Watching the 1972 Summer Olympics, a 6-year-old Peter Vermes told his father, Michael, he would play in the Olympics one day.
Sixteen years later, it happened.
Watching Hungary beat the Soviet Union 2-1 during a World Cup qualifier in Budapest in 1977, Vermes declared to his dad that he’d return to Ferenc Puskas Stadium one day as a member of the U.S. men’s national team.
Thirteen years later during the run-up to the 1990 World Cup, it happened.
But Vermes, who is in his seventh season as Sporting Kansas City’s technical director and fifth season as coach, never dared to dream about being inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
It will happen anyway.
Vermes, 46, got the news Wednesday when former Secretary General of U.S. Soccer Hank Steinbrecher called to say he’d been elected on the Veterans ballot.
“Obviously, I’m very proud,” said Vermes, who played in the Seoul Olympics and was the U.S. Soccer player of the year in 1988. “… The game’s been great to me in so many ways.”
Vermes, who grew up in Delran, N.J., and went on to star at Rutgers, will be inducted along with forward Joe-Max Moore, who was elected from the Players ballot after scoring 24 goals in 100 appearances with the U.S. men, even though technically there is no National Soccer Hall of Fame at the moment. The facility in Oneonta, N.Y., closed in 2010.
Starting his career as a striker, Vermes was an integral piece for a young U.S. squad that ended a 40-year drought by qualifying for the 1990 World Cup in Italy, where he appeared in all three games for the U.S.
Vermes finished an eight-year national team career with 11 goals and three assists in 66 appearances, returning for a second stint with the U.S. men as a central defender in the late 1990s.
“One of the things I’m really proud of in my career is that I played for the national team at two different times over a 10-year period and at one point I was a striker, but I was brought back into the national team pool as a central defender,” Vermes said. “That’s a pretty dramatic change in a player’s position in my sport.”
Vermes, who was the first U.S. player to play in the Hungarian and Dutch first divisions, believes it speaks to his team-first attitude, but it also highlights Vermes’ overall soccer skill and IQ.
Vermes also spent five seasons in Spain’s second division before returning to the U.S. for the inaugural MLS season in 1996. He started 208 games during a seven-year MLS career.
Arriving in Kansas City in 2000, Vermes anchored a three-man back line that keyed the then-Wizards’ run to the MLS Cup. He was named MLS Defender of the Year and Best XI and also earned an all-star nod that season.
It is the fourth straight season someone affiliated with the then-Wizards’ 2000 championship team has received a Hall call, joining Preki (2010), Bob Gansler (2011) and Tony Meola (2012).
“That was a special time and a special group of people,” Vermes said. “That was a special team for sure.”