Caligiuri Elected To National Soccer Hall Of Fame

May 6, 2004

Former UCLA All-American Paul Caligiuri (1982-86) was elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame on May 5, along with Michelle Akers and Eric Wynalda. In a press conference at The Home Depot Center in Carson CA, President/CEO Will Lunn presented the honored individuals with their individual Hall of Fame jersey as a symbol of the honor.

Induction 2004 and the Enshrinement Ceremonies will take place on Columbus Day weekend, October 9 - 11, at the Hall of Fame in Oneonta, NY.

The three inductees have scored some of the most memorable goals in recent US Soccer history. Besides scoring the first goal in US Women's National Team history, Akers scored both goals in the 1991 Final as the US won the first FIFA World Championship for Women's Football. Caligiuri's magnificent 35-yard dipping volley in 1989 against Trinidad and Tobago put the US into the World Cup for the first time in 40 years, and Wynalda's free kick masterpiece against Switzerland in the 1994 World Cup was considered one of the most spectacular goals of the tournament.

Caligiuri rose from his defender position to icon in 1989 when his looping volley from 35 yards found the back of the net against Trinidad and Tobago on November 19, 1989 in the deciding game for 1990 World Cup qualification. That goal ensured the qualification of the US to its first World Cup Championship since the historic performance in 1950 and closed a 40-year travail in international soccer wilderness for the US. Though this one event overshadows much of Caligiuri's career, he had a remarkable international career for the US, beginning when he was a UCLA undergraduate and included play in the 1990 and 1994 FIFA World Cup. In the seven matches the US played in those two tournaments, he started every match and played all but 18 minutes, a true testament to his place among the elite of US Soccer. He was one of the first US players to play in the German Bundesliga and had a 6-year MLS career in Major League Soccer with the Columbus Crew and the Los Angeles Galaxy, winning the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Championship in his final Galaxy match in 2001. At UCLA, Caligiuri earned NSCAA first-team All-America honors in 1985 and 1986 and led UCLA to its first ever NCAA title in 1985. He was the 1986 Soccer America Co-MVP and was inducted into the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997.

Akers began her illustrious career with the US Women's National Team by scoring the first goal in the program's history. Over the course of her career and, as a direct result of her high-energy intimidating style, the US won the first FIFA World Championship for Women's Football in 1991, the first FIFA Women's World Cup in 1999, and the first Olympic Gold Medal in Women's Soccer at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. Her 105 national team goals include the winning goal in the 1991 FIFA Championship and the clinching penalty against Brazil in the 1999 FIFA World Cup semifinal. For the last 8 years of her career she battled Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, an affliction that, for many people, leads to an inability to complete any physical exertion, never mind participate in soccer at the highest level. In 2000, Akers received FIFA's Player of the Century award for women.

Wynalda literally started MLS out on the right foot with a bending shot to the far post on April 6, 1996 - the first goal in the league's inaugural game. He came to that day after an illustrious career for the US and in the Bundesliga. Beginning his national team career in 1990, he concluded it in 1998 as the leading scorer in the program's history with 34 goals. Among those goals was the first scored by an American in the World Cup on US soil, an outrageous free kick from 35 yards into the upper 90 in a first round encounter against Switzerland. An oddity of the match was that it also was the first FIFA World Cup match played indoors at the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan, on June 18, 1994. Wynalda broke ground in Germany as an American forward, the first to secure a first choice place in a major European league while at Saarbrucken. His MLS career included stints with the San Jose Earthquakes (then Clash), the New England Revolution, and the Chicago Fire. A serious knee injury left him little choice but to leave the game as a player in 2001. His presence along the sidelines and in the broadcasting booth of MLS has brought a candid assessment of the play and the players to the game.

The Hall of Fame instituted a new voting process beginning in 2004. In conjunction with US Soccer, Major League Soccer, and the Women's United Soccer Association, the Hall of Fame selected media voters from across the country to receive ballots. The process also includes voting rights for those First Division professional coaches with 4 or more years' tenure, current and former US National Team coaches, and national soccer executives.

The election rules of the Hall of Fame are:
1) The two players with the most votes will be elected as long as each receives more than 50% of the votes cast, and
2) A third player may be elected as long as that player receives at least 80% of the votes cast.

Caligiuri received 89% of the votes. Akers received 95.9%, and Wynalda tallied 93.2%.

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