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.
2021 BIOSTEEL U.S. SOCCER FEMALE PLAYER OF THE YEAR NOMINEES
Lindsey Horan, Midfielder
Horan had another consistently stellar season for club and country, leading the USA in minutes played with 1,707 while starting 18 of her 22 games this year. She finished tied for fourth in goals (6) and tied for second in assists (5), all while playing at both defensive and attacking midfielder. With Julie Ertz injured, Horan played defensive midfielder leading into the Olympics and for the first half of the first Olympic match, distinguishing herself at that position before moving to a more advanced role as the tournament wore on. At the Olympics, she played in all six games, starting five, and was third in minutes played with 499. Horan scored one goal in the OIympics, that coming in her 100th cap during the group play victory against New Zealand. Her two assists vs. Brazil at the 2021 SheBelieves Cup brought her career assist total for the USWNT to 31, making her the 18th player in USWNT history to record 30 or more assists. She tallied her 32nd on Carli Lloyd's first goal in the Olympic bronze medal game. She also scored against Colombia, Jamaica, Mexico, Korea Republic and Australia on the year. The goal against Mexico was of the best goals of Horan’s career and one of the best by a U.S. player of late when she smashed home a full volley early in the game. Against Australia on Nov. 27, she captained the USA for the second time – the first was during her 100th cap celebration match on Oct. 21 – and nailed a critical penalty kick in the 68th minute to clinch the match. It was her 25th career goal, making her the 24th player in USWNT history with 25 or more goals. For the Portland Thorns this season, she played in 14 games and had two goals and three assists while once again showing herself as one of the league’s top two-way midfielders and overall players. She was named to the 2021 NWSL Best XI Second Team. Horan is the only player nominated this year who was also a U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year nominee in 2020.
Rose Lavelle, Midfielder
Lavelle was one of the USA’s best players at the Olympics where she played in all six games, starting four, and scored once. In 2021, she played in 22 games (starting 17) and scored five goals with five assists, all highs for the USWNT in a calendar year for the 26-year-old. Her 1,411 minutes played were fourth on the team. Of her five goals, one was a game-winner vs. Canada in the 2021 SheBelieves Cup, and she also scored against Paraguay, New Zealand (in the Olympics), Korea Republic and Australia. Lavelle enjoyed a triumphant return to her hometown of Cincinnati for the USA’s match on Sept. 21, delighting the huge crowd by the scoring the first goal in the 8-0 win over Paraguay – on a header, no less -- in just the eighth minute and then picked up three assists in the first 15 minutes of the match. In the Olympics, she got the USA going in the penalty shootout victory vs. the Netherlands with a key conversion on the USA’s first attempt. Lavelle has accounted for four of the USA’s 18 game-winning goals (three goals and one assist on game-winners) since the resumption of play in November 2020. Lavelle also had a strong season for OL Reign, playing just over 1,000 minutes in her 12 starts and scoring once to help the Reign to a second-place finish during the regular season.
Carli Lloyd, Forward
In her final year as a USWNT player, it is fitting that Lloyd, twice the winner of this award, gets a final POTY nomination. Incredibly, at age 39 she led the USA in scoring this year with 11 goals and six assists while starting 11 of the 22 matches in which she played. She became the oldest player ever to lead the USA in scoring in a calendar year, breaking her own record set in 2019. She bid farewell to international competitions with a stellar performance in the bronze medal game of the Olympics, scoring two goals in the USA’s 4-3 victory against Australia, including the game-winner. In the Olympics, Lloyd played in all six matches, spanning 304 minutes, and started three games, scoring twice in the bronze medal match to set the USA’s career Olympic scoring record with 10 total goals for the four-time Olympian. Lloyd put in yet another memorable performance of her legendary career on Sept. 16, scoring five times in a 9-0 victory against Paraguay to tie a U.S. record for most goals in a single game. Lloyd’s quintet was only the second time that a player had scored five goals in a friendly match. Lloyd’s last 11 goals came against Argentina at the SheBelieves Cup, against Jamaica, Mexico, Australia (2) and in two games vs. Paraguay (6). The goal against Jamaica, which came after 23 seconds, was the second fastest to start a match in USWNT history. With her final goal, on Sept. 21 vs. Paraguay, she became the oldest player ever to score a goal for the USWNT at 39 years and 67 days old. On April 10 in Stockholm, Lloyd hit an historic milestone by earning her 300th cap in a U.S. uniform. She ended her USA career with 316 caps, good for second all-time in the history of international soccer.
Alyssa Naeher, Goalkeeper
With her performance at the 2020 Olympics, Naeher once again showed why she is one of the top goalkeepers in the world. She had a match for the ages on July 30 against the Netherlands in the Olympic quarterfinal, saving one penalty kick at the end of regulation and two in the shootout while make several crucial saves during regulation and overtime. Unfortunately, she suffered a knee injury in the 22nd minute of the Olympic semifinal and had to leave the match – for the first time in her WNT career -- in the 30th. She did not play again in 2021 for club or country. Before her injury, she played in 14 matches, allowed just seven goals and had eight shutouts. With her shutout wins against Canada on Jan. 18 and Brazil on Jan. 21, she extended her international clean sheet streak to a career-high and all-time U.S. record 10 matches. Naeher had a record of 9-1-3 on the year. She was one of five goalkeepers nominated for the FIFA Best Women’s Goalkeeper of the Year. She played in eight matches for the Chicago Red Stars before the Olympics.
Megan Rapinoe, Forward
Rapinoe had yet another high-achieving year, finishing second (by only one goal) to Carli Lloyd in scoring on the USWNT with 10 goals, two of which were spectacular strikes in the bronze medal match at the Tokyo Olympics. She played in all six matches of the Olympics and 19 matches overall, spanning 1,014 minutes. She also had three assists on the year. Rapinoe tallied against some of the world’s top teams, finding the net against Colombia (2), Brazil, Argentina (2), Sweden, France, Australia (2) and a banger in her final game of the year against the Korea Republic on Oct. 26, a match in which she also had an excellent assist on Alex Morgan’s goal. Rapinoe scored in four consecutive games for the USWNT early in the year, the longest goal-scoring streak of her USWNT career. Her two goals in the Olympics were the first two the USA scored in the bronze medal game and came directly 1) off a corner kick and 2) on a crushed full volley. In the NWSL, she helped OL Reign to a second-place regular season by playing in 12 matches and scoring six goals with three assists.
2021 BIOSTEEL U.S. SOCCER MALE PLAYER OF THE YEAR NOMINEES
Brenden Aaronson, Forward
Brenden Aaronson, 21, established himself as a consistent performer for both the U.S. Men’s National Team and Red Bull Salzburg in 2021. The youngest of the six finalists, Aaronson earned 13 caps and led all USMNT players with seven goal contributions, while his four goals and three assists leave him tied for the team lead in both categories. One of just two players to appear in all eight matches, Aaronson has played a crucial role during the USA’s World Cup qualification effort, registering two goals and an assist along the way. He tallied in the 1-1 draw with Canada (Sept. 5) helped spark the comeback and contributed a goal in the 4-1 win at Honduras (Sept. 8) and provided the assist on Ricardo Pepi’s second goal in the 2-0 win against Jamaica (Oct. 7).
A member of the Concacaf Nations League championship side, Aaronson also registered the assist on Jordan Pefok’s dramatic 90th minute header in the 1-0 semifinal victory against Honduras on June 3 and also scored game-winners in the 4-1 friendly triumph against Jamaica (March 25) and 4-0 win against Costa Rica (June 9).
In January, the Medford, N.J. product transferred from hometown club Philadelphia Union to Red Bull Salzburg of the Austrian Bundesliga where he has totaled nine goals and nine assists in 47 appearances across all competitions this year. Aaronson made an almost immediate impact when he provided an assist in his second match with the club, a 3-0 win against Ried on Jan. 27. The deft attacker would go on to help Salzburg win the Austrian double, scoring in the 3-0 win against LASK Linz in the ÖFB Cup Final on May 1 before helping the club clinch the Austrian Bundesliga title on with a 2-0 win against Rapid Vienna on May 12. He started the new season right where he left off, scoring the winners in both of the club’s 2-1 UEFA Champions League qualifying victories against Brøndby and has featured in all five of Salzburg’s group stage matches this year.
This is Aaronson’s first nomination for Male Player of the Year. He was a finalist for Young Male Player of the Year in 2020.
Kellyn Acosta, Midfielder
The year 2021 marked a resurgence in Kellyn Acosta’s international career. Earning his first cap in nearly two years last December, Acosta played in 19-straight matches and achieved a team-leading 20 appearances – the most by a USMNT player in a calendar year since Landon Donovan did the same in 2002. With the ability to play in both the holding and box-to-box roles, the 26-year-old has given Gregg Berhalter extra flexibility in midfield while providing valuable on-field leadership for the young U.S. side. Acosta is the only player to appear in all three wins against Mexico in 2021, as well as the sole individual to start both the both the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup Championship triumphs against El Trí, the latter of which saw him register the assist on Miles Robinson’s 117th minute winner to claim the Gold Cup on Aug. 1. The Colorado Rapids midfielder has appeared in seven of the eight World Cup qualifying matches thus far, missing only the 1-0 defeat to Panama on Oct. 10.
Acosta showed the same consistency with his club, appearing in 21 matches and recording one goal and two assists to push the Colorado Rapids to the MLS Western Conference Regular Season championship and postseason berth.
This is Acosta’s first nomination for Male Player of the Year.
Christian Pulisic, Forward
Collecting eight appearances and three goals – all of which were game winners -- Christian Pulisic continued to contribute in big moments for the USMNT in 2021. After opening his account by slotting home a penalty kick at Northern Ireland on March 28, Pulisic struck two devastating blows to Mexico within the span of five months. He put home a now iconic 114th minute penalty kick to help the USA claim the inaugural Concacaf Nations League Final on June 6 in Denver. In November, Pulisic came off the bench and scored his his first touch when he nodded home Tim Weah’s cross top open the scoring in the USMNT’s eventual 2-0 World Cup Qualifying defeat of El Trí in Cincinnati. Part of the USMNT since age 17, Pulisic captained the side a career high four times in 2021 – including the Nations League Final as well as in the September World Cup qualifiers against Canada and Honduras.
Pulisic continued to break barriers for American players at club level, becoming the first USMNT player to feature in and win the UEFA Champions League as Chelsea defeated Manchester City 1-0 on May 29 in Porto. Pulisic played a major role in getting the Blues to the pinnacle match in club football, scoring the opening goal in the 1-1 semifinal first leg draw at Real Madrid. He also marked the second multi-goal game of his EPL career, recording a brace in Chelsea’s 4-1 win against Crystal Palace on April 10. Overall, Pulisic made 40 appearances across all competitions for Chelsea, recording six goals and four assists, while also helping the Blues to a runner-up finish in the 2020-21 FA Cup Final and a top four finish in the Premier League.
Weston McKennie, Midfielder
Nominated for the fourth-consecutive time, the 2021 U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year picked up right where he left off, lifting a trifecta of trophies for club and country. At powerhouse Juventus, McKennie became the first U.S. international to win both the Coppa Italia and Italian Super Cup. Finishing the 2020-21 season with five goals in Serie A, he set a new record for goals by an American in the Italian top flight and helped Juve to a fourth-place finish and qualification to 2021-22 Champions League. The momentum carried into the summer for the United States, where his game-tying goal in the inaugural Concacaf Nations League championship led to a 3-2 victory against Mexico and Man of the Match Honors, along with the title of tournament MVP and a spot on the Best XI. McKennie continued to be a nemesis against El Tri, putting the ‘dos’ in Dos a Cero when he scored the insurance goal in the 2-0 win against Mexico in the World Cup Qualifier on Nov 12 in Cincinnati.
Miles Robinson, Defender
A breakout performer for the USMNT, Miles Robinson transformed from promising talent to proven commodity. Leading all U.S. defenders with 13 appearances, he contributed to nine of the 10 clean sheets the USA recorded in 2021. Clearly earning the trust of the staff, he finished as one of three players to start six or more of the eight World Cup Qualifiers. At the attacking end, Robinson became the fifth defender in U.S. history to score three goals in a calendar year. That tally is good for second-most on the squad in 2021, and none was greater than 118th minute game-winner in the 2021 Gold Cup Final against Mexico that came with a championship medial and Man of the Match honors. For Atlanta United he contributed to seven shutouts as the club once again advanced to the MLS playoffs. This is Robinson’s first nomination for Male Player of the Year.
Matt Turner, Goalkeeper
No light is shined brighter on any position more than goalkeeper, and with the results, performances and achievements of a seasoned veteran it’s simply remarkable that this year marked the first for Matt Turner on the USMNT. He capped his inaugural appearance in style, becoming the first U.S. goalkeeper in history to save a penalty kick in his debut on Jan. 31 against Trinidad and Tobago and from there the accomplishments piled up. Backstopping the United States to the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup title, he kept five clean sheets in six matches and won both the Golden Glove and a spot on the tournament Best XI. A five-match shutout streak from July 18-Sept. 2 contributed to a total of eight shutouts overall, tying Kasey Keller’s (2005) record for most shutouts by a USMNT goalkeeper in a calendar year. With 12 appearances to date, he’s already complied the most appearances by a USMNT goalkeeper in their debut year. His successes with the New England Revolution were equally impressive, losing only four matches in 28 games played while amassing 17 wins and five shutouts. Marshalling the Revs to their first Supporters Shield trophy, Turner was honored as MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and a member of the Best XI.
2021 CHIPOTLE U.S. SOCCER YOUNG FEMALE PLAYER OF THE YEAR NOMINEES
2021 U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year Nominee Criteria
Because no Youth National Team matches were played this year due to the global pandemic, players are eligible for the 2021 U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year if they are 23-years-of-age or younger and a) played in a senior WNT match this calendar year or b) played in the 2020 Concacaf U-20 Women’s Championship. Players can win the U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year Award only once.
Mia Fishel, Forward
A center forward who has shown a high level of talent playing back to goal, running behind defenses and smashing in goals in the penalty area, Fishel was one of college soccer’s top players this past season. The 20-year-old Fishel led UCLA in scoring with 12 goals and five assists as the Bruins ran through an unbeaten regular season. She was named First-Team All-Pac-12 and moved into UCLA’s all-time Top 10 for career goals with 32. She led the Pac-12 with six game-winning goals, including the “golden goal” in second overtime against Cal that kept UCLA’s Pac-12 title hopes alive and helped the Bruins to the Pac-12 championship. She was named Third-Team All-American. After the season, she announced her intentions to turn professional. Fishel was a major part of the USA’s U-20 cycle in 2020, winning the Golden Ball at the 2020 Concacaf Women’s Under-20 Championship.
Emily Fox, Defender
The #1 pick in the 2021 NWSL Draft, Fox had an excellent season for Racing Louisville as a rookie, playing 1,856 minutes over 23 matches with 22 starts and rarely leaving the field for the expansion side. The 23-year-old was named to the 2021 NWSL Best XI Second Team and finished second in the voting for NWSL Rookie of the Year. For the USWNT, Fox got call ups for the October and November matches, her first action with the National Team since the training camp before the 2021 SheBelieves Cup, for which she did not make the roster. In the fall, she played in all four matches in October and November, starting three of them, while upping her career senior team cap total to eight. She put in excellent performances on both sides of the ball in each match at outside back, especially against Australia in the final games of the year. She was named Budweiser Woman of the Match for the Nov. 30 match in Newcastle. On Oct. 26 against South Korea, she logged her first 90-minute performance in a U.S. uniform. Fox is a veteran of the USA's last two FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Teams (2016 and 2018 -- the 2020 tournament was cancelled).
Jaelin Howell, Midfielder
Howell, the 2021 MAC Hermann Trophy winner as college soccer’s top player, once again had a banner season for Florida State, helping the Seminoles to a 21-1-2 record and another berth to the NCAA College Cup, where she scored the game-winner in the semifinal to secure FSU’s spot in the championship match. Leading into the NCAA Championship match, the 22-year-old played in 24 matches and scored three goals with four assists from her defensive midfield position, consistently dominating the middle of the pitch. She got a second assist on the game-winning “golden goal” in the NCAA quarterfinal victory over Michigan to send her team to the Final Four. She was named First-Team All-American and the ACC Midfielder of the Year. She is currently a semifinalist for the 2021 MAC Hermann Trophy. She debuted for the USWNT in November of 2020 in the Netherlands, becoming one of the first two players (along with her childhood teammate Sophia Smith) born after the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup to play for the National Team. Howell then got call-ups this year for January training camp and the SheBelieves Cup. She made the SheBelieves Cup roster and earned her one cap this year at the tournament, playing 24 minutes off the bench against Argentina in the tournament finale.
Catarina Macario, Midfielder
Macario had quite a 2021, getting FIFA approval to play for the United States on Jan. 13 and making her debut for the USA on Jan. 18 vs. Colombia in what was her first professional match and first international match at any level. She then made her first USWNT start on Jan. 22 against Colombia and scored her first USWNT goal in less than two minutes. That launched her into an excellent first year with the USA in which she played in 12 matches, starting six, and had three goals and one assist. She made the Tokyo Olympic Team as an alternate, but when the IOC expanded the rosters, she became a full-fledged Olympian and played in one match, coming on as a sub against New Zealand. Macario signed with French powerhouse Olympique Lyonnais in January of 2021 and played in her first league match - and first professional club game -- on Feb. 6 in a 2-1 win over Montpellier. In her first, albeit abridged season in France, she scored six times in 11 games, including a streak at the end of the season when she scored in four consecutive matches. The 22-year-old Macario has started 13 of the 14 games she has played for OL – eight in league and six in Champions League. She has scored 10 goals – seven in league play – including two on Sept. 12 in a 6-0 win over Dijon and most recently in Lyon’s 4-0 victory on Nov. 21 – and three in the Champions League. The 22-year-old is tied for the team lead in scoring with seven goals this season in league play
Trinity Rodman, Forward
Rodman was the youngest player to be drafted in the NWSL history, going to the Washington Spirit with the second overall pick in the 2021 NWSL Draft, and her performances were key in helping the Spirit finish third in the league before going on to win the NWSL championship. The 19-year-old was one of the sensations of the 2021 NWSL season, scoring six goals (including two game-winners) with six assists, which tied for the league lead. She was second in the NWSL in shots and shots on goal. She played in 25 games with 22 starts spanning more than 2,000 minutes and was named the 2021 NWSL Rookie of the Year. Rodman scored in her NWSL Challenge Cup debut, becoming the youngest American to score in NWSL competition. During the regular season she scored against Chicago (twice), Kansas City, New Jersey/New York, North Carolina and Houston. Rodman was a major part of the USA’s U-20 cycle in 2020 and played in the 2018 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.
2021 CHIPOTLE U.S. SOCCER YOUNG MALE PLAYER OF THE YEAR NOMINEES
George Bello, Defender
After making his professional debut for Atlanta United FC at just 16 years old, George Bello earned his first senior USMNT call-up this January ahead of his fourth professional season and played a key role in the USA’s run to the 2021 Gold Cup this summer. After a decorated U.S. Youth National Team career, Bello made his senior debut as a substitute against Trinidad and Tobago on Jan. 31. The left back started two matches at the Gold Cup, including the USMNT’s thrilling extra-time victory against archrival Mexico in the tournament final, and has made two appearances through the first eight games of the World Cup qualifying cycle. The teenager firmly cemented himself as a fixture on Atlanta’s back line this season, playing 29 of 34 regular season games for the club and all four Concacaf Champions League matches. He netted his third professional goal in September while adding three assists on the year and his performances have started to garner the interest of major European clubs.
Gianluca Busio, Midfielder
Midfielder Gianluca Busio made major strides for both club and country in 2021, picking up his first eight senior USMNT caps and lifting the 2021 Gold Cup, excelling for Sporting Kansas City and earning a move to Venezia of the Italian Serie A. A USYNT fixture, Busio earned his first senior team call-up for the Gold Cup campaign, playing in all six of the USA’s matches en route to the continental crown and logging his first National Team assist in the 6-1 group stage win against Martinique. At just 15 years old, Busio became the second-youngest player in Major League Soccer history when he signed with Sporting KC in 2017 and continued to come into his own this season after a standout 2020 campaign. Wearing the No. 10 shirt for SKC, Busio started and played 13 games in the first half of the season, netting two goals and contributing three assists. Shortly after the Gold Cup, Busio completed a transfer to Venezia for a SKC club-record deal and has worked his way into the starting lineup for the recently-promoted Italian side, starting 14 of the club’s 15 games thus far this season and netting his first goal to salvage a draw in stoppage time on. Oct. 1 against Cagliari.
Busio was previously nominated for the award in 2019 for his play with the U-17 USMNT during that year’s Concacaf U-17 Championship and FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Jesús Ferreira, Forward
After a disappointing year in 2020, forward Jesus Ferreira came roaring back in 2021, returning to the National Team fold and making waves for FC Dallas in Major League Soccer. The 20-year-old made his U.S. debut against Costa Rica at the end of the team’s 2020 January camp after gaining his U.S. citizenship in Dec 2019. He started this year off with a bang in one of the most productive performances in team history, netting his first two international goals and adding three assists in a 7-0 win against Trinidad and Tobago on Jan. 31. Ferreira played a key role for the U-23 USMNT at the Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship, appearing in all four matches and netting the game-winning goals against Costa Rica in the tournament opener. The forward tore it up this season for FC Dallas, netting eight goals and logging a team-leading nine assists. A nice run of form in the lead-up to the November international window earned Ferreira a call-up for the USMNT’s November World Cup qualifying matches, appearing in both and helping tee up the USA’s second goal in a 2-0 win against Mexico.
Yunus Musah, Midfielder
After bursting onto the scene last fall as the first player under 18 to start two matches for the USMNT, midfielder Yunus Musah tied his future to the USA this spring, committing to represent the Red, White and Blue despite having eligibility for England, Ghana and Italy. Born in New York City, Musah played in all four of the USMNT’s spring and summer friendlies and has been an important contributor through the first eight matches of World Cup qualifying. He picked up his first assist against Jamaica in Austria this March and set up the game-tying goal in the 2-1 comeback qualifying victory against Costa Rica in October. The 19-year-old put together an impressive first season for La Liga’s Valencia in 2020-21, appearing in 32 of 38 league games and all three Copa del Rey matches while netting a highlight-reel first goal in the top flight. This year, Musah has made an impact off the bench for Los Murcielagos, playing in 11 of 15 matches.
Musah was previously nominated for the award in 2020 after his first USMNT call-up and in the midst of his breakout season with Valencia.
Ricardo Pepi, Forward
It’s been a banner year for club and country for forward Ricardo Pepi. The 18-year-old made one of the most USMNT memorable debuts in recent memory this September, sparking a comeback win in the hostile environs of San Pedro Sula against Honduras in September World Cup qualifying. El Tren catalyzed a second-half offensive explosion, teeing up the game-tying goal, scoring the game-winner, adding another assist and taking a hard shot to set up a fourth and final tally. Pepi continued his hot streak in the October international window, bagging a brace in the USA’s 2-0 win against Jamaica in Austin, and has played in every qualifier since his U.S. debut. The teenage striker also took the next step at the club level, solidifying himself as FC Dallas’ first-choice scoring threat with 13 goals, the most by any American in MLS this season, and became the youngest player to score a hat trick in MLS history this July. The 2021 MLS Young Player of the Year, Pepi was selected to this summer’s MLS All-Star Game, netting the game-winning penalty in a shootout against the Liga MX All-Stars. After mostly serving as a super-sub in 2020, the El Paso, Texas native made a career-high 24 starts in 31 appearances for FCD this season.
Pepi was previously nominated for the award in 2019 following his performance with the U-17 USMNT during its 2019 World Cup qualifying and World Cup campaigns plus a standout first professional season in USL League One with North Texas SC.