Delran native Peter Vermes elected to U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Peter Vermes remembers going on vacation with his family to Hungary as a child, sitting in a soccer stadium there and watch the country's national team play what was then the Soviet Union in an Olympic qualifying match.
Vermes promised his father that he would someday play on the same pitch, and not more than 12 years later, he accompanied the U.S. national team to Hungary for an exhibition game.
He would eventually play for several clubs in Europe, make a name for himself during the early days of Major League Soccer, and take over Sporting Kansas City, leading it to the U.S. Open Cup and Eastern Conference championships as its head coach last season.
On Wednesday, the 46-year-old Vermes was elected to the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame along with Joe-Max Moore, another former forward from the American national team.
"Look, it's a very proud honor to receive, for sure," Vermes said. "Got to be honest, never really thought about this before. Obviously the last couple years my name has come up, but it's not something I'm thinking about on a regular basis."
His mind does occasionally drift to those days growing up, though, when soccer first gripped his heartstrings. There was that day in the stadium in Hungary, and another time — he was about 6 years old — when he was watching the Olympics on television with his father.
"I asked, 'When's soccer coming on? Is there soccer in the Olympics?'" Vermes recalled on a conference call. "I said, 'I'm going to play in the Olympics one day,' like a lot of kids do."
Vermes's dream came true at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, and he played for the Americans two years later in the World Cup, making a total of 67 international appearances from 1988-97.
He's the fourth player in four years with connections to Sporting KC to be voted to the hall, joining Preki, Bob Gansler and Tony Meola. All of them were part of the 2000 team, then called the Kansas City Wizards, that won the club's only MLS championship.
"That was a very special team, and if you look, there were a lot of people involved in that team that were true pioneers of soccer in this country," Vermes said. "I think it's a special time, a special group of people, and that's why it was a special team, that's for sure."
The 42-year-old Moore had 24 goals in 100 international appearances, including a pair against Jamaica in October 2001 that clinched a World Cup berth. He was on the U.S. team at the 1994, 1998 and 2002 World Cups, and also participated in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Moore had 53 goals in six seasons with MLS's New England Revolution, and played for Everton, Saarbruecken and Nuremberg, before reinjuring his knee in January 2005 and ultimately retiring.
Moore was elected on the player ballot and Vermes on the veteran ballot.
Their induction announcement came as part of "Centennial Week," for U.S. Soccer's yearlong celebration of the game. The location and date for the induction ceremony was not announced — the National Soccer Hall of Fame closed its doors in Oneonta, N.Y., in 2010.