It's Anson Dorrance's turn to be in the main event, even if Mia Hamm is on the guest list.
Hamm will present Dorrance, her former U.S. National and North Carolina women's soccer coach, during the 2008 National Soccer Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
The Soccer Hall's annual showcase begins at noon Sunday and will take place inside of the Oneonta shrine. The Hall hosted its first outdoor ceremony in 2007, when a record crowd estimated at 5,000 showed up for the inductions of Hamm, Julie Foudy, Bobby Smith and Alan Rothenberg.
Director of Museum and Archives Jack Huckel said the Hall is expecting 300-500 spectators this year but can accommodate roughly 800, if needed. Admission is free.
Hamm is sure to draw the most cheers Sunday, but center stage is reserved for Dorrance and his classmate, Hugo Perez.
"For Mia and Julie, you had to do it outside," Dorrance said of the 2007 ceremony. "I don't pretend I can draw a crowd like that. I'll be excited if my mom makes it and my wife and kids."
Dorrance, who starts his 30th season at North Carolina this fall, is no stranger to Hall of Fame Weekend.
"There's nothing more enjoyable than giving the speech for someone going in and sharing what you think of these amazing people," said Dorrance, who introduced Hall of Famers Shannon Higgins-Cirovsky in 2002, Michelle Akers in 2004 and Hamm last year. "This still has the same terror. I have to speak for myself and I'd rather sit back and listen."
Dorrance, 57, may be standing at the podium a long time, though.
His 648-32-19 record at North Carolina includes 18 NCAA Division I championships and a 94-7-1 mark in NCAA tournament games. North Carolina's last NCAA crown came in 2006 and marked the Tar Heels' third since the turn of the century (2000, 2003).
Dorrance's NCAA titles came after his Tar Heels won the first and only Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women Tournament, in 1981. At the time, Dorrance was in his third season as the men's and women's soccer coach at North Carolina.
Dorrance went 172-65-21 as the North Carolina men's coach from 1977-88 and led them to an Atlantic Coast Conference title in 1987 and to the second round of the NCAA D-I Tournament in 1988. He took over the women's team in 1979 and coached both until 1988.
From 1986-94, Dorrance also coached the U.S. Women's National Team. His 65-22-5 record included a 21-6-1 finish in 1991, when Hamm helped his squad to the World Cup title.
"He is, without a doubt, the most instrumental individual in women's soccer in this country," Hall of Fame President Steve Baumann said of Dorrance, who also serves on the Hall's board of directors.
Dorrance appeared on 28 of 52 ballots cast (53.85 percent) in the 2008 Builders election. A builder must appear on at least 50 percent of the ballots cast and finish as the top vote-getter to earn election to the Hall.
Fittingly, Dorrance will be presented by Hamm, who helped him win NCAA titles in each of her four seasons with the Tar Heels (1989, 1990, 1992, 1993).
"Mia and I go way back," said Dorrance, who received the Hall's Medal of Honor with Hamm and the rest of the 1991 World Cup members in a special presentation that took place during the 2001 inductions of Rick Davis and William Looby. "I've watched her grow up, mature and have a family (with Nomar Garciaparra of the Los Angeles Dodgers). It's certainly a sacrifice for her. She's a young mom with twins. It means a lot to me that she's a part of this."
Huckel said the Hall had no indication that Garciaparra would be joining Hamm in Oneonta this weekend.
Former U.S. National Men's Team member Perez earned his part in Sunday's ceremony with 58.33 percent of the vote (28 of 48 ballots) in the Veterans election.
Perez, 44, spent the past week in Ireland with the U.S. Under-20 team, but he was scheduled to arrive in Oneonta on Friday night.
"I can't wait to get there," Perez said via telephone from Ireland on Wednesday. "I haven't had time to prepare a speech and might not, actually. I know what I want to say, but I'm not going to write anything down, which is being kind of brave."
Perez appeared in 73 international games for the U.S. National Team, scoring 13 goals. A midfielder, Perez played in the 1994 World Cup, as well as three seasons in the North American Soccer League. He played four more seasons in the Major Indoor Soccer League, after the NASL folded, and earned MVP for San Diego in the 1988 MISL championship series.
Perez retired in 1996 after playing internationally for several years. He went on to serve as an assistant coach for the University of San Francisco and the California Victory, the latter a United Soccer League First Division professional team that folded in 2007.
Perez now works with the U.S. U-20 team and with U.S. Soccer's developmental programs.
"I never thought about being inducted into the Hall of Fame," said Perez, who will be presented by his brother, Nelson. "I got lucky and played with the national team and did well. You played because you loved the game. I played because I wanted to be satisfied with myself. I never even thought about the Hall of Fame. Now that it's happening, I'm grateful."
Perez said the event will be even more special because his father, Hugo Perez Sr., will be among his family members in attendance.
"When I started playing, my dad was a big part of it," said Perez, who added that his wife will stay home with his two young daughters. "It will be special for him."
The inductions of Dorrance and Perez will bring the number of Soccer Hall of Famers to 270 _ 129 players and 141 builders.
Nobody earned election through the Players ballot this year. Preki Radosavljevic was the top vote-getter, appearing on 87 of 128 ballots cast (67.97 percent). A player must appear on 75 percent of the ballots to earn election.
Hamm is one of 15 Hall of Famers scheduled to return. Huckel said Foudy is not among them, though, as she has a commitment related to NBC's Olympic coverage.
The Hall also will honor Newark Star-Ledger soccer writer Ike Kuhns with the Colin Jose Media Award.
Dorrance and Perez said they will take part in the Hall of Fame Golf Tournament and an autograph session on Saturday. On Saturday night, the Hall will host its Big 3 Enshrinement Ceremony for the American Youth Soccer Organization, the National Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association and the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
Hall of Famer Jerry Yeagley (1989) will join Paul Danderson as the NSCAA inductees. The NISOA will honor Donald Dennison and John Buckley, and the AYSO will induct Joel Mark and Marilyn MacDonald.
"Given the electors didn't elect a player this year, we've combined the inductions," said Baumann, who took over as a permanent replacement for former president Will Lunn two weeks before last year's Induction Ceremony. "The organizations are related and are all part of soccer. It's a wonderful crossover. Working with the Big 3 has been a great experience to try and knit the soccer community together."
P.J. Harmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-432-1000, ext. 229.