To paraphrase Ron Swanson, awards are dumb, but they’re less dumb when they go to the right people. And in this weird, dumb, hellish year, awards are even more dumb given that our usual ways of evaluating play were jumbled up and tossed in the garbage. Maybe your league got back to regular play fairly quickly; maybe you had multiple games cancelled because someone tested positive; maybe you had to bubble in order to get any games. So yeah, every year is a year to be cautious about the FIFA Best shortlist process and who gets to vote and why, but this is a year to be doubly cautious about drawing any conclusions.
That being said, it is nice to see Alyssa Naeher shortlisted for Best goalkeeper. She’s long been someone who has flown under the radar, either due to coming into the United States setup in the shadow of Hope Solo, or being one of the quieter personalities on the team, or only really cementing her #1 position around 2019 and the World Cup. She’s also had her ups and downs; at times Naeher seemed unsure of herself in the box, like she was being pulled between warring sets of instructions on her playstyle. But her unwaveringly solid performance for the US in 2019 was certainly a professional highlight, and probably boosted her public profile into Best contention.
Here’s all the nominees:
The Best FIFA Women’s Goalkeeper*:
- Ann-Katrin Berger (Germany / Chelsea FC Women)
- Sarah Bouhaddi (France / Olympique Lyonnais)
- Christiane Endler (Chile / Paris Saint-Germain)
- Hedvig Lindahl (Sweden / VfL Wolfsburg / Atlético de Madrid Femenino)
- Alyssa Naeher (USA / Chicago Red Stars)
- Ellie Roebuck (England / Manchester City WFC)
And just to be complete, here’s the list of nominees for Best Player:
The Best FIFA Women’s Player:
- Lucy Bronze (England / Olympique Lyonnais / Manchester City WFC)
- Delphine Cascarino (France / Olympique Lyonnais)
- Caroline Graham Hansen (Norway / FC Barcelona)
- Pernille Harder (Denmark / VfL Wolfsburg / Chelsea FC Women)
- Jennifer Hermoso (Spain / FC Barcelona)
- Ji So-yun (Korea Republic / Chelsea FC Women)
- Sam Kerr (Australia / Chelsea FC Women)
- Saki Kumagai (Japan / Olympique Lyonnais)
- Dzsenifer Marozsán (Germany / Olympique Lyonnais)
- Vivianne Miedema (Netherlands / Arsenal WFC)
- Wendie Renard (France / Olympique Lyonnais)
This is the first time since 2009 that an American has not at least been shortlisted in the initial list of nominees (before they’re narrowed down to the final three). Given that the period of consideration for best player and best goalkeeper is July 8, 2019 to October 7, 2020 - so the period immediately after the 2019 World Cup until October - it’s not terribly surprising. For Americans, there’s been very little international soccer recently, although they did have eight games at the start of the year, including Concacaf qualifying (remember the start of 2020, which happened roughly four years ago?). In terms of domestic soccer, there’s been the NWSL Challenge Cup and the Fall Series, which honestly gave them enough games to be roughly on par with the European club players who did get on the list in terms of playing time, and it’s not like it was super hard to catch some of those games either given they were either broadcast/streamed by CBS and streamed for free on Twitch for internationals.
But again - weird year, weird times. And honestly, given the strained circumstances of both NWSL competition series, there weren’t a ton of standout performances that you can immediately point to as being world best.
What do you think of the short list? Did anyone get snubbed? Should someone not be there? Let us know in the comments!