In 1984, the U.S. Men's National Team was a minnow on the global soccer stage. The team had been absent from the FIFA World Cup since 1950 and was on the path towards disappointment in its qualifying campaign for the 1986 edition of the tournament. Despite the setbacks on the field, the U.S. Soccer Federation was taking internal steps to remedy the situation, and in 1984 U.S. Soccer's Board of Directors elected Werner Fricker as its president.
Six years on, U.S. Soccer had secured qualification for the 1990 World Cup in Italy, thanks to Paul Caliguri's “Shot Heard 'Round the World,” started its Women's National Team program in 1985 and also successfully bid for the 1994 World Cup. Fricker's role in the latter achievement was absolutely vital.
“My father's goals, and his efforts to achieve them, were always directed to what was in the best interest of the game,” said Werner Fricker Jr. “He took many actions, made decisions, which could ultimately cost him personally. He did so though, knowing with confidence that the game in the U.S. would benefit.”
Born in Yugoslavia and raised in Austria, the elder Fricker lived his adult life in Pennsylvania, where he was a star midfielder for the United German Hungarians of Philadelphia Soccer Club from 1954 to 1969 and was a squad member of the U.S. team that tried to qualify for the 1964 Olympics. Following his playing career, Fricker dedicated himself to growing the game in his adopted country, which included his six year tenure as the president of U.S. Soccer. Shortly thereafter, Fricker was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, N.Y. in 1992.
Werner Fricker passed away in 2001, and in 2002 U.S. Soccer recognized his efforts with the Werner Fricker Builder Award. The award was honors those who have created or fostered programs that will outlast their own active involvement in the sport and that establish a lasting legacy in the history and structure of soccer in the United States.
The initial award went to Werner Fricker with his son, Werner Fricker Jr. accepting the honor on his father's behalf.
“Accepting the award was truly an honor and all of our family is truly proud of him,” said Fricker. “I understood his commitment and love for this country and the game and I know he would have enjoyed being honored by his peers in the U.S. Soccer family.”
The U.S. Soccer Federation is currently accepting nominations for the 2009 Werner Fricker Builder Award, honoring the late Fricker's achivements in the game.
The honor is bestowed annually to an individual who has worked tirelessly in furthering the interest of the sport of soccer, without regard to personal recognition or advancement, and is the greatest recognition bestowed by U.S. Soccer on its membership.
Werner Fricker Jr. believes that those qualities epitomized the way his father attempted to improve soccer in the country.
“With the establishment of the award, U.S. Soccer continues to recognize [my father's] accomplishments by honoring those who continue to move the ball towards the same goal continues his legacy,” said Fricker. “All of the recipients of the Builder Award since its inception have driven the game in that direction. I hope this tradition continues to inspire others in the future.”
In 2003, current U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati became the second winner of the Builder Award.
“To receive the Werner Fricker Builder Award is truly a prestigious honor,” said Gulati, who was elected as U.S. Soccer's president in 2006. “It is a distinction that helps personify a man whose dedication to the growth of soccer in the United States was unrivaled."
With the organization’s Annual General Meeting moving from the summer months to March, no award was bestowed in 2004. The award returned in 2005, with the honor going to Michigan Soccer Association President Gerhard Mengel. In 2006, the award was given to Sal Rapaglia, president of the Eastern New York Amateur Soccer Association. In 2007, the USL President Francisco Marcos received the award for his long-term contributions to the sport.
The most recent winner of the award is former U.S. Men's National Team head coach Bob Gansler, who earned the honor in 2008.
Interested persons can nominate individuals for the annual Werner Fricker Builder Award by completing the nomination form and mailing it to U.S. Soccer, c/o the Werner Fricker Builder Award Committee, 1801 S. Prairie Avenue, Chicago, IL 60616.
The President of U.S. Soccer appoints a selection committee to review the nominations and select a winner. The selection committee appointees are representative of U.S. Soccer and all nominations are received from the membership. The 2009 Award will be presented at U.S. Soccer’s Annual General Meeting in Orlando, Fla., from March 12-14, 2009.
WERNER FRICKER BUILDER AWARD
2002 Werner Fricker, Sr.
2003 Sunil Gulati
2005 Gerhard Mengel
2006 Sal Rapaglia
2007 Francisco Marcos
2008 Bob Gansler