CHICAGO (Friday, January 3, 2003) – U.S. Soccer has announced the winners of the 10 inaugural awards that made up the 2002 "Best of U.S. Soccer" awards series. These first awards of their kind were introduced on Dec. 2 after U.S. head coaches Bruce Arena and April Heinrichs helped pick the finalists for each of the unique honors.
The voting was done entirely by fans, with more than 45,000 (46,135) votes being registered online at www.ussoccer.com during the month of December. Voting began on Dec. 6 and concluded on Dec. 31, with each fan able to vote once every 24 hours for one or all of the 10 categories.
Following on the heels of the 2002 “Best of…” awards series, U.S. Soccer will announce the winners of the four annual Chevy Athlete of the Year awards – Male, Female, Young Male and Young Female – over the next two weeks. As the oldest and most prestigious awards of their kind, U.S. Soccer’s Chevy Athlete of the Year awards date back to 1984 for the men and 1985 for the women, with the winners of the two major awards receiving vehicles from Chevrolet. For the third straight year, fan votes (along with a media vote) will decide the winner, with online voting continuing through Wednesday, January 8.
The Columbus Crew led the way with three awards, including Best Soccer Stadium, which they won with a commanding 37% of the vote. The Crew also picked up the award for Best Game Promotion for their very popular “Buck-a-Brat Night,” edging out the Dallas Burn’s “ProCuts Mohawk Challenge” by a slim one percent. Finally, Crew forward Brian McBride earned the award for Best U.S. Goal for his diving header that gave the U.S. a shocking 3-0 lead over Portugal in the opening round of the 2002 World Cup.
The D.C. area was twice honored with major awards, with RFK Stadium serving as the site of the Best U.S. Crowd on May 12, 2002 when over 30,000 boisterous fans came out to watch the U.S. Men’s National Team defeat Uruguay 2-1 in the first game of the pre-World Cup “Nike Road to Korea” series.
Across the Potomac, long-time institution Summers Restaurant ran away with the Best Soccer Bar award, picking up 30% of the total votes. Summers, located in Arlington, Va., recently avoided losing their lease after an impressive groundswell of both local and national support and looks to be around as a top soccer viewing destination well into the future.
Aside from the competitive battle for the Best Game Promotion award, the closest race across the board was for Best Soccer Store, with the eventual winner being Soccer Unlimited, a three-store chain located in the Indianapolis, Ind., area.
The winner of Best Soccer Fans was no surprise in this special World Cup year, as “Fans who traveled to Korea” and formed Sam’s Army sections at every U.S. game were the clear-cut favorite and deservedly earned 29% of the total vote. Chicago and D.C. placed at the top among U.S. fans.
Speaking of the millions of fans watching in the States, it turns out it was hard to beat the couch for the Best Place to Watch the World Cup from the U.S. In fact, “Your couch” received the highest percentage of votes (47%) of any finalist to win an award, easily topping “Your local pub” for the unique distinction.
U.S. Men’s National team goalkeeper Brad Friedel won Best Game Performance – Player for his amazing effort to help the U.S. salvage a crucial draw against Korea in the team’s second game of the 2002 World Cup. Not only did he save a huge penalty kick, but he repeatedly thwarted the relentless Korean attack and routinely silenced the teaming crowd of more than 60,000 with his heroics on the way to a 1-1 decision.
The U.S. Men put together three spectacular team efforts in Korea, but perhaps none was better or more surprising than the 3-2 upset that they pulled off over Portugal in their first World Cup match on June 5, 2002, which takes the award for Best Game Performance – Team and will forever be a game where Americans will remember exactly where they were when John O’Brien scored that first goal on the way to the monumental result.
Listed below are the top three finishers for each of the 10 awards that made up the 2002 “Best of U.S. Soccer” Series:
2002 Best of U.S. Soccer Award Winners
Best Soccer Bar
- Summers (Arlington, Va.): 30%
- Britannia Arms (San Jose, Calif.): 12%
- Abbey Pub (Chicago, Ill.): 10%
Best Soccer Store
- Soccer Unlimited (Indianapolis, Ind.): 17%
- Gotshalks (Boston, Mass.): 12%
- Ewing Sports (Trenton, N.J.): 11%
Best Soccer Stadium
- Columbus Crew Stadium: 37%
- RFK Stadium: 19%
- Gillette Stadium: 13%
Best Soccer Fans
- Fans who traveled to Korea: 29%
- Chicago: 17%
- Washington D.C.: 14%
Best Soccer Game Promotion
- "Buck-a-Brat Night": 24%
- “ProCuts Mohawk Challenge”: 23%
- “Thirsty Thursday”: 19%
Best Place to Watch the World Cup from the U.S.
- Your couch: 47%
- Your local pub: 23%
- Stadium Club (Columbus Crew Stadium): 18%
Best U.S. Crowd
- May 12 @ RFK Stadium – MNT 2, Uruguay 1 – 30,413: 32%
- March 2 @ Safeco Field – MNT 4, Honduras 0 – 38,534: 27%
- May 19 @ Gillette Stadium – MNT 0, Holland 2 – 36,778: 18%
Best U.S. Goal
- Brian McBride – June 5 vs. Portugal: 32%
- Landon Donovan – June 17 vs. Mexico: 19%
- Clint Mathis – June 10 vs. Korea: 17%
Best Game Performance – Player
- Brad Friedel – June 10 vs. Korea: 42%
- Landon Donovan – June 17 vs. Mexico: 14%
- Brian McBride – June 5 vs. Portugal: 11%
Best Game Performance – Team
- MNT vs. Portugal – June 5: 31%
- MNT vs. Germany – June 21: 29%
- MNT vs. Mexico – June 17: 24%