Previous Werner Fricker Award Recipients:
Esfandiar “Esse” Baharmast
Dr. S. Robert Contiguglia
Werner Fricker, Sr.
Year Honored: 2002
Involved in the sport as a player and administrator for nearly 40 years, Werner Fricker was one of the first true soccer pioneers in the United States and brought about the sport's modern revolution in this country by leading the successful bid to host the 1994 FIFA World Cup.
Born in Karlsdorf, Yugoslavia, of German and Hungarian heritage, Fricker immigrated to the United States in 1952. As a player, Fricker captained the Philadelphia German-Hungarians from 1958 to 1969, winning the 1965 U.S. Amateur Cup. He was also a defensive midfielder for the U.S. team that attempted to qualify for the 1964 Olympics.
After his playing career, Fricker stayed involved in the game by working for the U.S. Soccer Federation and was instrumental in building the framework for the growth of soccer in the United States. During his time at the Federation, which included six years as President, Werner created the Women's National Team program, and the Under-20 and Under-17 Men's National Team programs.
In addition to the creation of various programs within U.S. Soccer, Fricker turned the Federation into a viable business. In Fricker's last year with the Federation in 1990, the U.S. made its first World Cup appearance in 40 years. In recognition of all his contributions to the game, Fricker was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1992.
Year Honored: 2003
Elected U.S. Soccer President in 2006 and re-elected in 2010, Sunil Gulati has more than 30 years of experience at all levels of soccer in the United States and has helped the sport rise to new heights.
The native of Allahabad, India, has played an important role in the development of U.S. Soccer since the early 1980s and has been intimately involved in the rise of the U.S. National Teams to prominence. Gulati continues his mission of improving soccer in the United States by taking an active approach on improving the structure and development of the sport in the country, while also reaching out to broaden the organization's relationships within the international community.
Gulati currently serves as the President of Kraft Soccer Properties, taking the position after serving as Major League Soccer's Deputy Commissioner from its launch until 1999. For more than 10 years he has taught economics at Columbia University.
He served as U.S. Soccer's Executive Vice President from 2000 to 2006 before stepping into his role as President. He has held numerous other positions for U.S. Soccer, including Managing Director of National Teams, Chairman of the International Games Committee, Chairman of the Technical Committee, and as a member of the bid committee for the 1994 FIFA World Cup.
He was also the original Managing Director of U.S. Soccer's Project 2010 and served as Chairman of both U.S. Cup '92 and U.S. Cup '93, two events that helped showcase U.S. Soccer's rise and prepare the organization for the upcoming 1994 FIFA World Cup. Additionally, Gulati served on the Board of Directors of FIFA Women's World Cup USA 1999 and 2003.
Gulati is a member of the Board for the U.S. Soccer Foundation, the CONCACAF Executive Committee and represents U.S. Soccer as Chairman of CONCACAF National Team Competitions Committee. At the FIFA level, Gulati serves on the FIFA Confederations Cup committee as well as the FIFA Ticketing Subcommittee.
Year Honored: 2005
Gerhard Mengel has been an active part of the soccer community in the United States since 1958, when he was a player, coach and manager of the Carpathia Kickers of Detroit, a team that won four consecutive League Championships from 1958 to 1962 and won the National Amateur Cup in 1962. In 1975, he was inducted to the Michigan Amateur Sports Hall of Fame.
Born in Germany, Mengel's devotion to the growth of soccer in the U.S. is reflected in his work in his adopted home state of Michigan, where he has founded or co-founded soccer clubs, leagues and referee associations and has served as state president since 1997. In 1964, Mengel founded the Flint Yankee Soccer Club, in 1973 he co-founded the Central Michigan Soccer League and in 1976 he founded the Central Michigan Soccer Referees Association in which he is still active. Most recently, the National Men's Over-30 Competition was renamed the Gerhard Mengel Over-30 National Cup.
A Referee Emeritus, referee instructor and referee assessor, Mengel was an active State Referee from 1972 until 1993 and has been a referee instructor since 1976. He also served as the National Cup Commissioner for the United States Adult Soccer Association Region II between 1982 and 1997, when he was made chairman of the National Cups Committee.
Recipient of the Region II Pat Smith Referee Award, he was inducted into the Michigan Amateur Sport Hall of Fame in 1975, the Michigan Soccer Hall of Fame in 1985, and in 2002 the Michigan Youth Soccer Hall of Fame.
Year Honored: 2006
Salvatore Rapaglia was born in Sicily, Italy, and began his soccer participation in this country at the age of 15 after immigrating to the U.S. He began to play soccer in local youth leagues, later graduating to adult leagues in New York. Rapaglia eventually became a coach, and then moved to the administrative side of the sport.
After becoming recording secretary of the Italian-American Soccer League, Rapaglia moved up the ranks until he became the league President in 1975. He stepped down as President of the IASL when he assumed a similar position with the Eastern New York Amateur Soccer Association (ENYSASA) in 1979, a position in which he has served for more than 25 years. In 1990, he was elected president of Eastern New York Soccer State Association.
Under Rapaglia's guidance, the ENYSASA developed Offerman Park into a 10-field soccer complex known as Verrazzano Park that included one lighted field.
Rapaglia has held numerous positions within U.S. Soccer, serving on the Professional Committee and the U.S. Soccer Coaching Committee.
Year Honored: 2007
Born in Portugal, Francisco Marcos has served as President of United Soccer Leagues since the organization's inception in 1986. A 1968 graduate of Hartwick College, Marcos not only played soccer but was the editor of the school newspaper, started the Empire State Soccer League and launched the magazine Soccer Monthly, which eventually became the official magazine of the U.S. Soccer Federation.
Marcos founded American International Sports Exchange, the first American company to develop soccer tours for teams in the United States. Between 1974 and 1984, Marcos spent 10 years with the North American Soccer League (NASL). He spent eight years with the Tampa Bay Rowdies as director of public relations and vice president of soccer operations. Marcos joined the NASL's Dallas Tornado in 1978, where he was vice president of player personnel.
In 1986 Marcos founded the Southwest Indoor Soccer League (SISL), which played host to the first national indoor amateur and youth tournaments. The league system would evolve from there to encompass three levels of senior men's play, the first national women's league, (W-League) and the first competitive North American system of youth leagues (Super Y-League).
He has served on the board of directors of U.S. Soccer, the U.S. Soccer Foundation, the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, and the U.S. Soccer Governing task force. He was inducted into Hartwick College's Hall of Fame in 2001 and into USL's own Hall of Fame in 2002.
Year Honored: 2008
Born in Hungary in 1941, Bob Gansler began as a premier player in the United States during the 1960s as he appeared 25 times for the U.S. National Team between 1963 and 1969. He captained the 1964 and 1968 Olympic Teams as well as the 1967 Pan American Team. He won 12 state championships with the Wisconsin State Amateur League from 1960-1976.
Following his playing career he made the transition to coaching and quickly became one of the best coaches in America. He served as the head coach at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee from 1984 to 1988. In addition, he coached the U.S. Under-20 National Team for three years (1987-89) and the Under-19 National Team for four years (1979-82).
Gansler was the coach of the U.S. Men's National Team from 1989 to 1991 and is most renowned for leading the team during the 1990 World Cup. Following his tenure with the National Team, Gansler served as the head coach for the A-League's Milwaukee Rampage from 1996 through 1998, leading his team to the A-League Championship in 1997. In 1999, he was named the head coach of the Kansas City Wizards and served in that capacity until 2006. In 2000, his team finished the season with the best overall record in MLS, going on to win the MLS Cup Championship while he earned Major League Soccer's Coach of the Year honors.
Gansler has been a national instructor for U.S. Soccer and the National Soccer Coaches Association since 1975. In 1994, he was named a FIFA Instructor. In 2000, he received the Walt Chyzowych Award for achievement and dedication to the growth of soccer.
Year Honored: 2009
Alan I. Rothenberg is one of the most influential administrative figures in the history of North American soccer. In his first major step into soccer, Rothenberg headed an investment group that bought the Los Angeles Aztecs in 1977, selling the team after three seasons in 1980. A few short years later he was involved with soccer once again, serving as the commissioner of soccer for the 1984 Olympic Games.
In 1990, Rothenberg became President of the United States Soccer Federation, a position he would hold until 1998. Under Rothenberg's guidance as Chairman and CEO of the Organizing Committee, the 1994 FIFA World Cup became a major success, setting records for attendance. Fulfilling a promise to FIFA made as part of the World Cup bid, he oversaw the establishment of Major League Soccer, the first full-time Division I U.S. professional league since the NASL. He went on to serve as Chairman of the Board of the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup. In the past, he served as a member of the Board of Directors of the North American Soccer League and Chairman of Aztec Sports Limited (owner of the Los Angeles Aztecs of the North American Soccer League).
Rothenberg also served as a member of the USSF executive committee and as a Vice President of CONCACAF.
Among many honors accorded Mr. Rothenberg, the inaugural MLS Championship Trophy was named the Alan I. Rothenberg Cup. He is a recipient of FIFA's Order of Merit and the United States Olympic Committee Foundation's George Steinbrenner Award for Lifetime Distinguished Service to the Olympic Movement, and is a member of the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame.
Dr. S. Robert Contiguglia
Year Honored: 2010
Dr. S. Robert Contiguglia, one of the United States' most experienced soccer leaders, was elected president of U.S. Soccer in 1998. His election as head of the nation's national governing body of soccer highlighted a three-decade career in which he excelled as a player, coach and administrator at nearly every possible level of the game. As with so many Americans, Dr. Contiguglia, a successful kidney specialist by training, began his soccer love affair as a player and coach and ultimately he pursued soccer administration at the youth level.
During his tenure as U.S. Soccer President, several important soccer milestones were achieved, highlighted by the U.S. Women's National Team championship victory in the spectacularly successful 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup, the largest women's sporting event in history. He presided over the tremendous run to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Men's National Team in the 2002 Korea/Japan FIFA World Cup, and an Olympic Gold Medal won by the U.S. Women's National Team at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
The native of New York has been involved at the top echelons of soccer since 1981, when he was first elected president of the Colorado State Youth Soccer Association, a position which was merely the first in a remarkably active and varied career. His expertise at the state level quickly resulted in a number of national committee positions and assignments. He was named as the youth representative to the U.S. Soccer coaching committee in 1983, and just a year later he was appointed to a term as chairman of that body and was also named the Federation's delegate to the U.S. Olympic Committee.
He truly began to make his mark nationally in 1990, when he was elected chairman of the U.S. Youth Soccer Association. He guided the USYSA to a multi-million youth membership level and a position of enormous influence within the North American soccer world.
Contiguglia served for six years (1990-1996) as chairman of the USYSA, during which time he also was a member of the Executive Committee of U.S. Soccer. He continued to serve on the U.S. Soccer National Board of Directors as chairman of the coaching committee until his election as president.
Kevin J. Payne
Year Honored: 2011
After careers as an award-winning radio journalist in New York City and as a marketing and special events executive in Vail, Colo. Kevin Payne has accumulated more than 20 years' experience at the highest levels in the soccer industry. In 1989, Payne became the National Administrator for U.S. Soccer Federation and in 1990 he was named Deputy Executive Director and Director of Marketing for the Federation. In 1991, he left the Federation and moved to New York where he became the Executive Vice President and, ultimately, the President of Soccer USA Partners, which owned all marketing, broadcast and event promotion rights to the U.S. National Team leading up to the 1994 and 1998 World Cups.
In 1994, Payne created the first ownership group for D.C. United, and the team began play in Major League Soccer in 1996. Since then, D.C. United has become the most successful team in United States professional soccer history, boasting 12 major domestic and international championships. Payne served as the President and General Manager of D.C. United from inception until 2001.
In 2001, he joined AEG as Senior Vice President and Managing Director of AEG Soccer which oversaw six MLS teams. In 2004, he returned to D.C. United as President and CEO, a position he still holds.
Payne is a founding member of the MLS/SUM Board of Governors, has served as a board member and Chairman of the Technical Committee for the U.S. Soccer Federation, is the Vice Chairman of the U.S. Soccer Foundation, and is a member of the FIFA Standing Committee for Club Football. Payne is also a founding board member of the Greater Washington Sports Alliance and a member of the Federal City Council in Washington, D.C.
Year Honored: 2012
Hank Steinbrecher is a former U.S. Soccer CEO/Secretary General and a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame. Steinbrecher was the CEO/Secretary General of U.S. Soccer from 1990-2000 and was instrumental in bringing soccer to prominence in the United States. In his more than nine years with the Federation, Steinbrecher oversaw the staging of two of the most successful Men's and Women's World Cups, held in the United States in 1994 and 1999, respectively.
By the end of Steinbrecher's tenure, both the Men's and Women's National Teams reached new levels of success and developed an undeniable national presence. The U.S. Men had competed in three World Cups, won the inaugural CONCACAF Gold Cup in 1991 and finished third in two FIFA Confederations Cups. The U.S. Women earned two World Cup titles in 1991 and 1999 and an Olympic gold medal in 1996.
Steinbrecher moved U.S. Soccer's offices from Colorado Springs to Chicago and changed the Federation logo to the current red, white and blue shield with the shooting soccer ball. He held the 1993 Soccer Summit and implemented Project 2010 and Project Gold, which were designed to chart the future of developing the Men's and Women's programs. He also ensured the future growth of soccer in the U.S. by increasing both the coaching and referee programs.
A lifelong fan of the game, the New York native grew up playing soccer and won an NAIA national championship at Davis & Elkins College in 1970. He graduated in 1971 and earned a Master's Degree from West Virginia University in 1972. Steinbrecher launched his career in soccer as the head coach and athletic director at Warren Wilson College. He later became the soccer head coach at Appalachian State and then Boston University.
He was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in the Class of 2005 as a Builder and joined former U.S. stars Marcelo Balboa, John Harkes and Tab Ramos, who were inducted as players that same year. Steinbrecher became the Chairman of the Hall of Fame's Board of Directors in June of 2011.Steinbrecher and his wife, Ruth Anne, reside outside Chicago in Glen Ellyn, Ill., and have two sons, Chad and Corey.
Year Honored: 2014
Richard Groff has been an integral part of the growth of the game in the United States for more than 30 years.
After 15 years coaching youth club teams, Groff became the Vice President of Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Association in 1986. In 1988, he became the President of EPYSA, an honor that he held until 1991. Under his leadership membership doubled in size, financial assets tripled, and EPYSA became a national leader in coaching education, camps, and insurance for youth soccer teams and clubs.
In 1989, Groff promoted the Men's U.S. National Team's match against Dnepr, a Soviet Club Team, at Franklin Field in Philadelphia, Pa., helping U.S. Soccer earn an unprecedented attendance at the time for a U.S. National Team friendly. Groff was then appointed business and events manager for the U.S. National Team and developed and promoted the team's pre-World Cup Italia '90 Northeast Tour. He also served as a member of the official USA Team Delegation to the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy.
Following the World Cup, Groff was elected treasurer of U.S. Soccer and served until 1994. During this time, Groff helped develop the U.S. Cup as an international tournament in the United States in advance of the 1994 FIFA World Cup and the Chiquita Cup, the first international women's soccer tournament in the United States. The Chiquita Cup evolved to become what was known as the U.S. Women's Cup.
Groff acted as Commissioner of the A-league from 1994-1997, during which he expanded the League into Rochester, N.Y., and Hershey, Pa., in addition to completing a merger with the United Soccer League.
From 2001 through 2006, and again in 2008, Groff served as the Region One Director of U.S. Adult Soccer until being elected President of U.S. Adult Soccer in 2010. During the four years that he has served as President of U.S. Adult Soccer, Groff increased the importance of the Premier Amateur Leagues and the overall functionality and success of U.S. Adult Soccer.
He has served on the U.S. Soccer National Board of Directors for a total of 16 years in four different positions. He served as Treasurer, Pro Council Vice President, Region One Adult Director, and Chair of Adult Council. Groff was also elected to the U.S. Soccer Foundation Board of Directors, where he served for seven years.
Groff and his wife Maggie reside in Doylestown, Pa. They have three sons, Timothy, Michael, and Andrew and four grandchildren.
Year Honored: 2015
National Soccer Hall of Fame member and two-time U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Bruce Arena is the 2015 recipient of the prestigious Werner Fricker Builder Award.
A five-time MLS Cup champion, Arena led the LA Galaxy for seven seasons after taking over as the team’s general manager and head coach in 2008. One of the most successful head coaches in MLS and U.S. National Team history, Arena led the Galaxy to its fifth MLS Cup in 2014, adding to his already hefty resume that includes being the only coach in MLS history to have won five championships and to have been named MLS Coach of the Year on three occasions (1997, 2009 and 2011).
Arena is the winningest all-time head coach in U.S. National Team history, leading the U.S. to two FIFA World Cups, including the best finish in team history at the 2002 event, when the MNT advanced to the quarterfinals. Arena first took over as MNT head coach on Oct. 27, 1998, and was in charge for nearly eight years, collecting a 71-30-29 record in his first stint, while winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup title in 2002 and 2005, the 2000 Nike U.S. Cup Championship, and leading the U.S. MNT to a third-place finish in the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup in Mexico.
Arena began his professional coaching career when he was appointed as the first coach in D.C. United history, joining the club for its inaugural season in 1996. He would spend three seasons with United, reaching the MLS Cup all three times and winning it twice, in addition to reaching the U.S. Open Cup Final twice and winning the tournament once. He also helped United become the first and only MLS team to win the CONCACAF Champions Cup and the Interamerican Cup in 1998. Additionally, Arena spent about a year-and-a-half as head coach of the New York Red Bulls in 2006.
At the collegiate level, Arena was named the head coach at the University of Virginia in 1978. He held that position for 18 years, helping the Cavaliers to five ACC Tournament Championships and five National Championships, including four in a row from 1991-94.
Year Honored: 2016
Former U.S. Women’s National Team head coach and current University of North Carolina head women’s soccer coach Anson Dorrance was named the 2016 winner of the prestigious Werner Fricker Builder Award.
A member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame, Dorrance led the USA to its first Women’s World Cup title in 1991 in FIFA’s inaugural world championship for women’s soccer. Dorrance took over as head coach for the U.S. Women in 1986 and headed the team for nearly eight years, stepping aside for Tony DiCicco to take the reins in 1995. Dorrance finished his National Team career in 1994 with a 65-22-5 record in 92 matches.
A three-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference choice as a player, Dorrance played for the UNC, beginning as a walk-on his freshman year. In 1976, Dorrance took over as head coach for the men’s soccer program, succeeding his former coach, Marvin Allen. During his time as the men’s soccer coach, he accumulated a 175-65-21 record, leading the team to the ACC championship and the NCAA Final Four in 1987. He won the NCAA Men’s Soccer Coach of the Year that same year.
In 1979, Dorrance took on double duty as the head coach for the men’s and the newly instituted women’s soccer team. He led the Tar Heels to the 1981 Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women title before the NCAA held a women’s soccer championship and would move solely to coaching the women’s program in 1988.
Dorrance’s work eventually helped spur the NCAA to recognize women’s soccer as an intercollegiate sport and what followed was one of the most amazing dynasties in sports history. His teams have won 21 NCAA titles out of 34 that have been contested and Dorrance is an eight-time National Coach of the Year and a nine-time ACC Coach of the Year. He is the winningest coach in college soccer history and has compiled a record of 792-63-32 in the women’s game while 19 different Tar Heels have been named National Player of the Year under his tutelage.
Year Honored: 2017
Former U.S. Women’s National Team goalkeeper Mary Harvey was named the recipient of the prestigious 2017 Werner Fricker Builder Award. Harvey becomes the first woman to receive the award since its inception in 2002.
A member of the U.S. Women’s National Team from 1989-1996, Harvey played a pivotal role in the USA’s first Women’s World Cup title at FIFA’s inaugural world championship for women’s soccer in 1991. She finished her National Team career on a high note after winning a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
Named the 1986 National Goalkeeper of the Year, Harvey played for the University of California-Berkeley from 1983-1986. She graduated in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and was later inducted into the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame in 2000.
Harvey was one of the first American female players to ply her trade overseas, moving to Germany in 1988 where she played with FSV Frankfurt in the Damen Bundesliga. She won the German National Cup in 1990 and the Bundesliga Championship for the southern division in 1991.
Off the field in 1992, Harvey was elected by fellow players to serve on the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors as their representative. She would go on to serve for the next 11 years, including five years on the Executive Committee. She became a player advocate, establishing the U.S. Soccer Athletes’ Council and leading the task force charged with writing the U.S. Soccer Player Bill of Rights.
After completing her MBA and working in the management consulting industry, Harvey was hired in 2003 by FIFA to lead its Development Division – the first woman to lead a division for soccer’s international governing body – overseeing a quadrennial budget of $640 million and team of 70 people located in 13 offices around the globe. She held the role until 2008, and some of her many accomplishments during her five-year tenure include implementing extensive reforms to FIFA’s financial assistance program, convincing senior leadership to establish the U-17 Women’s World Cup, and creating incentives to establish sport legacy programs for countries applying to host FIFA’s women’s competitions.
Harvey’s work at FIFA eventually led to being appointed Chief Operating Officer for Women’s Professional Soccer, a role she held from 2008 to 2010. During that time, she brought league operations from startup to full operation, led the process to implement operating standards for all teams and the signing of all 150+ players into the league.
In 2012, she founded Ripple Effect Consulting, a consultancy for organizations using sport to drive social and environmental change. Through this agency, Harvey influenced a variety of organizations, from FIFA to the U.S. Department of State. At FIFA, she helped drive the #WomenInFIFA campaign, a global media campaign calling for gender equity and inclusion as a core tenet of reform at the sport’s governing body. As a Sport Envoy for the U.S. Department of State, Harvey has led multiple sport diplomacy missions to the Middle East, engaging local communities to promote acceptance and inclusion of refugee and marginalized populations, as well as empowerment and access to sport for women and girls.
An active environmentalist, Harvey is also the Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for the Green Sports Alliance, a US-based non-profit dedicated to inspiring professional sports leagues, teams, venues, their partners and fans to embrace renewable energy, healthy food, recycling, water efficiency, safer chemicals and other environmentally preferable practices.
Year Honored: 2018
DiCicco, one of the most popular figures and leaders in women’s soccer history, was a true pioneer. He is the all-time winningest coach in U.S. Women’s National Team history, was part of the coaching staff that won the first FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1991, led the USA to the first Olympic gold medal for women’s soccer in 1996 and of course was at the helm of the USA’s historic run to the 1999 Women’s World Cup title.
DiCicco’s association with U.S. Soccer began in the late 1980s, and in 1994, he took over from Anson Dorrance as head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team. DiCicco then led the USA to a third-place finish at the 1995 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Sweden.
It would be the last world event that he did not win as a U.S. Soccer head coach. The 1996 Olympic tournament, which was attended by massive, unprecedented crowds, and the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup, a once-in-a-generation event for women’s sports, changed the course of women’s soccer in the United States and the world.
During a magical few weeks in the summer of 1999, DiCicco deftly guided the U.S. team through a high-pressure World Cup tournament that ended in front of 90,125 fans at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, where the USA defeated China PR in a dramatic penalty kick shootout. It is still the largest crowd ever to watch a women’s sporting event. He was elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2012.
Year Honored: 2019
Heinrichs was a U.S. Women’s National Team pioneer, earning her first cap in 1986 in the USA’s fifth-ever game and was a part of the famed “Triple-Edged Sword” alongside Michelle Akers and Carin Gabarra that helped lead the USA to that first Women’s World Cup title in China in 1991. She scored 35 goals in 46 international games.
After her playing career, Heinrichs quickly transitioned into coaching, first at the collegiate level before serving as an assistant for the USA at the 1995 Women’s World Cup and at the 1996 Olympics with the first team to win a gold medal in women’s soccer.
Heinrichs served as Head Coach and Technical Director for the U.S. Women’s National Team program from 2000-2004, coaching the team in two Olympic Games, winning a silver medal in 2000 and a gold medal in 2004. She also coached the USA in the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup, where the Americans finished third. She was the fourth coach, and first female head coach, in the history of the program. In her time at the helm of the U.S. team, Heinrichs compiled an 87-17-20 record. In 2011, she was appointed Technical Director for the USA’s Youth National Teams.
Heinrichs also has extensive coaching experience in the college game, having been head coach at the University of Virginia, the University of Maryland, Princeton University and UC Irvine. She has a 119-86-16 overall collegiate record.
Heinrichs won the U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year award twice, in 1986 and 1989, and was later voted female player of the 1980s by Soccer America Magazine. In 1998, she became the first female player inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
Following her graduation from North Carolina - where she registered 87 goals and 51 assists - with a bachelor’s degree in radio, television and motion pictures, Heinrichs was one of the first American women to play professionally in Europe, enjoying stints with Italian clubs Juventus and Prato. She became the first women’s soccer player in school history to have her jersey retired when UNC took her No. 2 out of rotation.
Esfandiar “Esse” Baharmast
Year Honored: 2020
The Iranian-American is the second referee to be awarded U.S. Soccer’s highest honor; 2005 winner Gerhard Mengel is the other.
Baharmast is a retired FIFA international referee best known for becoming the first American to officiate two matches in a single World Cup as a center referee, an accomplishment he achieved during the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France.
He was first appointed to the Spain versus Nigeria match on June 13 at the Stade de la Beaujoire in Nantes, but the most famous assignment came when he was appointed to the Brazil-Norway match played on June 23 at the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille. With the match tied at 1-1 and Norway needing a victory, Baharmast whistled Brazilian defender Júnior Baiano for a foul on striker Tore André Flo in the 88th minute that resulted in a 2-1 win for the Norwegians.
Two days of heavy world-wide criticism of the decision by the ‘American’ referee ensued, until a Swedish television station broadcast unseen footage that clearly showed the penalty decision to be correct. The call was later selected by Referee Magazine as one of the "Best 18 Calls of All Time."
Prior to that experience, he officiated several matches during the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, including the semifinal match between Portugal and Argentina.
That same year, Baharmast was given the honor of officiating the inaugural match of Major League Soccer on April 6, 1996, between the San Jose Clash and D.C. United. He went on to work two conference semifinal matches and was appointed to referee the inaugural MLS Cup. In 1997, he earned the MLS Referee of the Year award.
After retiring from officiating in 1998, Baharmast embarked on a career of referee education and instruction that continues to this day. He became the Director of Officials for U.S. Soccer, and has been a member of the Concacaf Referees' Committee since 2003. He has served as a FIFA instructor, assessor and mentor at the youth and senior levels, including at every Men’s and Women’s World Cup since 2006. When not traveling the world as an instructor, he currently serves as Director of Referees for the Colorado Soccer Association (CSA).
“Do it because you love it,” said Baharmast in response to what the best advice he gives aspiring referees. “That should be your motivation. Don’t do it for the fame; do it for the game. I also tell them that your mentality must be ‘we’ over ‘me’. That mentality will get you where you want to go.”
Year Honored: 2022
Throughout Garber’s 23-year tenure, MLS has expanded from 10 to 29 clubs, added new, diverse owners and secured long-term agreements with major broadcast outlets in the U.S. and throughout the world. Garber has also led efforts to develop 26 soccer-specific stadiums in the United States and Canada, with more set to open in the next few years. In 2019, he confirmed that the league would look to expand to 30 teams.
One of Garber’s marquee accomplishments was the establishment of Soccer United Marketing (SUM) in 2002, which serves as the marketing arm of MLS and manages commercial rights for the league as well as various other soccer properties like Concacaf and the Mexican Soccer Federation. Garber serves as the CEO of SUM, which was also the exclusive marketing partner of U.S. Soccer for 20 years.
In 2006, Garber established the Designated Player Rule, which would revolutionize the way player transactions occurred in the league by allowing teams to sign up to three players whose total costs exceeded the salary budget cap. The rule paved the way with the signing of David Beckham to the LA Galaxy and has continued to allow for world-class international players to help elevate the stature of the league over the years with signings like Thierry Henry, Kaka, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Carlos Vela, Lorenzo Insigne and many more. In addition, U.S. National Team players such as Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and Jesus Ferreira have been signed as Designated Players during the past decade.
While creating the Designated Player Rule in 2006, Garber also mandated all MLS clubs have youth academies, leading to a significant rise in the level of domestic talent the past 15 years. Current U.S. National Team players Kellyn Acosta, Brenden Aaronson, Jordan Morris, Ricardo Pepi and dozens more MLS club academy products have played for the U.S. National Team. Within the last two years, the league established MLS NEXT and MLS NEXT Pro to create an integrated player pathway from the youth ranks through MLS first teams.
In 2007, Garber formed MLS WORKS, the league’s social responsibility program dedicated to addressing important social issues and improving communities. MLS WORKS creates national programs and legacy projects, charitable giving campaigns, and undertakes various initiatives that enrich and educate youth, create sustainable communities and promote inclusion at all levels of the game.
During Garber’s tenure, MLS club owners have invested more than $8 billion in stadiums and training facilities. MLS also has nearly 10,000 full-time people working for the league and its clubs, including many former players.
The New York City native has been ranked by Sports Business Daily as one of the 50 most influential people in the U.S. sports business every year since 2005, and MLS has been honored three times as Sports Business Journal’s League of the Year. He is also a member of the U.S. Soccer Federation board of directors.