The 2013 National Soccer Hall of Fame ballots have been finalized, and former LA Galaxy midfielder Mauricio Cienfuegos is on his last year of eligibility. His eight years and 206 appearances in MLS qualify him for the Hall of Fame, and the El Salvadorian was one of the early draws to the Galaxy.
To qualify for the Hall of Fame, a player has to be retired for at least three years and have either played at least 20 international games for the US, or played at least five seasons in an American first division professional league and named to an all-star team at least once.
Cobi Jones was elected in 2011 on his first ballot; Alexi Lalas was also a first ballot entry. Landon Donovan is a for sure a first ballot Hall of Famer. David Beckham qualifies for the ballot. Yet somehow, Mauricio Cienfuegos has sat on the ballot unable to get in.
A player only needs one all-star team selection? Cienfuegos played on seven MLS All-Star teams. He was an MLS Best XI selection three times. During his career the Galaxy made MLS Cup four times, winning one, and he had 80 assists only six behind Cobi Jones who played for five more years after Cienfuegos retired.
Cienfuegos will go onto the Veteran Ballot should he not make it this year. The others set to graduate are Roy Lassiter and Tisha Venturini-Hoch. Roy Lassiter's name has come up a lot this last MLS season because now he and Chris Wondolowski are tied for most MLS goals in a single season. Tisha Ventuini scored 44 goals with the US Women's Soccer Team leaving her tenth all time; she also won a gold medal in 1996 and was on the 1999 World Cup winning squad.
Cienfuegos deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. He and Cobi Jones were the LA Galaxy in the early years as the Galaxy established themselves as MLS' premier west coast franchise. He made his name in the US during Qualifying for the 1994 World Cup, where El Salvador was one spot away from qualifying. He scored in a 1993 friendly against the United States in El Salvador.
Should he fail to make it to the Hall of Fame this round, he'll join the likes of George Best and Carlos Valderrama on the Veteran's Ballot. Foreigners like Valderrama and Cienfuegos who stuck with MLS in its rough early days and helped establish the league's reputation worldwide deserve to be recognized in the Hall of Fame. MLS owes their current success to their commitment.