SECAUCUS, N.J. (Tuesday, May 14, 2002) - Tab Ramos, the greatest player New Jersey has ever produced and arguably the most accomplished player in U.S. Soccer history, announced today that he will retire as a professional soccer player at the conclusion of the 2002 MLS season.
The announcement was made in the Board Room of St. Benedict's Prep in Newark, NJ, the school Ramos put on the soccer map in the early 1980's that has since gone on to four national prep school championships and 12 number one rankings in the state of New Jersey. Joining Ramos for his announcement were MLS Commissioner Don Garber, U.S. men's national team coach Bruce Arena, MetroStars President/GM Nick Sakiewicz and Father Edwin Leahy, the headmaster of St. Benedict's Prep.
Ramos was also joined for the announcement by his family, teammates from the MetroStars, other members of the U.S. national team, members of the current team at St. Benedict's Prep, and longtime friends and fellow Kearny products John Harkes of the Columbus Crew and Tony Meola of the Kansas City Wizards and U.S. National Team.
"I really believe that now is the right time," said Ramos, the first player ever signed by MLS at its inception and the last active player to be drafted by the NASL (New York Cosmos, 1984). "This game has meant so much to me and been such an integral part of my life, and it always will be. But I'd rather know that I left a year too soon than a year too late."
"Anybody who grew up playing or watching soccer in the New York/New Jersey area knows firsthand of Tab and his legacy," said Sakiewicz. "He's without question the finest player this state, and maybe this country, has yet produced, and the MetroStars have been blessed to have had him wear the red and black uniform."
"MLS will be forever grateful to the pioneering spirit of Tab Ramos," said Garber. "In addition to being the first player to sign with the League, Tab's devotion to developing the sport in the United States has served as an inspiration to us all."
Ramos, the lone remaining original MetroStar from the 1996 team and the team's career leader in assists (33), has firmly put his stamp on the game at every level - locally, nationally and internationally. After moving to the United States from Uruguay at age 11, he earned his U.S. citizenship at age 15 - the same age at which he made his international debut as a member of the U.S. Under-20 team.
At the same time, he was almost single-handedly turning St. Benedict's Prep around from a perennial local also-ran into one of the top soccer programs in the state. By the time he graduated from the Newark school in 1984, he had set the still-standing New Jersey high school scoring record with 161 goals, earned three All-State selections, two All-America honors and the 1983 national player of the year award.
Since then, St. Benedict's has gone on to capture four national high school titles, 12 year-end number-one rankings in New Jersey, and a line of professional players, in addition to Ramos (Claudio Reyna, Gregg Berhalter and Petter Villegas, to name only three), that is the envy of every high school program in the country.
On the international level, he became one of the first three U.S. players ever, along with MetroStars teammate Marcelo Balboa and Eric Wynalda, to play in three World Cups, and he played a crucial role in making that third World Cup (France '98) a reality when he scored the critical lone goal in a 1-0 World Cup qualifier win over Costa Rica on September 7, 1997 in Portland, Ore. Ramos officially retired from international play in December 2000, after helping to lead the U.S. to a 4-0 win at Barbados that sent the U.S. through to the final round of qualifying for World Cup 2002.
Professionally, he was one of the first U.S. players ever to excel on the international club level, playing for first-division club teams in Spain (Figueres, Real Betis) and Mexico (Mexican Cup winners Tigres) from 1990 through 1996 before joining the MetroStars and MLS. He was also named one of the world's top 100 players by World Soccer Magazine in 1991, a rarity at the time for a U.S. player.