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U.S. Soccer Announces 2002 Finalists for Best Soccer Stadium, Best Soccer Fans

CHICAGO (Tuesday, December 3, 2002) - For the first time in its history, the U.S. Soccer Federation has created a series of 10 awards that will honor the standout performances of the calendar year in American soccer and make up the first annual U.S. Soccer “Best of…” Series.

With the help of U.S. National Team head coaches Bruce Arena and April Heinrichs, U.S. Soccer has selected the finalists for each of these first-time awards. Now it’s up to fans to make their voice heard with a vote in one or all of these unique, inaugural awards over the next month at Official online voting for the awards will begin on Friday (Dec. 6) and continue through Dec. 31.

Following on the heels of the 2002 “Best of…” awards series, U.S. Soccer will announce the seven suggested candidates for each of the four annual Chevy Athlete of the Year awards -- Young Female, Young Male, Female and Male -- next week. As the oldest and most prestigious award 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. Online voting will begin at on Friday, Dec. 13 and run through Jan. 8.

The announcement of finalists for each of the 2002 Best of U.S. Soccer awards will be staggered across this week according to the schedule listed below. The following are the finalists for both Best Soccer Stadium and Best Soccer Fans:

BEST SOCCER STADIUM: From enormous, but storied MLS stadiums to cozy, soccer-specific WUSA and USL venues, this award goes to the best overall place to watch soccer. This doesn’t just mean the biggest and newest stadium, 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. Just think: at which stadium would you prefer to watch the U.S. Men’s National Team host a World Cup Qualifier? Or where would you rather watch next year’s MLS Cup or WUSA Founder’s Cup? Here are your seven choices, listed in order of capacity:
1) The Rose Bowl (Pasadena, Calif.; 92,542; home of the 2002 MLS Cup champion Los Angeles Galaxy; site of 2002 CONCACAF Gold Cup and Women’s Gold Cup Finals; venue for enormous 1999 Women’s World Cup Final and 1994 World Cup Final crowds)
2) Gillette Stadium (Foxboro, Mass.; 68,000; site of extremely successful 2002 MLS Cup, home of the Eastern Conference champion New England Revolution; site of U.S.-Holland friendly on “Nike Road to Korea”; sparkling new state-of-the-art venue on history-filled Foxboro grounds)
3) RFK Stadium (Washington, D.C.; 56,500; site of 2002 MLS All-Star Game; rich soccer history as venue for numerous U.S. MNT World Cup qualifiers/friendlies, MLS Cups and ’96 Olympics; home to both D.C. United and Washington Freedom)
4) Columbus Crew Stadium (Columbus, Ohio; 22,555; site of 2002 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup; home of U.S. Open Cup champion Columbus Crew; site of U.S. MNT’s qualifying win over Mexico on Feb. 28, 2001; still remains the prototype for a soccer-specific MLS stadium)
5) Safeco Field (Seattle, Wash.; 47,116; site of successful MNT friendly and 2002 Women’s Gold Cup; although built as a baseball stadium, soccer layout is spacious and allows fans to be extremely close to the field; retractable roof insures perfect field conditions, especially for those frequent rainy days in Seattle)
6) Herndon Stadium (Atlanta, Ga.; 15,011; site of successful 2002 WUSA Founders Cup II; home of the Atlanta Beat; quaint, medium-sized stadium is the best in the WUSA)
7) Blackbaud Stadium (Charleston, S.C.; 5,113; site of 2002 CONCACAF Under-20 Qualifying; home of A-League’s Charleston Battery; perfect A-League stadium as far as size, atmosphere; also boasts impressive Three Lyons Pub)

BEST SOCCER FANS: This award goes to the fans that wear red and pack the Sam’s Army section for U.S. National Team Games, the 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, with reasons why each city’s fans deserve to be finalists:
1) Boston, Mass. – Patriotic New England fans continually support the home teams, win or lose … Almost sold out brand new Gillette Stadium with over 60,000 fans at the 2002 MLS Cup … Had a strong showing at U.S. MNT, Revolution and Breakers games, making the WUSA club second in attendance with an average of 8,120 fans in 2002 … Also came out in force at the old Foxboro Stadium to watch the U.S. qualify for the 2002 World Cup on Oct. 7, 2001, and supported U.S. teams at other numerous qualifiers and friendlies.
2) Chicago, Ill. – Boasts one of the league’s best supporter’s clubs with the Barnburners … Despite a move away from the city to the ‘burbs, Fire fans embraced their new surroundings and routinely sold out the 15,000-seat Cardinal Stadium … Fans have also filled Soldier Field in the past for everything from a U.S. Open Cup Final to a Mexican club team exhibition.
3) Columbus, Ohio – The hardest-working team in MLS deserves their hard-working fans, who have come out in droves to support just about every soccer event that has come through the city since the stadium was established in 1999 … Fans braved subzero temperatures to watch the U.S. defeat Mexico 2-0 in a huge World Cup qualifier on Feb. 28, 2001, and have provided consistent support for friendlies since then.
4) Denver, Colo. – They used to just show up en masse for annual Fourth of July bash, but Denver citizens have warmed to the home team and joined the original Rapids fan base to lead MLS in attendance with an average of 20,690 in 2002 … On top of that, almost 50,000 swarmed to Invesco Field to watch the U.S. down rival Mexico 1-0 on April 3, 2002.
5) Rochester, N.Y. – Year in, year out, this city’s soccer fan base is the pride of the United Soccer Leagues, averaging more than 10,000 fans since their inception in 1996, with no signs of diminishing interest in their beloved Raging Rhinos, the perennial A-League finalists … Having dubbed themselves Soccertown, USA,  a few years back, their loyal fans come out to make every event at Frontier Field a success, whether it be the A-League final, an Open Cup match or a mid-week regular season game.
6) Seattle, Wash. – Seattle fans have made Portland look like the also-ran soccer stop in the Pacific Northwest, as witnessed by the almost 40,000 fans that watched the U.S. MNT crush Honduras 4-0 at Safeco Field on March 2, 2002 … Over 20,000 fans returned for a U.S. WNT’s Women’s Gold Cup match at Safeco on Nov. 11, 2002 … Also, over 25,000 fans came out to support the A-League’s Sounders in the first sporting event at the shiny new Seahawks Stadium.
7) Washington, D.C. – Featuring not one, but two great supporter’s clubs in the Screaming Eagles and Barra Bravas, the D.C. fans have been there to cheer on their United team through both the ups of three MLS Cup titles and the downs of the past two losing seasons … Fans also supported the Freedom along their march to the WUSA championship match, posting a league-high average attendance of 9,297 in 2002 … They also pack RFK any time a U.S. National Team rolls around, especially for important World Cup qualifiers.
8) Any fan who traveled to attend a U.S. World Cup game in Korea – With obvious props to the frequent-flying Sam’s Army gang, the fans that made the long trek and made themselves heard in every stadium in which the U.S. played, from the chants of “Over-rated” during the Portugal game to the calls of “Dos a Cero” in the final minutes of the win over Mexico to the plain old “USA-USA-USA” chants in between, were part of the energy that propelled the U.S. to such great heights in Korea.

Remaining 2002 Best of U.S. Soccer Award Schedule
Dec. 4: Best U.S. Crowd 
              Best Place to Watch the World Cup from the U.S.
Dec. 5: Best In-Game Promotion 
              Best U.S. Goal
Dec. 6: Best U.S. Performance (Player) 
              Best U.S. Performance (Team)