U.S. Soccer Player of the Year Nominee Bios

Player of the Year Award

The U.S. Soccer Player of the Year award is the highest honor awarded to soccer players in the United States. The Male and Female Player 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 Young Male and Young Female awards were added in 1998 and Player of the Year with a Disability in 2012.

Votes are collected from National Team and Youth National Team coaches and staff, National Team players who have earned a cap in this calendar year,  American professional soccer league head coaches as well as select media members, former players and administrators.


Julie Ertz, Midfielder
Ertz carried the dominant play she showed in 2017 when she was named the U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year straight into 2018. Ensconced at defensive midfielder, she started 15 of the 16 games she played for the USA this year, playing more than 1,000 minutes for the third time in her career while scoring four goals to up her international total to 18. Her impact was once again impressive, combining world-class ball-winning skills with her ability to strike on goal through set plays and from the run of play. She scored in the first game of the year against Denmark, tallied a crucial goal against Brazil in the Tournament of Nations that helped the USA take the title in a must-win game, and then scored twice in the Women’s World Cup qualifying tournament, against Mexico in the opening game and against Jamaica in the semifinal win that sent the USA to France. She finished the year with 73 career caps. While she missed several club games due to injury, she helped lead the Chicago Red Stars to the NWSL Playoffs, playing 1,126 minutes over 14 games, both at defensive midfielder and center back, and was named to the NWSL Second XI. Ertz was also a finalist for NWSL Defender of the Year.

Lindsey Horan, Midfielder
Still just 24-years-old, Horan had one of the most successful years in her six-year professional career, helping lead the Portland Thorns to the NWSL Championship Game and was named NWSL Most Valuable Player and to the NWSL Best XI. She scored 13 goals, which was third best in the league and also had two assists. She played every minute of all 22 regular games in which she appeared and was the fulcrum of a Thorns attack that scored 40 goals, second only to the champion North Carolina Courage. She also scored the game-winner in the 2-1 semifinal victory over rival Seattle Reign to send her team to the championship game, which it hosted. For the USA, Horan also raised her game in contributing greatly to the USA’s attacking rhythm and defense in the midfield, especially through her aerial abilities, while playing 1,298 minutes in 19 of the USA’s 20 games, 16 of which she started. She scored three goals with eight assists, which was second best on the team behind Megan Rapinoe. Her goals came against Mexico and T&T, as well as a dramatic late-game equalizer against Australia that kept the USA’s unbeaten year and its Tournament of Nations hopes alive. She led the USA in assists during World Cup qualifying with five. Horan is also a nominee for the first France Football Women's Ballon d'Or.

Tobin Heath, Forward
Heath didn’t return to the U.S. lineup until June 12 after completing her long recovery from injury, but she was on fire for the rest of the year, scoring seven goals with six assists in just 10 games over 657 minutes. She averaged a goal or an assist for every 50 minutes on the field in the latter part of the year and scored one of the most important goals of 2018 when she tallied against Brazil in the Tournament of Nations in Chicago. The goal made it 3-1, giving the USA the margin of goal difference it needed to win the title. In her return to the field on June 12, 2018 (she had last played for the USA on Sept. 19, 2017 against New Zealand), she came into the match in the 64th minute and scored the game-winner in the 75th. She also scored against Chile and had four goals in World Cup qualifying. She had several spectacular assists during the year, most notably against Brazil in the Tournament of Nations when her spectacular dribbling run and cross set up Julie Ertz to give the USA a 2-1 lead. The skillful and dynamic Heath was equally as good for the Portland Thorns, for whom she played 1,267 minutes over 17 games and scored seven goals with seven assists. Even though she missed a few games at the start of the campaign, she was still named to the NWSL Best XI. 

Alex Morgan, Forward
In a career of many excellent years, this one was one of Morgan’s best. She ended 2017 on a roll and kept it going throughout the entirety of 2018, scoring 18 goals in 19 games, far and away the most on the U.S. team, while also picking up three assists. Morgan averaged almost a goal a game in 2018 while scoring against nine different countries. She tallied in the first game of the year against Denmark, and also scored against Mexico, China PR, Japan, Brazil, T&T, Jamaica, Canada and Scotland. She had six multiple-goal games, including a hat trick against Japan in the Tournament of Nations, and moved to third place all-time in U.S. history in multiple-goal games, tied with Michelle Akers (26), and behind only Abby Wambach (45) and Mia Hamm (38). She won the Golden Boot as the top scorer in the Concacaf Women’s World Cup qualifying tournament, pounding in seven goals over the five matches. Her two goals in the semifinal win against Jamaica helped send the USA to the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France and she bagged a clinching goal in the Concacaf championship game against Canada. Her 18 goals were her second-most in a calendar year as she terrorized opponents all year long with her speed running at goal and lethal finishing in the penalty area. She finished the year with 98 career goals. For the Orlando Pride in the NWSL, she played in 1,500 minutes over 19 games and had five goals and two assists.

Megan Rapinoe, Forward
Rapinoe was consistently dangerous with her goal-scoring or setting up her teammates this year, and led the USA in assists with 12, tied for her career-high in a calendar year. Seven of Rapinoe’s assists were on Alex Morgan goals. She started all 17 matches she played, logging 1,214 minutes (good for sixth on the team) and had seven goals as well. Her combined goals and assists (19) were highest on the U.S. team for any player besides Morgan (21). Rapinoe’s creative and dynamic flank play was one of the keys to the USA’s success in 2018, as was her leadership in a year in which she captained the team on several occasions. She scored some important goals for the USA in 2018, tallying the game-winner in the 1-0 win against Germany in the SheBelieves Cup and also sent in the cross that England bundled into its own net for a 1-0 win the same tournament. She scored against Mexico in two different games, in a 2-1 win vs. China PR and against Japan in the Tournament of Nations. She also scored against Jamaica in the Concacaf Women’s Championship semifinal to help send the USA to France next summer. Rapinoe was a finalist for NWSL MVP in a year that saw her play 1,315 minutes over 16 games for the Seattle Reign as they finished third in the NWSL. She scored seven goals (tied for 10th in the league) and had six assists (tied for fourth) and was named to the NWSL Best XI. Rapinoe was one of 10 finalists for the 2018 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year and finished fourth in the voting, just one percentage point out of third. She won the 2018 ESPY for Best NWSL player. This was the first year the ESPYs honored a Best NWSL Player. Rapinoe is also a nominee for the first France Football Women's Ballon d'Or. 


Tyler Adams, Midfielder
The youngest of the five nominees, the 19-year-old built off his MNT debut last November in Portugal, racking up eight appearances in 2018 to finish tied for third most on the team. Deployed in central midfield throughout the year, Adams served as the catalyst in the MNT’s 1-0 win against Paraguay on March 27, earning the penalty kick that led to Bobby Wood’s game-winner. Adams bagged his first goal in September, putting home the winner and earning Man of the Match honors in the MNT’s 1-0 victory against regional rivals Mexico. Playing his second full season with the New York Red Bulls, Adams achieved a career-high 27 regular season appearances to go along with seven assists in helping the club win the MLS Supporters Shield with a league-record 71 points. Adams registered another assist in the club’s 3-0 win against Columbus SC in the second leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Weston McKennie, Midfielder
After debuting for the senior team at the end of 2017, McKennie used this year to establish himself as a regular in the MNT midfield. When available, the 20-year-old was a fixture in the center of the park for coach Dave Sarachan, starting each of his six appearances and logging 460 minutes. Tough in the tackle and always working to muck things up in the middle, McKennie put in a memorable shift on June 9 in France, going the full 90 minutes as the USA secured a well-earned 1-1 draw in Les Bleus’ final game before their successful run at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. On the club side, 2018 has been a revelatory one for McKennie, with the midfielder ending the 2017-18 campaign with eight matches down the stretch to help Schalke to a second-place finish and qualification to the UEFA Champions League. Already appearing in 15 matches across all competitions, McKennie has picked up this season where he left off. He memorably scored his first UEFA Champions League and Bundesliga goals in back-to-back matches, tallying a late winner in a 1-0 victory at Lokomotiv Moscow on Oct. 3, before putting home the first goal in a 2-0 win against Fortuna Düsseldorf three days later.

Matt Miazga, Defender
Though he held four appearances coming into the year, Miazga used 2018 to establish his place on the MNT back line. The 23-year-old defender’s seven caps led all MNT center backs in appearances, while his 597 minutes place him third behind only Wil Trapp and Tyler Adams. The Clifton, N.J. product logged 90 minutes to help the MNT keep clean sheets in matching 1-0 victories against Paraguay on March 27 and Mexico on Sept. 11. He also served up the assist on Bobby Wood’s goal, earning Man of the Match honors in the 2-1 defeat to Ireland on June 2. Miazga finished his second season on loan with Dutch side Vitesse strong, playing in 19 of a possible 21 matches during the back half of the Eredivisie campaign. The center back also provided three goals, including the game-winner in the second leg of the Eredivisie’s UEFA Europa League playoff, ensuring European football for the club in his last match. Miazga has appeared in eight more league matches while on loan with French Ligue 1 side Nantes this season.

Zack Steffen, Goalkeeper
One of 19 MNT players to debut in 2018, Steffen stood out among his fellow first-timers. The 23-year-old led all goalkeepers with six appearances, which tied him with Kasey Keller (1990) and Troy Perkins (2009) for most caps by an MNT backstop during his debut year. Steffen kept clean sheets in the MNT’s matching 1-0 victories against Paraguay on March 27 in Cary, N.C. and Mexico on Sept. 11 in Nashville, Tenn. His shining moment came against France on June 9 in Lyon, where the rising goalkeeper made eight saves to help the USA to a 1-1 draw in Les Bleus’ last match before their victorious title run at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Steffen continued to impress during his second full season with Columbus Crew SC, keeping 10 clean sheets in 29 matches while racking up a 12-10-7 record to earn MLS Goalkeeper of the Year honors and helping the club back to the MLS Cup Playoffs. Like he did in 2017, Steffen came up huge again in the postseason, saving two penalty kicks to push Columbus past D.C. United in their shootout victory during the Knockout Round on Nov. 1.

Wil Trapp, Midfielder
The 25-year-old midfielder had just two caps at the start of 2018, but his presence and leadership qualities made him the right person to wear the captain’s armband and lead the side through its transitional year. A fixture in the lineup throughout 2018, Trapp captained the USA in eight of his nine appearances, finishing tied with Bobby Wood for most MNT caps in 2018, while his 714 minutes led all 53 players who took the field. Trapp also ends 2018 as the only MNT player to earn multiple Man of the Match awards, taking the honor in the USA’s 1-0 victory against Paraguay on March 27 in Cary, N.C. and 1-1 draw with Peru on Oct. 16 in East Hartford, Conn. On the club side, the stout holding midfielder received MLS Goal of the Week honors for his stoppage-time winner from distance on July 21 against Orlando City SC. Trapp appeared in 30 matches for Columbus Crew SC, captaining the side back to the MLS Cup Playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons.


Tierna Davidson, Defender
Davidson attended the U.S. WNT’s annual January training camp in Los Angeles, and then at the age of 19, earned her first senior team cap, starting and playing the full 90 minutes in the USA’s first match of the year, a 5-1 victory against Denmark in which she picked up the game-winning assist on a goal by Julie Ertz. She then traveled Trinidad & Tobago to join the U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team for World Cup Qualifying, playing in the 2018 Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship and helping the USA earn a berth to the World Cup while scoring in the title game. After that, the skillful and remarkably-poised lefty firmly established herself with the senior side, playing 1,049 minutes while starting all 12 games in which she played this year, mostly at center back but with some action at left back. Her second, third and fourth caps were serious tests that she passed with honors as she played every minute of the 2018 SheBelieves Cup, against Germany, France and England. Davidson played 90 minutes against Mexico on April 5 and when she came out of the game in the 60th minute on April 8 against Mexico, it was the first time she left the field for the WNT all year. She scored her first career goal on Aug. 31 against Chile on a header from a Tobin Heath corner kick. After helping lead Stanford to an NCAA title last season, the 5-foot-10 Davidson kicked off her junior season this year and scored on a diving header vs. UC Davis in the opener, but in just her third game on Sept. 9, she fell victim to a bad tackle which broke her ankle and she has not played since as she continues to rehabilitate. Now 20-years-old, she was the third teenager since 2013 to earn a first cap for the WNT. Mallory Pugh (17 in 2016) and Lindsey Horan (19 in 2013) are the most recent teenagers to debut for the senior squad.

Sunshine Fontes, Forward
Fontes, the first Hawaiian to make a youth World Cup roster, had one of the greatest individual years of any U.S. Youth Women’s National Team player ever. This year, Fontes set the record for most career goals for a U.S. U-17 WNT player and headed into the World Cup with 22 before bagging a brace in the first Group C game to up her career total to 24. She set the U-17 WNT record with a goal against Mexico on Oct. 12 at the U.S. Soccer U-17 Women’s Invitational. Her 22 international goals in 2018 are the most in a calendar year since Kelly Wilson scored 23 for the U.S. U-19 WNT in 2002. The 17-year-old out of Wahiawa on the island of O’ahu earned 32 career U-17 caps, most of any player during this cycle. She put together four multiple-goal performances for the U-17s this year, including four-goal outbursts against Venezuela in January and Argentina in February. She represented the USA at the 2018 Concacaf Women’s U-17 Championship in Nicaragua and Bradenton, Fla., appearing in all five games during the team’s confederation championship campaign, netting five goals and adding an assist. An extraordinary finisher with both feet, she scored the game-tying goal and tallied another in the USA’s comeback win over Haiti in the semifinal that clinched its World Cup berth. She is currently a senior at Pearl City High School in Pearl City, Hawaii and plays her club soccer with the Hawaii Rush, where she led the league in scoring while playing up at the U-19 level.

Maya Doms, Midfielder
One of the most-experienced players on the USA’s 2018 U-17 Women’s World Cup team, the 17-year-old out of Davis, Calif. has tremendous skills and a non-stop motor in the middle for the USA. She finished her U-17 career with 29 caps and 11 goals, notably scoring the tournament-winning goal at the 2018 Concacaf Women’s U-17 Championship against Mexico. She tied for most assists on the U-17 WNT this year. Doms appeared in four matches for the USA en route to a World Cup berth and the tournament title at the Concacaf Championship, scoring three goals. Currently a senior at Davis Senior High School in Davis, Calif., she has played her club soccer with the Davis Legacy since the U-10 level. 

Sophia Jones, Midfielder
The midfielder general for the USA’s 2018 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup team, she became a leader and a consistently impactful presence over the cycle. The crafty holding midfielder was one of the team’s minutes leaders in 2018 and represented the USA at the 2018 Concacaf Women’s U-17 Championship in Nicaragua and Bradenton, Fla. where she played the full 90 minutes in four of the USA’s five games, including the World Cup-clinching semifinal against Haiti and the tournament final versus Mexico. She finished her U-17 WNT career with 19 caps and one goal, scored against Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying. The 17-year-old is currently a senior at the Menlo School in Atherton, Calif. and plays her club soccer for the San Jose Earthquakes. She participated in the inaugural season of the U.S. Soccer Girls’ Development Academy in 2017-18, leading the Quakes to the Academy Playoff Semifinals while earning West Conference Player of the Year honors at the U-16/17 level, as well as a spot on the West Conference Best XI.

Allyson Sentnor, Midfielder
The 14-year-old out of Hanson, Mass. (the same hometown as U.S. WNT player Samantha Mewis, and her sister Kristie, who has also been capped by the senior side), Sentnor was born in 2004, making her natural age group this year the U-14 Girls’ National Team, but did not appear in a U-14 camp this year. Instead, she saw most of her time with the U-15 Girls’ National Team, but also played up with the U-16 GNT and U-17 WNT during 2018. For the U-15 GNT, she scored two international goals this year, tallying against the Netherlands and Japan to up her career U-15 total to seven goals in seven international games after playing for the U-15s as a 13-year-old last year. Slight in size, but extremely sophisticated technically and tactically, she is entirely two-footed, a dribbler of unusual creativity and can also play back-to-goal from the center forward position. The talented goal scorer plays her club soccer for South Shore Select SC out of eastern Mass.


Alex Mendez, Midfielder
Mendez led the U.S. U-20 MNT to the Concacaf U-20 Championship title, taking home the Golden Ball as the competition’s top player at just 18-years-old, and leading the U-20s in minutes played. The attacking midfielder tallied eight goals and added six assists for the USA in the tournament, and while the U-20s had no trouble finding the back of the net in Bradenton, his scoring came at the team’s most crucial junctures: bagging a brace in the championship match against Mexico and netting the opening goal in the World Cup-clinching game vs. Costa Rica. On the year, Mendez appeared in 14 of the U-20s’ 15 international matches and will serve as a key figure for the team as it prepares for next summer’s 2019 U-20 World Cup in Poland. At the club level, Mendez captained LA Galaxy to the U-18/19 Academy Championship Final and was named to the Development Academy West Conference Best XI. He scored five goals during the team’s six-game playoff run, including an incredible free kick from outside the penalty area in a deadlocked semifinal against Vancouver Whitecaps FC to send the Galaxy to the final. Mendez also made his professional debut in 2018, appearing in six games for the United Soccer League’s LA Galaxy II and netting his first professional goal on another free kick on July 1. In October, the midfielder signed with German club SC Freiburg, where he’ll look to become the latest in a long line of Americans to break out in the Bundesliga.  

Ulysses Llañez, Forward
At the 2018 Concacaf U-20 Championship, Llañez served as a spark-plug for an electric U.S. attack that scored 46 goals, an average of over five per game. He notched an assist just two minutes after taking the field in his opening appearance as a sub against Puerto Rico and didn’t slow down, scoring seven goals and adding three more assists at the tournament. He followed up his debut with a hat trick and three assists against the U.S. Virgin Islands in the U-20s’ second game and continued to produce through the rest of the tournament, including a goal against Costa Rica in the qualification stage to help the USA clinch its World Cup berth. Just 17 years old, Llañez will not only have the opportunity to play at next summer’s World Cup, he is also eligible for the 2020-21 U-20 World Cup cycle. The forward was named U.S. Soccer Development Academy West Conference Player of the Year at the U-16/17 level though he spent the season playing up and helping lead the U-18/19 team to the Academy Championship Final. Llañez started every game of the Galaxy’s playoff run, scoring three goals. Llañez also saw professional action with LA Galaxy II in the USL, appearing in 10 matches and netting two goals.

Mark McKenzie, Defender
While the offense put up fireworks for the U-20 MNT at the 2018 Concacaf U-20 Championship, McKenzie led a stout back line that helped secure the USA’s second-ever confederation title. The leader in minutes-played for the U-20s in 2018, McKenzie starred for a unit that allowed just two goals over the tournament’s eight games, keeping clean sheets in 1-0 and 4-0 qualification stage victories against Costa Rica and Honduras as well as the tightly-contested 2-0 championship victory against Mexico. The center back also contributed on the offensive end, bagging a brace against the U.S. Virgin Islands and adding two more goals in the group stage. McKenzie enjoyed a breakout season at the club level with the Philadelphia Union, playing a key part for the team’s back-line alongside 2017 U-20 World Cup alum Auston Trusty. McKenzie played 20 league games and logged 1,719 minutes for the Union in 2018, helping the team clinch the Eastern Conference’s sixth and final playoff spot and starting the team’s lone postseason match. The New York native was also crucial in the Union’s run to the U.S. Open Cup Final, going the full 90 in three games, including the final against Houston. For his efforts, McKenzie earned a spot in the MLS Homegrown Game as one of the league’s top young talents.

Giovanni Reyna, Midfielder
A key figure for the U-17 MNT, Reyna will feature for the team at the upcoming 2018 Nike International Friendlies. He kicked off the U-17s’ year with a bang at April’s Sportchain Cup in Benicassim, Spain, scoring the title-clinching goal against Norway in stoppage time. Reyna also captained the 17s as they split two summer friendlies against Mexico in Costa Rica. At the club level, Reyna led New York City FC U-18/19 to the Academy Championship in the club’s first year participating at that age group and took home U-16/17 East Conference Player of the Year honors. Playing up with the U-18/19 squad, Reyna was instrumental in the team’s playoff run, starting every game and scoring a crucial goal in the final group stage game against FC Dallas to ensure NYC’s advancement. The midfielder went the full 120 minutes against LA Galaxy in the final and hammered home the first penalty kick in the championship-deciding shootout.

Tyler Freeman, Forward
Freeman had a busy year with the Youth National Teams in 2018, kicking things off with the U-16 Boys’ National Team at the vaunted Torneo delle Nazioni in Gradisca, Italy. A strong showing in two group stage games helped the USA qualify for the semifinals of the ever-competitive competition, where Freeman scored the U-16s’ lone goal against Slovenia. With the teams deadlocked at one after full-time, Freeman took and converted the USA’s first penalty, but the team ultimately fell 6-5. The forward’s performance earned him a call-up to the U-17 MNT for the team’s summer trip to Costa Rica, and he scored in his first appearance with the team against Los Ticos. In October, Freeman became the ninth youngest MLS players ever when he signed a Homegrown contract with Sporting Kansas City at 15 years, 266 days old. He’s spent time this season with the club’s U-16/17 and U-18/19 Academy teams.


Braden Anderson, Midfielder – Deaf Men’s National Team
Braden Anderson, who has been deaf since birth, joined the U.S. DMNT in 2017. As a midfielder on the U.S. DMNT, Anderson was the leading goal scorer in 2018, and most recently tallied two of the U.S. DMNT’s three goals during their match in July. Anderson hails from Boise, Idaho, and is a member of the Boise Nationals Timbers Soccer Club, which won the 2018 Idaho State Championship and was a semi-finalist in the 2018 US Youth Soccer Far West Presidents Cup regional championship.

Nico Calabria, Forward – Amputee National Team
Nicolai “Nico” Calabria had an outstanding 2018 for the U.S. Amputee National Team, scoring six goals, and dishing out four assists while captaining the squad for a fourth straight year. He opened his 2018 account by scoring two goals and had an assist in an invitational tournament in Houston that included England and Haiti. At the 2018 World Cup in San Juan de los Lagos in Jalisco, Mexico, from Oct. 25 to Nov. 4, Calabria led the U.S., scoring four goals (one against tournament runners-up Turkey) and providing three assists. These were no tap-ins; he scored with his head or foot, while both assists required impressive athleticism and ingenuity. Calabria was born with one leg and hip and started using forearm crutches at the age of five when he took up the sport of soccer which he has played ever since. At age 17, he was named to the U.S. National Amputee Soccer Team. He has since captained the team at the 2014, 2016, and 2018 World Cup tournaments and is the all-time leading scorer for the U.S. with 17 international goals.

Gracie Fitzgerald, Defender – Deaf Women’s National Team
Gracie Fitzgerald joined the U.S. DWNT as a defender in 2015. Now 19, her stellar performances, which included a goal against Great Britain during the most dominant Deaf World Cup run in U.S. DWNT’s history earned her a place on the Best XI All-World Cup Team. She also recently completed a spectacular sophomore season, starting in the back for No. 4-ranked Centre College, which made a good run to the NCAA Div. III third round where the team fell to No. 15 Wheaton College, 2-1, to finish their season with a 21-1 record.  She tallied two goals in the Southern Athletic Association playoffs with a beautiful headed goal in the Final. 

Nick Mayhugh, Midfielder – Para 7-a-side National Team
Nick Mayhugh is the starting center midfielder for the U.S. Para 7-a-side National Team and, in what is only his second season with the team, has made a significant impact on the squad. Mayhugh, a forward for Division I Radford University, has had an outstanding year with the team that peaked during the 2018 IFCPF Copa America, finishing in Bronze Medal position which qualified the USA for the 2019 IFCPF World Cup and the 2019 IPC Para Pan American Games. During the Copa America, at an altitude of 9,800 meters in Ecuador, Nick played a total of 300 minutes, scored 6 goals, had 6 assists and covered a total distance of 44,000 meters. Nick’s tireless running and desire to make the difference in games has made him a mainstay of the USPNT, and at 22 years of age, there is more to come from this talented attacking midfielder.