The Hall of Fame bid for one St. Paul native, Jack Morris, is about to enter its final year. But the bid for another one of St. Paul's native sons is just beginning -- and Tony Sanneh hopes the wait is much shorter than it has been for Morris, who is coming up on his 15th and final go-round.
Sanneh, a soccer standout both domestically and overseas, was named Friday as a first-time candidate for the National Soccer Hall of Fame Class of 2013. The voting, conducted by coaches, media members and current Hall of Famers, among others, runs through Feb. 22 and inductees will be named shortly thereafter.
Sanneh has been talking to folks in the soccer community since being named a candidate and figures he has a 50/50 chance of being elected on the first ballot. It also seems as though being named on the ballot has made him look at election in a different light.
"Before I was like, 'It's not a big deal,' " Sanneh said. "But it's kind of huge. It's something they can never take away from me. It would put me in a special place. And I'm competitive. Everyone wants to be recognized for what they do. It would be a huge honor."
Sanneh, 41, played high school soccer at St. Paul Academy, college soccer at Wisconsin-Milwaukee and had a long pro career. He signed with DC United of MLS in 1996 and scored a goal in that year's championship game to help the squad win its first title. He eventually played for four other MLS teams as well as multiple teams in the German Bundesliga, though he might be best known for his work with the U.S. men's national team, for which he played 43 matches -- including every minute of the 2002 World Cup, when the U.S. reached the quarterfinals.
He retired from MLS in 2009 and now runs The Sanneh Foundation, an outreach organization based in St. Paul. The new chapter in his life could get a boost if he is elected.
"It would help me with what I'm doing with the foundation," he said. "It's a lot different when you talk about being in the Hall of Fame."