The nominees for U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year are out, and there five women up for the award. Abby Wambach, Sydney Leroux, Lauren Holiday, Christen Press and Carli Lloyd have been named nominees for the award, which will handed out on December 6 during Fox Sports 1's coverage of the Women's World Cup draw.
Wambach has the most pedigree of the five finalists, having won this award six times before, including last year. She's also a finalist for FIFA Women's World Player of the Year, so she's earning international plaudits, to go along with this domestic one. But as good as Wambach has been, scoring a team-leading 14 goals for the U.S. this year, she missed a slew of games for the Western New York Flash this season and started just 10 contests. At 34 years old, she's trying to preserve herself for next summer's World Cup, and her production has slipped as a result this year.
The only other finalist to have won this award before is Lloyd, who captured it in 2008. She was second on the team in goals with 10 and also chipped in with eight assists. As Jill Ellis worked to rejigger the midfield, Lloyd was moved around, but always there, and she always performed well. She even got the job done for the Flash, scoring right goals and adding five assist in NWSL.
Leroux's nomination is the second of her career, having also been put up for the award last year. She finished this year third on the team in goals with nine and she also had five assists. She only made 13 starts as Ellis rotated her deep crop of forwards, but she did make five more appearances off the bench. She scored five more goals for the Seattle Reign, who won the regular season title, but fell in the NWSL title game.
Like Leroux, Press was also a finalist last year, but she was even better this year. She was the only player to play in all 20 of the team's matches, making 12 starts and scoring seven goals to go along with five assists. She helped lead Tyreso to the IEA Champions League final, scoring nine goals in that run before joining the Chicago Red Stars and scoring six goals in 12 matches.
But while all four of those women had tremendous years, the winner should probably be Holiday. She was moved around the U.S. team all year, before Ellis settled on using her as a deep-lying playmaker late in the year. She scored just two goals and had three assists, but she has keyed the attack from deep and, with FC Kansas City, proved to be the best player in NWSL. She had sight goals and seven assists, earned title game MVP and led her team to the league title in a tremendous season for a player who was among the world's best this year.
Of course, who wins this award may come down to how much voters value club play or if they just look at national team output. It also depends how much voters actually watch women's soccer, something that besieges FIFA Women's World Player of the Year voting.