CHICAGO (Wednesday, December 17, 2003) – U.S. Soccer announced today the 2003 winners of the prestigious and increasingly popular “Best of U.S. Soccer” awards series. These second annual year-end awards were introduced across the week of Nov. 3-7 after U.S. head coaches Bruce Arena and April Heinrichs helped pick the seven finalists for each of the unique honors. The voting was done entirely by fans, who responded in great numbers by logging on to ussoccer.com from Nov. 10-Dec. 9 with the chance to vote once a day for one or all of the 11 categories and win special prizes from Philips Electronics.
One year after the Columbus Crew led the inaugural series with a trio of awards (Best Soccer Stadium, Best Game Promotion and Best U.S. Goal for Brian McBride), the city of Chicago picked up a pair of honors as the only multiple winner. Adding to their argument that they’re the most loyal fans in America, they won the Best Soccer Fans award for packing both suburban Cardinal Stadium in Naperville and Soldier Field in the city and Best Soccer Bar for packing North side pub Ginger’s Ale House in order to see their Fire play both home and away games. Chicago fans had 30% of the vote, easily beating out Washington, D.C., (21%) and Los Angeles (17%), while Ginger’s upset defending champion Summers Restaurant of Arlington, Va., by a slim one percent of the final votes in the closest race in the young history of the awards.
The two biggest margins of victory dealt with brand new stadiums, as The Home Depot Center (Carson, Calif.) predictably pummeled the competition with 41% of the vote to be honored as Best Soccer Stadium, while the enormous Reliant Stadium (Houston, Texas) won Best U.S. Crowd with 36% of the votes for providing the setting for one of the most memorable atmospheres for a friendly played in the U.S. Almost 70,000 fans (69,582) packed the new venue for a huge, but well-behaved sell-out crowd that provided equal support for both the U.S. Men’s National Team and the visiting Mexicans in a city-wide event billed as “La Revancha en la Cancha.”
After finishing second last year to the Soccer Unlimited chain in Indianapolis, Ind., Gotschalk’s Soccer claimed the award for Best Soccer Store with 22% of the vote, edging Chicago Soccer and The Soccer Store (Boca Raton, Fla.), who each had just 13% of the vote.
In one of two new awards, U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper Tim Howard and his monumental signing and performance with Manchester United was honored as this year’s Best U.S. Soccer Story. The U.S. Men’s National Team took another off-the-field award for its one-time use of jerseys fashioned after those worn in the USA’s shocking 1-0 upset of England at the World Cup in 1950. The hugely popular retro jerseys, which promptly sold out on the ussoccerstore.com website, won Best Game Promotion with 32% of the vote.
While finishing third for Best U.S. Soccer Story, fabulous 14-year-old Freddy Adu was the odds-on winner for Best U.S. Goal (Youth National Team) with three nominations among the seven finalists. His double-360 dribbling effort for the U-17s against Poland on June 4 took the prize, edging U-23 forward David Testo’s miraculous 85-yard bomb against Mexico on May 14.
The U.S. Women’s National Team claimed the final – and perhaps the most important – three awards of 2003, as midfielder Kristine Lilly won Best U.S. Goal (Full National Team) with her game-opening rocket of a volley to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead versus Sweden in the team’s tournament opener, forward Abby Wambach won Best Game Performance (Player) for her dominating aerial performance in the team’s 1-0 win over a physical Norway side, and the U.S. Women’s World Cup team claimed Best Game Performance (Team) for the dominating 3-1 win over eventual runner-up Sweden on Sept. 21 following the Opening Ceremonies at RFK.
Following on the heels of the 2003 “Best of…” awards series, U.S. Soccer will announce the winners of the four annual Chevrolet Athlete of the Year awards – Male, Female, Young Male and Young Female – at a press conference in January 2004. As the oldest and most prestigious awards of their kind, U.S. Soccer’s Chevrolet 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 fourth straight year, fan votes (along with a media vote) will decide the winner, with online voting continuing through Wednesday, December 31.
The top three vote-getters for each of the 2003 “Best of U.S. Soccer” awards are below:
Best Soccer Bar:
1. Ginger's Ale House (Chicago, Ill.) - 22%
2. Summers Restaurant (Arlington, Va.) - 21%
3. McGann's Pub (Boston, Mass.) - 12%
Best Soccer Store:
1. Gotshalk's Soccer (Boston, Mass.) - 22%
2. Chicago Soccer (Chicago, Ill.) - 13%
3. The Soccer Store (Boca Raton, Fla.) - 13%
Best Soccer Stadium:
1. The Home Depot Center (Carson, Calif.) - 41%
2. Columbus Crew Stadium (Columbus, Ohio) - 15%
3. RFK Stadium (Washington, D.C.) - 13%
Best Soccer Fans:
1. Chicago, Ill. - 30%
2. Washington, D.C. - 21%
3. Los Angeles, Calif. - 17%
Best Game Promotion:
1. U.S. MNT Retro Jerseys - 32%
2. Buck-a-Brat Night - 22%
3. Breast Cancer Awareness Day - 20%
Best U.S. Soccer Story:
1. U.S. MNT Goalkeeper Tim Howard Signs with Manchester United; Red Devils Tour America - 28%
2. Shannon MacMillan Comes Back from ACL Surgery, Makes U.S. Women’s World Cup Team - 20%
3. The Emergence of 14-year-old talent Freddy Adu; Hat Trick at Finland 2003, MLS Signing - 15%
Best U.S. Crowd:
1. May 8 @ Reliant Stadium (69,582; SO) - 36%
2. Oct. 5 @ PGE Park (27,623; SO) - 19%
3. Sept. 21 @ RFK Stadium (34,144) - 17%
Best U.S. Goal (Youth National Team) - View all the candidates!
1. Freddy Adu (June 4) - 26%
2. David Testo (May 14) - 20%
3. Freddy Adu (Aug. 14) - 17%
Best U.S. Goal (National Team) - View all the candidates!
1. Kristine Lilly (Sept. 21) - 25%
2. Landon Donovan (March 29) - 21%
3. Earnie Stewart (July 26) - 17%
Best Game Performance (Player):
1. Abby Wambach (Oct. 1) - 26%
2. Freddy Adu (Aug. 14) - 18%
3. Tim Howard (June 21) - 14%
Best Game Performance (Team):
1. U.S. WNT 3, Sweden 1 (Sept. 21) - 27%
2. U.S. MNT 3, Costa Rica 2 (July 27) - 20%
3. U.S. WNT 3, Canada 1 (Oct. 11) - 18%