We would also have accepted "1998 US World Cup Superstars Elected".
Preki's election isn't a surprise, because he was the top non-winner last year, no one hugely impressive entered the ballot, and someone had to go in. Preki and Dooley avoided the indignity of a runoff or a Hall pass or whatever it would have taken to avoid having nobody accept induction into a closed building.
117 votes were cast, down - WAY down - from 159 last year. Years of unexciting ballots? Or did the Hall take my advice and Cull the Unworthy? This would explain Dooley's election as much as anything. Preki got 96 votes last year, which was only six out of ten. This year, he got 80, which put him just over the magic two out of three.
Thomas Dooley, meanwhile, got 85 votes last year, and 83 this year. Either Thomas himself was in charge of the ballot list, or he changed a heck of a lot of minds over the past few months.
From anecdotal evidence, people change their minds on Soccer Hall of Famers very gradually, if ever. First year on the ballot? Last year on the ballot? New people on the ballot? Not a heck of a lot of change.
But the percentages went nuts this year. Dooley went from 50-50 (and thus, nowhere near election) to seven out of ten and a red jacket.
Earnie Stewart went up fifteen points in the polls, Valderrama went up ten points...and Etcheverry held pretty much steady. Oops.
Whether Earnie will hold out against Cobi Jones and Eddie Pope next year is a good question. But there's another factor.
Shannon MacMillan inherited all the Cindy Parlow voters, and there isn't going to be another decent female candidate for years and years. Mac got 51 votes last year, and 64 votes this year. With 32 fewer voters. No one else got more votes this year than last.
Okay, except Chris Henderson, for all the good that will do him.
So next year's election is going to be pretty fiercely contested. Maybe even enough to open the place back up somewhere.
Do Dooley and Preki deserve it? Sure. Provided you rate them against their peers and don't use their stats to try and judge their successors. Dooley's national team totals are wonderful, but he should be judged with the Harkes-Waldo-Balboa era. If future voters conclude "He was in two World Cups, and in one he was pretty awful, so that's the basis for Hall of Fame voting" - well, that would be bad. He was an early 90's star, and probably should be the second-to-last of that gang inducted (we're still waiting on Tony Meola).
Preki - yeah, unless "sweet goal against Brazil" is going to be your benchmark, you're judging him on his MLS career. (Or you're a serious 80's indoor soccer honk...and there are more of them out there than you might think. Be afraid.)
Hopefully he and Jeff Agoos have proven that a storied MLS career is good enough for induction...but there's Etcheverry, sitting there way off the pace, and I wonder whether people are just looking at cap totals.
Anyway, it's nice the little guy has something to cheer him up after what's left of his club coaching career gets...okay, since he's in Canada now, do I have to spell it "sodomised"?
Dooley's post-playing career has been much less stellar than I thought it would be - he's now player development guru for a youth club in SoCal, but we're getting to the point where there's one youth soccer club for every child down here. He's also tried his hand at promoting beach soccer and "soccer tennis", the latter of which apparently has a website on perma-renew. Hopefully adding "Hall of Famer" to his resume will get him some attention. I mean, he hasn't even coached the Red Bulls yet. Of course, neither has Preki.