By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (May 1, 2023) US Soccer Players – Hall of Fame induction ceremonies are about reminiscing, an opportunity to put contributions into proper context. Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley will become members of the National Soccer Hall of Fame this Saturday as part of the Class of 2023 alongside USWNT stars Lauren Cheney Holiday and Kate Sobrero Markgraf, former USWNT coach Jill Ellis, and indoor soccer legend Steve Zungul.
Donovan and Beasley have careers that are forever intertwined. Both were part of the generation of USMNT players to emerge in the years following the 1994 World Cup and the launch of MLS. Both had long careers, spanning teams in Europe and MLS, helping to grow the game on and off the field. For a country at the time best known globally for producing goalkeepers, Donovan and Beasley were more evidence that the US could produce world-class field players as well. It was in 1999 that both players, part of the USA’s Under-17 team, set a tone for future success that lasted two decades.
“The first camp I ever had with the National Team with (Beasley) was at a youth level,” Donovan said in a Zoom call with reporters last week. “So Beas and I have known each other since we were 15.”
Several international tournaments helped define the paying careers of both Donovan and Beasley. It started at the 1999 FIFA U-17 World Championship when a group of players, coached by John Ellinger, included Donovan, Beasley as well as future USMNT stars Oguchi Onyewu and Kyle Beckerman. The United States finished a surprise fourth after losing in the semifinals on penalty kicks to Australia. Donovan won the Golden Ball as tournament MVP; Beasley was awarded the Silver Ball. It remains the first and only time two USMNT players finished one and two in MVP voting at a men’s FIFA competition. It was the USA’s performance in New Zealand that triggered the start of a 15-year period highlighted by advancing out of the group stage at the 2002 and 2010 World Cups.
But Donovan and Beasley have publicly acknowledged their careers went beyond what they did on the field. They were tasked with making soccer a mainstream sport at a time when many questioned whether Americans would ever care about watching the game.
“I still tell people, we weren’t just players or, at some point, commentators or involved on the soccer business side. We also are ambassadors all the time, especially in the early part of the career,” Donovan said. “We were trying to sell the game in America. The generation before us was trying to sell the game and the generation before that.”
Donovan and Beasley experienced a long period of sustained success at the highest levels, whether it was for clubs in Europe, MLS or the National Team. In the process, Donovan became the face of the American game, winning multiple MLS Cups during a career that also saw him spend time on loan in the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich and the Premier League with Everton. Major League Soccer’s MVP award is named for him.
Beasley, meanwhile, was, at age 20, the youngest member of the USMNT at the 2002 World Cup. where the US reached the quarterfinals after defeating rivals Mexico 2-0 in the Round of 16. Donovan scored in that game. Both players were also on the US team that lost the 2009 Confederations Cup final to Brazil. A year later, Donovan and Beasley were both on the field in that key third group-stage game against Algeria. Donovan scored the winning goal in stoppage time, one of the biggest moments in US soccer history, to advance to the Round of 16. Beasley, at age 32, went on to play in his fourth World Cup in 2014, making him the first USMNT player to compete at that many tournaments.
Beasley would go on to win two Scottish Premier League titles as a member of Glasgow Rangers and two Dutch championships with PSV Eindhoven. He also won a pair of US Open Cups with the Chicago Fire and Houston Dynamo. Beasley started out as a winger but became a left back later in his career. At any position, Beasley’s game was known for his speed and precision passing. Like Donovan, he enjoyed a long career, one with a lasting impact on the American game. Both officially retired in 2019.
On being named a member of this year’s inductee class alongside Beasley, Donovan remarked, “Having him there just made it better. It felt like we had achieved so much. We have a similar story.”
Clemente Lisi is a regular contributor to US Soccer Players. He is also the author of the new book “The FIFA World Cup: A History of the Planet’s Biggest Sporting Event.”
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