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'Best of U.S. Soccer' Finalists as of Nov. 6


CHICAGO (November 4, 2003) — Following the successful establishment of last year’s inaugural series of ten awards, U.S. Soccer has unveiled 11 awards that will honor the standout performances of the calendar year in American soccer and make up the second annual “Best of U.S. Soccer” Series.

With the help of U.S. National Team coaches Bruce Arena and April Heinrichs, U.S. Soccer has selected the finalists for these second-year awards. Now it’s up to fans to make their voice heard with a vote in one or all of these unique categories over the next month at ussoccer.com, where they’ll have a chance to win a variety of special prizes from PHILIPS Electronics. Online voting for the awards will begin on Monday (Nov. 10) and continue through Tuesday, Dec. 9.

For the first time, fans were tapped to choose the finalists for select “Best of U.S. Soccer” awards, with online votes at ussoccer.com across the month of October determining the 10 nominees for Best Soccer Bar and Best Soccer Store.

The announcement of finalists for each of the 2003 Best of U.S. Soccer awards will be staggered across this week according to the schedule listed below:

2003 Best of U.S. Soccer Award Schedule
Tue., Nov. 4            Best U.S. Soccer Story
                               Best Soccer Bar
                               Best Soccer Store
Wed., Nov. 5          Best Soccer Stadium   
                               Best Soccer Fans
                               Best U.S. Crowd   
Thu., Nov. 6           Best Soccer Promotion
                               Best U.S. Performance (Player)   
                               Best U.S. Performance (Team)
Fri., Nov. 7             Best U.S. Goal—Full National Team   
                               Best U.S. Goal—Youth National Team

BEST SOCCER PROMOTION
As in any sport, sometimes it takes a dandy idea to get butts in seats for a weeknight game against a lackluster opponent. Below are five promotions (in alphabetical order) that are a little more original than your standard Bobblehead Night:

1) "Breast Cancer Awareness Day" – The W-League's Cincinnati Ladyhawks, in conjunction with the local Avon Breast Cancer Awareness Walk, wore special pink jerseys for the match, which were auctioned off to raise proceeds for the fund along with donations.

2) "Buck-a-Brat Night" – The Crew’s long-running promotion continues to be one of the biggest successes in all of soccer, with a BPP (brats per person) ratio still holding strong at just under 2.00.

3) "Happy Hour" – The A-League's Milwaukee Wave United made every home game a party by offering complimentary all-you-can-eat grilled specialties and beverages to all season ticket holders for the hour before kickoff for all 14 home games.

4) "Mother's Day Diamond Dig" – The PDL's Des Moines Menace held a halftime contest in which over 100 mothers had to dig through ice to be the fastest to find a tiny diamond, which was good for a $1,000 gift certificate to a local jeweler.

5) "Retro Jerseys" – On June 8 for a friendly versus New Zealand, the U.S. Men’s National Team unveiled one-of-a-kind retro uniforms modeled after those worn in a stunning 1-0 win over England at the 1950 World Cup as part of U.S. Soccer’s 90th anniversary.

BEST GAME PERFORMANCE (PLAYER)
This award goes to the one U.S. National Team player who took the team on his or her shoulders and put their respective team in position to win with their outstanding, if not dominating, individual performance. As with the award for Best Goal, the seven finalists were determined with special consideration given to the importance of the match in which the noteworthy performance occurred. Here are those seven finalists, listed in chronological order of the game in which said performance took place:

1) Tim Howard – Although it only showed up as five saves on the final scoresheet, the former MetroStars ‘keeper did much, much more to diffuse the relentless Brazilian attack in the opening round of the FIFA Confederations Cup in France, coming off his line to thwart breakaways and snare crosses and pushing free kicks over the crossbar to keep the game close. – U.S. MNT 0, Brazil 1 – June 21

2) Landon Donovan – Sure it was a lop-sided game against Cuba, but four goals is impressive any way you look at it. Some were just Landon being in the right place at the right time, others were all skill, but either way no one can discount the fact he possesses perhaps the best finishing touch of any forward in U.S. MNT history. – U.S. MNT 5, Cuba 0 – July 19

3) Freddy Adu – With the international soccer community curious to see if young Freddy would live up to the advance billing, Adu turned in an impressive three-goal performance to turn the match from a nail-biter into a walk in the park. Freddy’s reward? Bone-crunching tackles and continuous fouls for the rest of the tournament. – U-17 MNT 6, South Korea 1 – August 14

4) Kristine Lilly – As usual, Lilly brought her “A” game to the team’s Women’s World Cup opener, striking a powerful 20-yard volley to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead in the 27th minute after almost scoring on a similar 30-yard blast in the 13th minute. Lilly was a midfield menace all day on both sides of the ball, ensuring that the U.S. got three points to start the tourney. – U.S. WNT 3, Sweden 1 – September 21

5) Mia Hamm – Mia quieted her past World Cup critics with a dominating performance in the team’s opening match, a dominant 3-1 win over eventual second place finisher Sweden. Hamm provided the final pass on all three goals, deftly laying a ball back to Kristine Lilly for the game’s first goal and then providing two perfect corner kicks that were headed home from point-blank range – U.S. WNT 3, Sweden 1 – September 21

6) Mia Hamm – Another dominant offensive performance from the red-hot Hamm, she provided the game’s first two goals with a penalty kick and a free kick before adding a trademark corner kick assist to make it 3-0 with another 40 minutes to play. – U.S. WNT 5, Nigeria 0 – September 25

7) Abby Wambach – Wambach was everywhere in the decisive 1-0 win over Norway in the quarterfinals, seemingly winning every ball in the air, constantly freeing herself in the box for snap headers and scoring the lone goal on a header off a Cat Reddick free kick in the 24th minute. – U.S. WNT 1, Norway 0 – October 11

BEST GAME PERFORMANCE (TEAM)
This award is for that game where a U.S. National Team (Men’s, Women’s or Youth) played out of their heads and rose to the occasion to deliver an outstanding -- or even unexpected -- result, with special consideration obviously given to important matches that were part of major tournaments in 2003. Below are the seven final choices in chronological order:

1) U.S. MNT 0, Brazil 1 -- 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup Opening Round – June 21:
Despite a fluke miscue that had the team down 1-0 in the 22nd minute, the U.S. battled back to even out play and posted perhaps its most complete performance of the difficult FIFA Confederations Cup and perhaps the entire calendar year.

2) U.S. MNT 3, Costa Rica 2 -- 2003 CONCACAF Gold Cup Third Place Match – July 27:
While a second close loss to Brazil in as many months relegating them to the third place match led to a flat performance and a 2-1 deficit by halftime, the U.S. Men turned it on in the second stanza and delivered two sparkling second-half strikes to deliver the tournament’s bronze medal.

3) U.S. U-17 MNT 6, South Korea 1 -- 2003 FIFA U-17 WC Opener – August 14:
Up by just one goal despite dominating the first half, U.S. U-17 MNT head coach John Ellinger challenged the team to push themselves to the limit in the second half, resulting in a four unanswered goals that put the team in the driver’s seat in Group D play.

4) U.S. WNT 3, Sweden 1 -- 2003 FIFA WWC Opener – September 21:
Wanting to get the tournament off on the right foot against the sixth-ranked team in the world, the U.S. powered through their opponent and muscled its way to a 3-1 win on the strength of three assists from playmaking magician Mia Hamm and excellent play from the entire backline in shutting down the Swedish attacking duo of Hanna Ljunberg and Victoria Svensson.

5) U.S. WNT 3, North Korea 0 -- 2003 FIFA WWC Final Group D Match – September 28:
Though not needing a win to advance to the second round and win Group A, the U.S. Women were focused on sending a message to the rest of the teams with a full nine points out of the so-called “Group of Death.” The U.S. was fearless in attacking dark horse North Korea and rolled to a 3-0 win behind two goals from first-time WWC defender Cat Reddick.

6) U.S. WNT 3, Canada 1 – 2003 FIFA WWC Third Place Match – October 11:
Nursing the hangover of falling to Germany and falling short in their bid to repeat as WWC champs, the U.S. showed heart and got some added motivation from comments from the opposing team to come into L.A. and crush Canada 3-1 for third place.

BEST U.S. SOCCER STORY
This award recognizes the most positive and/or most-talked-about story within American soccer for the calendar year, with choices in newspaper headline style in chronological order:

1) FIFA Women's World Cup Moves From China to USA
2) The Home Depot Center and National Training Center Open in Carson
3) U.S. MNT Goalkeeper Tim Howard Signs with Manchester United; Man-U Mania Sweeps U.S. on Summer Tour
4) The Emergence of 14-year-old Talent Freddy Adu; Adu Notches Hat Trick in First Game of FIFA U-17 WC
5) Shannon MacMillan Comes Back from ACL Surgery to Make U.S. Women’s World Cup Team
6) The Emergence of Shannon Boxx, Cat Reddick and Abby Wambach at USA 2003
7) Sarachan Refuels Fire, Claims Open Cup and Regular Season Crowns

BEST SOCCER BAR
This award goes to the best soccer-focused or soccer-friendly bar in the United States. You know the place: it’s where you go to watch the U.S. Men’s National Team play an away World Cup qualifier. It’s the place that opens on Saturday at 8 a.m. just so you and your gang can watch the day’s English Premier League offerings. Below are the 10 finalists in alphabetical order as selected by fan voting at ussoccer.com during the month of October:

1) The Bitter End (Portland, Ore.)
2) Britannia Arms Pub (two locations in San Jose)
3) Fox and Hound British-American Pub (Oakland Park, Fla.)
4) George & Dragon Pub (Seattle, Wash.)
5) Ginger's Ale House (Chicago, Ill.)
6) McGann’s Pub (Boston, Mass.)
7) Nathan Hale's Bar & Grill (New York City)
8) Nevada Smith’s (New York City)
9) Shakespeare's Pub (San Diego, Calif.)
10) Summers Restaurant (Arlington, Va.)

BEST SOCCER STORE
This award honors the best all-around store to buy all things soccer, from the newest Nike Mercurials to gear for your Saturday league to the red-hot U.S. Women’s World Cup Team jersey. Here are the 10 finalists in alphabetical order as selected by fan voting at ussoccer.com during the month of October:

1) Chicago Soccer (Chicago, Ill.)
2) Gotshalk’s Soccer (Boston, Mass.)
3) The Onion Bag (New York City)
4) Soccer Post (six locations in New Jersey)
5) Soccer Pro (two locations in San Francisco Bay area)
6) The Soccer Shack (Rochester, N.Y.)
7) The Soccer Store (Boca Raton, Fla.)
8) Soccer Unlimited (three locations in Indianapolis, Ind.)
9) Soccer West (four locations in Seattle, Wash.)
10) Soccer World (three locations in Austin, Texas)

BEST U.S. CROWD
This award goes to a domestic U.S. National Team event that you’re proud to say “I was THERE.” Or maybe it was the game that you saw on TV and wished you were there because you could hear the crowd roaring and chanting and it felt like you were there. Below are the five finalists, listed in chronological order:

1) May 8 @ Reliant Stadium -- U.S. MNT 0, Mexico 0 -- 69,582  (sell out)
2) Sept. 21 @ RFK Stadium -- U.S. WNT 3, Sweden 1 -- 34,144
3) Sept. 28 @ Crew Stadium -- U.S. WNT 3, North Korea 0 -- 22,828 (sell out)
4) Oct. 5 @ PGE Park -- U.S. WNT 0, Germany 3 -- 27,623 (sell out)
5) Oct. 11 @ HDC -- U.S. WNT 3, Canada 1 -- 25,253

BEST SOCCER STADIUM
From enormous, storied MLS stadiums to cozy, soccer-specific WUSA and USL venues, this award goes to the best overall place to watch soccer. This award incorporates everything from U.S. National Team history or success at the venue, to fan turnout/atmosphere, to quality of the field and sight lines, to unique amenities. Here are your seven choices, listed in alphabetical order:

1) Blackbaud Stadium (Charleston, S.C.; 5,113) – The home of '03 A-League champs, which features the Three Lions Pub, perhaps the best stadium club/pub of any venue in the country.
2) Columbus Crew Stadium (Columbus, Ohio; 22,555) – Recent improvements have upgraded original soccer stadium prototype.
3) The Home Depot Center (Carson, Calif.; 27,500) – Everything about this soccer stadium prototype version 2.0 is state-of-the-art, including the overall complex and the European-style roof.
4) PGE Park (Portland, Ore.; 28,259) – Excellent atmosphere at the cozy downtown venue that is routinely dressed up from baseball to soccer stadium for WWC and Timbers games
5) RFK Stadium (Washington, D.C.; 53,000) – Historical stadium provides best East Coast setting.
6) Soldier Field (Chicago, Ill.; 61,343) – Modern meets classic as shiny new stadium reopened to much fanfare and hosted more than 100,000 soccer fans for three matches in October.
7) Torero Stadium (San Diego, Calif.; 7,035) – Host of '03 WUSA Founders Cup III has interesting pit-like feel and provides great scenery surrounding the stadium.

BEST SOCCER FANS
This award goes to the fans that wear red every game and pack the Sam’s Army section for U.S. National Team Games, the MLS fans that travel to their team’s away games and the fans that enter the stadium with parka in hand and dressed for any weather condition that Mother Nature can throw at ‘em. Nothing can stop these fans from seeing their soccer. Here are seven choices for the award, listed alphabetically by city:

1) Chicago, Ill. – Have averaged over 25,000 since returning to the new Soldier Field; Barn Burners continue to be arguably the best supporters’ club in MLS.
2) Kansas City, Mo. – Wizards broke 30,000 mark for first time, and posted their fifth consecutive attendance increase; Also had more than 18,000 in the building for a recent WNT friendly.
3) Los Angeles, Calif. – Led league in attendance with over 300,000 total fans and averaged just under 22,000 (21,983) per game; came out in droves to support all four match dates for 2003 FIFA WWC
4) Philadelphia, Pa. – The “City of Brotherly Love” responded well to their first taste of high-level soccer, posting healthy crowds for both the 2003 FIFA WWC and the Man-U tour stop.
5) Portland, Ore. – Averaged 20,000 for three match dates for 2003 FIFA WWC; A-League’s Timbers were in the top 5 in league attendance with 5,871 per match.
6) Rochester, N.Y. – Led A-League in attendance yet again with average of over 10,000 and have a legitimate claim as SoccerTown, USA.
7) Washington, D.C. – Provided the biggest crowd (34,144) of the 2003 FIFA WWC for the U.S. WNT opener and Opening Ceremonies, while MLS and WUSA attendance averages were solid for yet another season.

2002 Best of U.S. Soccer
Award Winners

Best Soccer Bar:
1. Summers (Arlington, Va.)                       30%
2. Britannia Arms (San Jose, Calif.)          12%
3. Abbey Pub (Chicago, Ill.)                        10%

Best Soccer Store:
1. Soccer Unlimited (Indianapolis, Ind.)     17%
2. Gotshalks (Boston, Mass.)                      12%
3. Ewing Sports (Trenton, N.J.)                   11%

Best Soccer Stadium:
1. Columbus Crew Stadium                         37%
2. RFK Stadium                                             19%
3. Gillette Stadium                                         13%

Best Soccer Fans:
1. Fans who traveled to Korea                    29%
2. Chicago                                                     17%
3. Washington D.C.                                      14%

Best Game Promotion:
1. “Buck-a-Brat Night”                                  24%
2. “ProCuts Mohawk Challenge”                 23%
3. “Thirsty Thursday”                                     19%

Best Place to Watch the World Cup from the U.S.:
1. Your couch                                                       47%
2. Your local pub                                                  23%
3. Stadium Club, Columbus Crew Stadium     18%

Best U.S. Crowd:
1. May 12 @ RFK Stadium – MNT 2, Uruguay 1 – 30,413          32%
2. March 2 @ Safeco Field – MNT 4, Honduras 0 – 38,534        27%
3. May 19 @ Gillette Stadium – MNT 0, Holland 2 – 36,778       18%

Best U.S. Goal:
1. Brian McBride – June 5 vs. Portugal         32%
2. Landon Donovan – June 17 vs. Mexico    19%
3. Clint Mathis – June 10 vs. Korea               17%

Best Game Performance – Player:
1. Brad Friedel – June 10 vs. Korea              42%
2. Landon Donovan – June 17 vs. Mexico     14%
3. Brian McBride – June 5 vs. Portugal          11%

Best Game Performance – Team:
1. MNT vs. Portugal – June 5                       31%
2. MNT vs. Germany – June 21                    29%
3. MNT vs. Mexico – June 17                       24%

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