Lost in the shuffle with the playoff race, and other hype in MLS this year, is the retirement of Eddie Pope. Honestly, that's probably the way Eddie wants it, he's never been one to seek out the spotlight. He repeatedly turned down deals to go play in Europe, instead deciding to build MLS and stay here. Luckily, he doesn't get the hate on that level as Landon Donovan does.
Pope walked on at North Carolina, and eventually earned a scholarship. 1996 was Eddie's breakout year on the American soccer scene. He represented the US in the Olympics, was a #2 draft choice by DC United, earned his first cap with the full national team, won the US Open Cup, and scored the winning goal in the inaugural MLS Cup. Not a bad first year as a professional, huh?
Eddie went on to become the best defender in American soccer history. Three World Cups, 82 caps, 8 international goals, and a three-time MLS champion, who else has a resume like that?
Pope has also been a leader in bringing minorities into the game, via his Eddie Pope Foundation. Gone are the days of Eddie's childhood, when he was the only African-American child on his teams. A lot of that is thanks to the efforts and hard work of a guy like Eddie Pope. Look no further than his former team, DC United. Midfielder Clyde Simms is from Eddie's hometown of High Point, NC.
Check out this great piece from David Beckham's Soccer USA honoring Eddie...