CHICAGO (December 20, 2007) – For their excellence at the highest levels of the sport, U.S. Soccer named U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder/forward Clint Dempsey as the 2007 Male Athlete of the Year and U.S. Women’s National Team forward Abby Wambach as the 2007 Female Athlete of the Year. MNT and Under-20 MNT midfielder Michael Bradley and WNT and U-20 WNT forward Lauren Cheney won the Young Male and Young Female Awards, respectively.
The U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year awards have a longer history than any major award in American soccer – more than 20 years. They join the FIFA Players of the Year as the only two awards to honor both the top male and the top female in the sport.
As in years past, online votes registered at ussoccer.com counted for 50 percent of the total votes, while the other 50 percent was represented by votes compiled from members of the national media and U.S. Soccer representatives, including National Team coaches and the National Board of Directors. A player can only win the Young Athlete award once in their career.
The fans handed Dempsey his first Male Athlete of the Year award after he continued to display his confidence and ability on the field, even while embracing a new role as a striker for the MNT. A constant threat up top all year, he finished with three goals, including the game-winner in the 1-0 win against Guatemala that kicked off the USA’s Gold Cup winning run and a memorable curling strike for the USA’s second goal in their 4-2 loss against No.1 ranked Brazil in Chicago. On the club level, Dempsey became a Fulham FC legend overnight by scoring the winning goal against Liverpool that kept the club in the top flight, and then continued where he left off, scoring four goals in the first half of this season.
“It always feels great to be recognized for your hard work,” said Dempsey. “It’s a huge compliment to win this award, especially amongst the other fantastic nominees. I appreciate the recognition and want to thank all the fans out there who voted for me.”
After winning Athlete of the Year honors in 2003 and 2004, it was no surprise that Wambach would join elite company in winning her third award in 2007 after completing another spectacular year. With 20 goals in 21 games, Wambach became just the second U.S. women’s player to twice score 20 or more goals in a calendar year. More impressively, she scored six of the USA’s 12 goals at the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup to lead the team, and won the Silver Shoe as the second leading scorer in the tournament. Overall, she had seven multiple goal games during 2007 and also dished out five assists to move into sole possession of fifth place on the all-time U.S. scoring list.
"As always, winning something of this magnitude is an honor and a privilege, but more importantly, getting the chance to play for the National Team is an honor and a privilege,” said Wambach. “The entire team is made up of such high quality people and players that being chosen as the athlete of the year by the fans, media and U.S. Soccer representatives feels great and is very rewarding."
After initial inklings with the Under-20 and full MNT last year, Bradley cemented his place on both squads during 2007. The 20-year old was an essential cog in the MNT midfield during the Gold Cup, and then turned his sights towards the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada, where his late strike against Uruguay allowed the U.S. to advance to the quarterfinals. With a total of 11 caps for the senior side, the hard-nosed midfielder finished off his stellar year with his first goal in the team’s 1-0 win over Switzerland on Oct. 17. Bradley’s also had success with Heerenveen’s first team, starting virtually every game and going on a scoring streak with four goals in five games early this season before also tallying a hat trick in December.
“It’s an honor anytime the fans and media pick you for an award, especially one that recognizes you as one of the top young players in the United States,” said Bradley. “I’d like to thank all of my teammates with the full team and the Under-20s that contributed to any success I had throughout the year. This past year has been amazing and with the help of my teammates, coaches and the fans, hopefully I’ll be part of many more in the future.”
Cheney also split her time during the year, helping lead the Under-20s in the Pan American Games, while also getting her first caps with the full WNT in 2007. After kicking off the year training with the full U.S. Women’s National Team during Residency Training Camp, the powerful striker eventually made her first-ever start against Germany at the Four Nations Tournament in China, and then a few months later scored her first-ever senior team goal against Mexico on April 14. Later in the year, Cheney led the Under-20s to the finals of the Pan American Games with six goals, including both strikes in a stunning 2-1 upset in the semifinals against Canada’s full team. With her national team duties complete, Cheney had a fantastic sophomore season at UCLA, finding the net 23 times and compiling 11 assists on the year.
"I'm always humbled to win an individual award because I feel the team accomplishments are much more important and satisfying," said Cheney. "That said, I'm grateful to the people who voted for me and I'm really honored to join a group of young players who I've looked up to for the past few years. They have accomplished some great things at the full National Team level and I'm looking forward to working hard to contribute to the success of the National Team in 2008."