Joe Papaleo is the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame’s first inductee for soccer, the world’s most popular sport. Papaleo has been a star in every stage of the game, from Christian Brothers Academy to Syracuse University to the Major Indoor Soccer League.
From 1976 to 1978, Papaleo was the starting goalkeeper for CBA and made All-Central New York three straight years. His senior season earned him all-state honors and he started in the very first Empire State Games in 1978 which was held in Syracuse. Papaleo was also named MVP of U.S. Olympic Sports Festival in 1981.
From 1980 to 1982, he played for Syracuse University where he earned soccer’s highest honors, including 1982 All-American status and three years of All-Regional recognition. Papaleo was the first goalie in school history to be tabbed an All-American. SU won the first-ever Big East Soccer Tournament with a 1-0 victory versus Boston College in four overtimes. Billy Dorante, Dean Foti, Papaleo and Stephen Klaus were named to the Big East All-Tournament Team. Papaleo also played for the East team in the 1982 Senior Bowl. His many SU records include a 0.41 goal against in a season, ranking him among the top 20 all-time NCAA goalkeepers. Papaleo also set records for career (44) and season wins and career shutouts (36).
Following his career at SU, Papaleo was a first round draft pick of the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League and the Pittsburgh Spirit of the Major Indoor Soccer League. From 1982 to 1994 he played in the MISL with the Pittsburgh Spirits (’83-’85), Tacoma Star (1986) and Dallas Sidekicks (’87-’94).
One of Papaleo’s most notable feats was his shutout victory over San Diego in 1987, the first-ever blanking of the Sockets in their eight-year history. He was named Defensive Player of the Game twelve times in a two-season span (’88,’89) and was a top ten finisher in wins, games played and goals against average. He was the MISL Goalie of the Year in 1990 and played in two All-Star games. He was also Goalie of the Year in the Continental Indoor Soccer League in 1993. His MISL career record was 120-94 and 33-9 in the Continental League.
Papaleo retired from the pro game in 1995. He returned to Syracuse where he went to work at New Process Gear and became CBA’s head soccer coach. From 1995 to the present, Papaleo’s CBA teams have won eight Section 3 titles, and two New York State titles. Papaleo was named the 2001 New York State Private School Coach of the Year.
1978: Started in the first Empire State Games
1981: MVP of U.S. Olympic Sports Festival
1982: Earned All-American honors at SU
1990: MISL Goalie of the Year
1993, 1994: Named All-Pro
1995: Named All-Central New York Coach of the Year by the Syracuse Post Standard. Also won the award in 2005
2001: Named New York State Private School Coach of the Year.
2001: Inducted into the CBA Hall of Fame
Served as a color commentator for televised Syracuse University and local soccer games