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U.S. Soccer Wire: U.S. Soccer to Announce Finalists for First Annual "Best of" Awards Series Throughout the Week

FANS TO DECIDE 2002 “BEST OF U.S. SOCCER” WITH ONLINE VOTING BEGINNING FRIDAY: For the first time in its history, U.S. Soccer 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 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  The announcement of finalists for each of the 10 awards will be staggered across this week, with Best Soccer Bar and Best Retail Store choices to be named later today. Online voting for the awards will begin on Friday (Dec. 6) and continue through Dec. 31.

2002 Best of U.S. Soccer Award Schedule
Dec. 2  Best Soccer Bar
            Best Soccer Retail Store
Dec. 3  Best Soccer Stadium
            Best Soccer Fans
Dec. 4  Best U.S. Crowd
            Best Place to Watch U.S. in World Cup
Dec. 5  Best In-Game Promotion
            Best U.S. Goal
Dec. 6  Best U.S. Single-Game Performance (Individual)
            Best U.S. Single-Game Performance (Team)

FINALISTS FOR 2002 CHEVY ATHLETE OF THE YEAR AWARDS TO BE NAMED NEXT WEEK: Following on the heels of its first ever “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. All of the Chevy awards are based on competing and excelling at the highest level of soccer offered by U.S. Soccer and the professional level for the calendar year, exhibiting decorum on and off the field which reflects well on U.S. Soccer, and contributing toward soccer’s popularization, acceptance and credibility in the United States. To qualify for the youth award, a player must have appeared in at least one U.S. Youth National Team game during the calendar year (and cannot have previously won the award).  In addition to excellence at the youth national team level and the pro (or college) level, future potential at the international level is also take into consideration as part of the voting criteria for the youth awards.

BEHIND-THE-SCENES DOCUMENTARY “OUR WAY” MAKES PERFECT 2002 HOLIDAY GIFT: One of the most memorable sports stories of 2002 is now available on a special limited edition DVD just in time for the Holiday season, as U.S. Soccer has unveiled "Our Way: The Exclusive Behind-the-Scenes Story of the USA's 2002 World Cup Journey.” “Our Way” gives fans the chance to relive virtually every key moment along the team’s historic run to the quarterfinals, from the moment they stepped off the plane to intense security in Seoul, to the unforgettable bus ride back to the hotel in which they cranked the volume of the onboard karaoke machine and served up their own version of Sinatra’s classic tune. Fans can go inside the U.S. locker room, team meetings and training sessions to witness the unique blend of talent, character, and determination that symbolized the U.S. performance in Korea. As well as highlights from all five matches, special interviews and never-before-seen exclusive footage, fans also get hilarious Outtakes and a Memorable Moments Highlight Reel (including all U.S. goals) for a total of 70 minutes of action. The VHS version comes out on Dec. 11, with the DVD following on Dec. 16. Both are priced at $30 and are available exclusively at and Eurosport. Fans can make "Our Way" the perfect holiday gift by pre-ordering at today.


U.S. WNT TO OPEN ROAD TO 2003 WWC VS. JAPAN ON JAN. 12 AT TORERO STADIUM: The U.S. Women's National Team will open its 2003 schedule with a match against Japan on January 12, 2003, at Torero Stadium in San Diego, Calif.  The match, which will kick off at 1 p.m. PT, will represent the USA’s first game in its run to the 2003 Women’s World Cup in China. Tickets ranging in price levels from $20 to $45 are currently on sale at all Southern California TicketMaster outlets (including Robinson’s-May and Wherehouse Music), by phone at 619-220-8497 and online at  Additionally, less than 100 VIP field-level seats at $150 each, where ticket holders get to keep their chair, will also go on sale at this time.  It will be the first of approximately 12 matches the USA will play before the 2003 Women’s World Cup. While the U.S. women have trained extensively at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, located just north of the U.S.-Mexican border in Chula Vista, Calif., this will be the first full international for the USA in San Diego. Torero Stadium, which seats 7,035, is the home of the Spirit in the WUSA and has undergone two phases of renovations to become one of the top soccer venues on the West Coast.  The match against Japan is just the first part of a trip that will take the U.S. women to China for a major tournament at the end of January. The U.S. team will be coming off two months of rest after dominating the 2002 CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup in late October and early November, winning its fifth regional title and earning a berth to the 2003 Women’s World Cup with its 7-0 semifinal victory over Costa Rica. The U.S. women are 13-0-1 all-time versus Japan and have never lost a match in California, going 12-0-1 dating back to 1996.

U.S. WOMEN TO COMPETE IN PRESTIGIOUS ALGARVE CUP IN PORTUGAL IN MARCH 2003: The U.S. Women's National Team will travel to Portugal in March 2003 to compete in the prestigious Algarve Cup for the eighth time.  The USA has been placed in Group A with Canada, Sweden and France, all of whom have qualified for the 2003 Women's World Cup in China.  The Algarve Cup, already the world's most competitive women's international event outside of the Women's World Cup, the Olympics and the European Championships, will take on an added significance this March as it will be the last major international tournament before the Women's World Cup.  Group B will feature China, Norway, Denmark and Finland.  After round-robin group play, the winners of Groups A and B will meet for the championship.  The USA has won the tournament just once, that coming in 2000 when the Americans defeated Norway, 1-0, in the championship game on a Brandi Chastain penalty kick.  While the final game schedule has not been set, the USA will play group matches on March 14, 16 and 18 and a placement game on March 20.  This will be the 10th staging of the event and just the second year that the Algarve Cup, which was previously an eight-team tournament, will feature 12 teams.  Group C, which does not have a chance to play for the title, features Wales, Greece, Portugal and a team to be determined.  A detailed schedule with dates, venues and times will be announced closer to the tournament.

2003 Algarve Cup
Group A: United States, Canada, France, Sweden
Group B: China, Norway, Denmark, Finland
Group C: Wales, Greece, Portugal, TBD

HAMM NAMED FINALIST FOR 2002 FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD PLAYER OF YEAR:  U.S. Women's National Team forward Mia Hamm has been named a finalist for the 2002 FIFA Women's World Player of the Year award. Hamm came back from knee surgery early in the year to lead the Washington Freedom to the WUSA championship game, scoring eight goals with six assists in just 11 matches (only one of which she started).  Hamm's return to the national team was similarly striking, as she scored against Norway in a 4-0 victory on July 21 and went on to record seven goals and five assists in nine matches for the USA this year and upped her world record international goal total to 136. Hamm won the award in 2001, the first year that the honor was bestowed on a female player. Hamm is joined as one of three finalists this year by German Birgit Prinz, who led the Carolina Courage to the WUSA title, and Chinese international Sun Wen. The finalists for the FIFA Men’s World Player of the Year award are Brazilian World Cup hero Ronaldo, German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn and French midfielder Zinedine Zidane.  The winners will be announced on Dec. 17.


FRIEDEL RETURNS FROM INJURY, STOPS PK TO LEAD BLACKBURN TO 2-1 WIN: Just two weeks after having surgery to repair cartilage in his knee, Brad Friedel returned to action for Blackburn on Saturday as the team won 2-1 over Fulham at home on an own goal by Rufus Brevett.  As he seemingly has done all year, Friedel made a number of strong saves in the performance, including yet another penalty kick stop, this one on Steve Marlet in the second half when the score was knotted at 1-1.  Friedel has started 15 league games for Blackburn, allowing exactly 15 goals for an impressive 1.00 goals against average.  The victory lifted Blackburn into ninth place in the Premiership.  On Wednesday (Dec. 4), the team takes on First Division Rotherham in the fourth round of the Worthington Cup, as Blackburn continues the defense of the 2002 cup crown.

MNT EUROPEAN UPDATE: U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller earned a 1-1 draw in goal for Tottenham as they played at Birmingham City in the English Premiership.  Forward Jovan Kirovski made his fourth league appearance of the year for Birmingham City, coming on as a substitute in the game's final minute.  Keller has started all 16 league games for Tottenham this season, helping the team to a current eighth-place standing. In the First Division in England, Preston North End defeated Coventry 2-1 on midfielder Eddie Lewis' volleyed strike in the 88th minute.  The goal was the second for Lewis in his last five appearances for PNE, where the World Cup player has appeared in 11 league games and three Worthington Cup matches. In Germany, defender Steve Cherundolo's Hannover 96 fell 2-0 at home to Schalke 04 on Saturday.  Cherundolo has started all 16 games of the year for Hannover, who sit in 16th place in the Bundesliga. Tony Sanneh made his 14th league appearance for Nurnberg, playing all 90 minutes in a 2-1 loss to Borussia Dortmund. U.S. defender Gregg Berhalter dressed, but did not appear in Energie Cottbus' 4-3 loss to TSV 1860 Munich.  Last-place Cottbus trailed 4-0 in that match, before scoring three goals in the final 10 minutes to make the match close. In Holland, John O'Brien remained out of Ajax's line-up with an Achilles injury, but Earnie Stewart made a second-half appearance for NAC Breda in a 1-0 victory over RBC Roosendaal on Saturday.  Stewart has scored two goals in 13 league appearances for Breda this season.


PROJECT-40 FOREIGN TOUR MOVES TO HOLLAND TOMORROW AFTER WEEK IN GERMANY: The Nike Project-40 team will travel to Holland tomorrow for the second leg of their annual fall foreign tour, which will continue this week with three consecutive matches against reserve teams from the Dutch Honor Division, starting tomorrow (Dec. 3) with a match against the FC Utrecht reserves. The Pro-40s will then meet Volendam reserves on Wednesday (Dec. 4) and then have a rematch against PSV Eindhoven reserves on Thursday (Dec. 5) to conclude the six-game series of exhibitions. The Pro-40s began the trip last week against the reserve teams from a pair of German Bundesliga clubs, falling 2-1 to both Borussia Monchengladbach and Borussia Dortmund before being shutout 4-0 by PSV on Thanksgiving Day. In their opener against Monchengladbach, Pro-40 conceded a 25th minute penalty kick goal and an 84th minute strike before pulling one back with a Devin Barclay goal in the 88th minute. A similar story line played out against Dortmund, as they gave up a goal in the 75th and another PK goal in the 88th minute before Seth Trembly knocked in a goal to pull to 2-1 in the 89th minute. In the loss to an experienced PSV squad featuring several players on the full squad, the P-40s were hit early by injuries – Isaias Bardales (right hamstring) and Jordan Stone (concussion) – and gave up four goals in the first 50 minutes.

NEWLY-CREATED UNDER-17 WNT DEFEATS SCOTLAND 3-0 IN FIRST INTERNATIONAL GAME:  The newly-created U.S. Under-17 Women's National Team, coached by former Under-19 WNT assistant coach David Smith, gathered in Boca Raton, Fla., last week for the U.S. Youth Soccer Inter-Regional event, its first competition as a team.  After falling short in two consecutive 2-1 losses to Under-18 teams from Region IV and Region III, the U-17s rebounded and blanked the Scotland Under-17 Women’s national Team 3-0 off goals from Stephanie Logterman (Austin, Texas), Amy Rodriguez (Lake Forest, Calif.) and Christina DiMartino (Massapequa, N.Y.) in the U.S. team’s first ever international match at this level.

U-17 MEN TIE FINLAND 1-1, POST 2-0-1 RECORD AT INTER-REGIONAL EVENT IN COCOA: The U.S. Under-17 Men's National Team opened play in the U.S. Youth Soccer Inter-Regional event last weekend with a 2-0-1 record, including a 1-1 draw with Finland in their opening match on Nov. 29 in which U-17 leading scorer Guillermo Gonzalez scored on a penalty kick for a 1-0 lead. The U-17s came back from a 1-0 deficit to defeat Region II 3-1 on goals by Jamie Watson, Michael Harrington and Jose Gomez on Nov. 30, and then downed Region I 4-1 behind two goals from 13-year-old Freddy Adu, as well as strikes from Gonzalez and Eddie Gaven. The U.S. wraps up play in Cocoa with a match tonight (Dec. 2) against a 1986 All-Star team.

U.S. U-17 MNT TO TAKE PART IN 2nd ANNUAL NIKE FRIENDLIES IN FLORIDA FROM DEC. 6-9: U.S. Soccer and Nike are teaming up to host the second annual U.S. Soccer / Nike Friendlies this weekend (Dec. 6-9) at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.  After a successful tournament in 2001, the number of teams in the 2002 invitational swelled from 19 teams in two age groups last year to 28 teams in three age groups this year. The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team will split into two teams – an older team made up primarily of players born in 1986 and a younger team made up primarily of players born in 1987 – with the older team competing in the Under-18 age group and the younger team in the Under-17 bracket. In addition to the two U.S. Under-17 squads, Finland’s U-17 Men’s National Team will compete in the friendlies, as will 25 other teams representing 10 different states.  In all, 50 games will be played over the four-day event. The teams represent some of the finest youth clubs in the U.S., and the participating clubs combined to send 11 teams to the 2002 U.S. Youth Soccer National Championship.
Under-18 Teams: U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team, IMG Academy Team, FC Delco, Colorado Rush, Syracuse Blitz, Blackwatch SC (Florida), Richmond Strikers, Houston Texans, Finland Under-17 MNT, Bethesda Alliance, Sockers FC, Temple Terrace and Nike Northeast Select.
Under-17 Teams: U.S. Under-17 MNT, IMG Academy Team, FC Delco, Colorado Rush, Dallas Texans, Richmond Strikers, Atlanta Fire, Houston Texans, Blackwatch SC (New York), Bethesda Cannons and Blackwatch SC (Fla).
Under-16 Teams: IMG Academy Team, FC Delco, Temple Terrace, Blackwatch SC (Fla.).

UNDER-15 BOYS OPEN FIRST OFFICIAL CAMP UNDEFEATED WITH 2-0-1 MARK: In their first official games since replacing the U-16 Boys program, the U.S. Under-15 Boys National Team opened the U.S. Youth Soccer Inter-Regional event with an undefeated 2-0-1 mark in Cocoa Beach this weekend. Striker Ryan Soroka (Langhorne, Pa.) and outside midfielder Michael Dalpra (Bronxville, N.Y.) led the way with two goals each, including a goal in injury time by Soroka that tied the match at 2-2 in a draw with Region III yesterday. The Under-15 BNT, made up of players born after Jan. 1, 1988, will try to keep its unbeaten streak alive when they finish their four-game series tomorrow (Dec. 3) against Region IV.


MLS ANNOUNCES COMPETITION CHANGES FOR 2003 SEASON: The MLS Competition Committee unveiled details of the league’s 2003 MLS Calendar, which includes significant changes to the regular-season and playoff formats in order to bring MLS in line with the rest of the world's top leagues. MLS Deputy Commissioner Ivan Gazidis, who collaborated with Don Garber to abandon the shootout tiebreaker and the scoreboard clock shortly after the Commissioner's arrival in 1999, outlined the format under which the League's 10 teams will compete next season, including the following:
- 30-game regular season adds two games to regular-season slate and maximizes weekend dates
- 2003 campaign kicks off on Saturday, April 5 live on ABC Sports, with the defending MLS Cup Champion Los Angeles Galaxy facing the 2002 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open cup Champion Columbus Crew at Crew Stadium; MLS Soccer Saturday's "appointment viewing" at 4:00 p.m. ET continues
- Eighth regular season concludes on the weekend of Sunday, October 26, with the 2003 MLS Cup Playoffs commencing on the weekend of November 1
- Eight teams advance to postseason (top four teams from each Conference)
- Conference Semifinal series conducted under a home-and-home, aggregate goal format; one-game Conference Championships determine MLS Cup Finalists
- If a Conference Semifinal series or a Conference Final is tied, then a 30-minute golden-goal overtime and penalty kicks, if necessary, are employed to determine which team advances to MLS Cup 2003
- 2003 Pepsi MLS All-Star Game on July 26 or August 2 at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles
- MLS Cup 2003 on Sunday, November 23, also at the Home Depot Center


PEAK PERFORMER: As she did most of the year for the U.S. Women’s National Team, midfielder Aly Wagner was her team’s offensive spark as Santa Clara rolled to a 3-1 win over Michigan. Wagner provided the cross on Devvyn Hawkins' goal in the 35th minute, made the penetrating pass that led to Veronica Zepeda's goal in the 37th minute, then added an 83rd minute penalty kick goal to make it 3-0 and lead the Broncos to yet another Final Four, where they will defend their NCAA Div. I title in Austin this weekend.

MARQUEE MATCH-UP: The usual suspects have found their way to this weekend’s Women’s Final Four, as perennial powerhouse Portland, the dynasty divas of North Carolina and defending champs Santa Clara have put themselves just two wins from the national championship for the fourth time in the last seven years. Always the bridesmaid, but never the bride, this could be the year for head coach Clive Charles and Portland to claim that first ever national title, but first they must hold off Penn State’s Christie Welsh on Friday (Dec. 6) and then meet the winner of the big Santa Clara-UNC final, which pits the last two national champs head-to-head. The final at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin is Sunday (Dec. 8) and will be broadcast live on ESPN at 2 p.m. CT.

SOCCER SHOCKER: Both #1 seeds in the college game fell this weekend, as Portland shut down Stanford and prevailed 4-2 in penalty kicks after 120 minutes of scoreless play to advance to the Final Four of the NCAA Div. I Women’s College Cup, while #1 Wake Forest was upset by ACC rival Clemson in overtime in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Div. I Men’s College Cup.

“We’re extremely proud of our accomplishments in Korea. Fortunately, we had the opportunity to document what was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the players, coaches and staff and bring it to all of our fans.”
- U.S. MNT head coach Bruce Arena, who served as Executive Producer on the “Our Way” documentary