Born: March 8, 1967
Town: Kearny, New Jersey
John Harkes was born March 8, 1967 in Kearny. John honed his skills in the ultra-competitive youth soccer leagues of Kearny, playing on the same teams as Tab Ramos and Tony Meola. Their Thistle FC club competed regularly for the state title. This group lead Kearny High School to the state championship season every year John played for the Kardinals varsity, and won three state championships. He was named the national Player of the Year in 1984.
John joined the powerhouse University of Virginia team coached by Bruce Arena and was voted the country’s top player as a junior in 1987, winning the Hermann Award. Already a member of the national team, John decided to skip his senior year so he could play for Team USA full-time. He was a member of the 1988 Olympic Team, and a key man on the 1990 and 1994 World Cup squads. In 1990, John signed to play with Sheffield Wednesday in England. He helped the team score a momentous victory over Manchester United at Wembley Stadium and also scored the Goal of the Year against Derby County—a 100-foot blast that got past Peter Shilton. Three years later, John scored a goal in the League Cup final against Arsenal.
Against Colombia at World Cup ’94, John attempted a cross that was inadvertently put in the net by Andres Escobar. That resulted in a 2–2 U.S. victory, but also in Escobar’s murder when he returned to his home country. John enjoyed his best international tournament at Copa America in 1995. He led Team USA to victory over a strong Argentina squad and was named tournament co-MVP.
John played for Derby County and West Ham United before returning to America for the first season of Major League Soccer in 1996. In 1998, Team USA coach Steve Sampson cut John from the World Cup squad in favor of midfielder Claudio Reyna. The decision sent ripples of controversy through American soccer, as John was the team’s top playmaker in qualifying. Years later, it was revealed that the decision stemmed from an affair between John and the wife of a teammate—what Sampson termed a “leadership issue” at the time.
John played eight MLS seasons, spending three years with D.C. United, three years with the New England Revolution and his final two with the Columbus Crew. In 1996, he helped United win the MLS Cup and also the US Open Cup. D.C. repeated as MLS champs in 1997. John was an MLS All-Star in each of his first five seasons.
John scored a total of 29 goals as a pro in England and America, and six more in 90 international matches. After his playing career, John became a respected soccer broadcaster and TV analyst. He and Tab Ramos were enshrined in the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2005.