Antonio Michael “Tony” Meola is an American former soccer goalkeeper who represented the United States national team at the 1990, 1994, and 2002 World Cups, and from 1996 to 2006 played in Major League Soccer, the U.S. top soccer division, where he obtained multiple honors. He is currently a radio host on SiriusXM FC. Meola, born in Belleville, New Jersey, grew up in Kearny. He played boys soccer for Kearny High School. He learned his love for the game from his father, Vincenzo, who had played for Italian second division club Avellino before immigrating to the U.S. Tony was All-State both as a goalkeeper (1985) and a forward (1986). He had a part in 41 clean sheets and scored 42 goals during his high school career. In 1999, he was named by The Star-Ledger as one of the top ten New Jersey high school soccer players of the 1980s. Meola not only excelled at soccer, he was a three-sport varsity letterman. He was the captain of the school’s basketball team and was named an All-State baseball player in 1987. The New York Yankees drafted him out of high school. Meola later played in their farm system.
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Meola made his U.S. National Team debut on June 10, 1988, against Ecuador. Meola’s second cap came in a June 4, 1989 victory over Peru in the Marlboro Cup which won the U.S. the cup. The team took the trophy to the Scots-American Club in Kearny, New Jersey. After the party, Meola drove back to the team’s hotel, dropped the trophy at the front desk and drove home. As he remembers it, “A week later Doug Newman called me up and asked where the cup was. I told him I’d left it at for him at the hotel. . . . I’m sure they got it back. Back then there weren’t too many cups in U.S. Soccer.” Later in the summer, the national team went on a tour of Italy, playing several Serie A teams. At the time, David Vanole was the U.S. starter, but he and Meola had traded goalkeeper duties over the previous month as Vanole fought USSF on a contract dispute and attempted to get his burgeoning weight under control. U.S. coach Bob Gansler intended to start Meola against A.S. Roma, but Meola was injured in a freak accident when a ball struck his head during practice. Vanole started in his place, but let in three weak goals in a 4-3 U.S. victory. Gansler benched Vanole, who never again played for the U.S., and turned toward Meola as his starting keeper. Meola went on to play the remaining U.S. qualifying games for the 1990 FIFA World Cup, including the famous 1-0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago which clinched a spot in the finals for the U.S. He then played every minute in goal for the U.S. in the 1990 FIFA World Cup. Meola remained the keeper of choice for the U.S. national team from 1990 through the 1994 FIFA World Cup. At that tournament, his play and ponytail made him a recognizable face around the country. After the U.S. loss to Brazil in the second round of the World Cup, Meola informed the U.S. coach Bora Milutinović that he intended to pursue a professional football career as a placekicker. Milutinović never called Meola back to the U.S. team and it was not until January 1999 that Meola again played for the U.S. By that time, Kasey Keller and Brad Friedel were competing for the starting goalkeeper spot on the team and Meola never regained the first team place he had enjoyed in the early 1990s. However, he continued to play for the U.S. and earned his 100th cap in 2006. He was the third-choice goalkeeper at the 2002 FIFA World Cup behind Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller.