U.S. Soccerâ€™s Male and Female Athletes of the Year awards are the oldest and most prestigious awards of their kind, dating back to 1984 for the Men and 1985 for the Women. The finalists for each award were nominated on the basis of: a) competing and excelling at the highest level (both at the National Team and professional level) during the calendar year; b) exhibiting decorum on and off the field which reflects well on U.S. Soccer; and c) contributing toward the growth, development, credibility and popularization of soccer in the USA.
The five finalists for the Young Female awards are listed below in alphabetical order:
U.S. Soccer Young Female Athlete of the Year Candidates
Lori Chalupny, Defender
With just two starts for the full Womenâ€™s National Team coming into this year, the 21-year-old Chalupny started six games in 2005, including all four at the prestigious Algarve Cup, where she played left back for the first time in her soccer career. A midfielder by trade, Chalupnyâ€™s defending and attacking play against some of the worldâ€™s top teams and players might have foreshadowed the USAâ€™s left back of the future. She scored her second career goal for the WNT against Canada on June 26, opening the scoring with a fantastic volley in the 2-0 win. Chalupny also played a key role for the U.S. Under-21 WNT that won the Nordic Cup for the unprecedented seventh time in a row. She started six matches for the U-21s in 2005, scoring two goals, including a world-class strike from distance against Norway in the 4-1 Nordic Cup championship game win. One of the top college players in the country, she helped lead the University of North Carolina to a 17-1-0 record heading into the ACC Tournament while scoring eight goals and four assists during her senior year.
Lauren Cheney, Forward
The 18-year-old Cheney saw time with the U.S. U-20, U-21 and full Womenâ€™s National Teams in 2005. A powerful forward, she was the youngest member of the USAâ€™s 2005 Nordic Cup Team, playing in all four matches in Sweden while starting two. She scored twice, including a goal in the 4-1 championship game win over Norway, but more impressively had an assist in each game. She participated in two training camps with the U.S. Womenâ€™s National Team during the year and will likely be a key player in the U-20s run to the 2006 FIFA U-20 Womenâ€™s World Championship to be held in Russia next August.
Carli Lloyd, Midfielder
The dynamic midfielder got her first two senior caps in 2005, playing against Iceland and Mexico. Lloyd played the entire second half of the USAâ€™s final game of 2005 against the Mexicans, coming close to her first goal on several occasions and showed extremely well from the attacking midfield spot. The 23-year-old is a long-time veteran of the U.S. youth national teams and led the U-21s in scoring in 2005 with seven total goals and three assists. She played in her third Nordic Cup tournament with the U.S. U-21s this past summer, starting all four games in Sweden while scoring three goals with two assists. She tallied twice against Denmark and also scored in the 4-1 championship game win over Norway in the Nordic Cup final.
Amy Rodriguez, Forward
After a meteoric rise in under a year from the U.S. U-17s, to the U-19s to the U-21s to the full National Team, the explosive forward earned her first two senior caps in 2005, playing against Finland and Denmark at the 2005 Algarve Cup. The 18-year-old freshman at the University of Southern California was a member of the USAâ€™s 2005 U-21 Nordic Cup Team, helping the USA to the championship for the seventh consecutive year. She played in all four matches in Sweden, starting two. The 2004 Gatorade and Parade Girlâ€™s High School Player of the Year, she is a veteran of the USAâ€™s 2004 U-19 squad that finished third at the FIFA U-19 Womenâ€™s World Championship in Thailand. She is the leading scorer this fall for the Women of Troy, having scored six goals with six assists heading into the final weekend of the Pac-10 season.
Jill Oakes, Defender
The rock-solid Oakes, who was a key part of the USAâ€™s 2002 U-19 World Championship-winning team, earned her first senior cap at the 2005 Algarve Cup against Denmark, playing defensive midfield and almost scoring a header on one of her first touches of the game. The remarkably skillful and powerful Oakes played in her third Nordic Cup tournament with the U-21s this past summer, playing every minute of all four matches in the center of the defense while anchoring a back line that allowed just two goals in the tournament. Oakes has been a star for the UCLA Bruins during her senior year this fall, scoring three goals with three assists from the back line in leading the Bruins to a 15-1-2 record heading into the final weekend of Pac-10 play.