of pushed that, because we thought it would make sense — and it does make sense,” Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman said. “It’s great for Peter. I think he deserved to be in long ago, so it’s good to finally get him in there. It’ll be a great afternoon for him.”

Former national team striker Joe-Max Moore also will be inducted into the Hall of Fame during the ceremony.

Established in 1950, the National Soccer Museum opened in Oneonta, N.Y., in 1979 and was recognized formally by the U.S. Soccer Federation as the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1983.

During the summer of 1999, the National Soccer Hall of Fame moved into a sparkling new 35,000-square-foot building, but that facility — also in Oneonta, N.Y. — closed in 2010.

Now, its contents, including the oldest soccer ball made in the U.S., countless trophies and an array of historic documents, photographs and apparel, are packed away in a warehouse in rural North Carolina.

“It’s a shame that it’s not open just for soccer enthusiasts, because there’s so much history in our game that people don’t know about,” Vermes said, “but I believe that it will be back someday.”

Of course, it won’t be in time for Vermes’ induction, but if anybody understands the Hall of Fame’s struggles it’s Vermes, who sat on the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors for several years.

“It’s all about where do we put it and how can it sustain itself over the long term,” Vermes said. “There’s been too much outside help to make it go.”

That remains the barrier in building a new brick-and-mortar Hall of Fame.

“It’s likely there will be a new location in the future and that’s the goal, but there are a lot of factors that need to be considered,” U.S. Soccer senior manager of communications Neil Buethe wrote in an email to The Star. “The most important aspect is sustainability. We want to ensure the Hall of Fame will be viable for the long term, and to do that you have to consider location, operating expenses, the size of the building, funding, and many other factors.”

It’s possible the Hall of Fame might wind up in Kansas City.

U.S. Soccer and Sporting Club announced in April that the sides would explore Kansas City as the future site for U.S. Soccer’s National Training and Coaching Development Center and incorporating the Hall of Fame or building one nearby might make sense.

“There haven’t been serious talks, but we’ve contemplated it in the past,” Heineman said. “Once the national training center is under development, it’s probably a conversation to revisit. We’ve dabbled in it in the past, but nothing serious.”

Several major cities — most notably Chicago, which is home to U.S. Soccer, along with Washington, D.C., and St. Louis among others — have voiced interest in building a new Hall of Fame.

“We’ve been contacted by more than a dozen interested parties about developing a new location for the National Soccer Hall of Fame,” Buethe said. “The discussions with those parties have been wide-ranging, from a few phone calls to more in-depth research and plans. At this point, we have not made any decision and are still in discussions.”

While there seems to be unanimous agreement about the need for a new facility, there isn’t anything approaching an agreement about where it should be, how it should be funded and how soon it should be constructed.

“Major League Soccer has taken such monumental leaps forward over the last 10 years, it’s probably time for us to take a serious look at getting a physical structure and making it a big deal — because it is a big deal to be in the Hall of Fame,” Heineman said. “It would be neat to have it here, but it all gets down to whether we can make it work.

“You wouldn’t want to open it and have it not work. It’s all a matter of making the numbers work. If the National Training Center winds up out at Village West, then the tourism aspect would probably be amplified, but we’ll just play it by ear and bring it up with (U.S. Soccer) again when and if it’s appropriate.”

Buethe wouldn’t offer a timetable, but indicated that U.S. Soccer would like to build a new Hall of Fame “sooner rather than later.”

For now, though, inductees will have to accept a place in cyberspace when receiving the highest honor in U.S. soccer.

Vermes chose to find a silver lining in staying home for his induction ceremony.

“I’m so glad that it’s here, because I don’t have to travel,” Vermes said. “That’s the great thing, because obviously we’re still in the season at that point. I’m looking forward to it, but I’m glad that it wound up being here.”

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.

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