The National Soccer Hall of Fame came to life in 1950 when a group of former professional and amateur players from the Philadelphia "Old-timers" Association took it upon themselves to recognize the achievements of soccer in America. Almost 30 years later in 1979 the National Soccer Museum, as a physical entity, was established in Oneonta, N.Y. It was officially recognized as the National Soccer Hall of Fame by the U.S. Soccer Federation in 1983.
Sixty years after the "Old-timers" first got together, nearly 300 members have been elected to the Hall of Fame for their outstanding contributions to American soccer, both on and off the field. Members are elected in three categories – Player, Builder and Veteran (player) – and elections and inductions are carried out annually.
In February of 2010, the National Soccer Hall of Fame and Museum announced its plan to change its current operating model to address its financial challenges. As part of the operating change, the Hall of Fame closed its Oneonta facility after more than 10 years (it opened in June of 1999) and relocated the collections and archives.While some displays may be provided for exhibition in certain locations nationwide, the elements of the Hall's archives not on display will be preserved in storage facilities provided by one of the Hall's longtime corporate sponsors, Eurosport, located in Hillsborough, N.C.
The Hall of Fame also possesses an archive of more than 80,000 items, which make up one of the largest collections of soccer artifacts and records in the world. The collection includes such rare pieces as the world's oldest soccer ball (made in the USA) and both the 1991 and 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup Trophy. The collection also includes the North American Soccer League archive, the 1994 FIFA World Cup USA archive, a rare soccer photography collection from New York depression-era photographer John Albok, materials from the U.S. national teams in World Cup competition and artifacts from the American Soccer League of the 1920's and 1950's.
To continue to enhance its ability to promote the history of soccer to the growing community of fans across the nation, the annual election process has continued without interruption, with the location of specific induction ceremonies being handled by U.S. Soccer. The Federation also assists with the execution of the annual election and implementation of the Induction event.