THE BEST FIFA FOOTBALL AWARDS
All the American nominees for the Best FIFA Football Awards in history
American women have won The Best FIFA Women’s Player on two occasions, while the men have yet to receive a nomination.
Meat or fish? Beer or wine? Pepsi or Coca-Cola? Ballon d’Or or The Best? Opinion will largely be split on the first three of those questions, although few will probably be able to reel off a list of The Best winners in the same way as they can Ballon d’Or victors.
At this stage, I think we can safely say that FIFA’s The Best is the second biggest individual prize in world soccer. First introduced in 2017 with the aim of reviving the FIFA World Player Gala, which soccer’s governing body created as competition for the Ballon d’Or after the 1990 World Cup but discontinued in 2009, the 2023 event, which takes place on Monday 27 February, will be the seventh edition and will see some star names – both old and new – rewarded for their fine displays over the last year or so.
The wait for an American men’s player to be considered amongst the world’s elite soccer players goes on but The Best Awards have shown – as if we didn’t already know – that a whole host of American women are at the very elite level in the sport. Let’s take a look at those who have been nominated since the awards were created. There might even be a winner or two in there.
The Best FIFA Football Awards 2016
The now-retired Carli Lloyd, then playing for Houston Dash, won the inaugural The Best FIFA Women’s Player ahead of Marta and Melanie Behringer. 17 of her 134 international goals came in 2016, although the USWNT missed out on winning the Olympic Games, which was their main objective.
The Best FIFA Football Awards 2017
Lloyd was again a finalist in the Best Women’s Player category but failed to pick up the award for a second successive year, despite moving to Manchester City on loan and scoring for her ‘new’ club in the FA Cup final, which they won. Her time in England, however, finished disappointingly as she was sent off for elbowing an opponent in the face and was suspended for the last three games of her time with City. Lloyd finished second in the voting behind Dutchwoman Lieke Martens of Barcelona.
The Best FIFA Football Awards 2018
No nomination for Lloyd this time but Megan Rapinoe of Seattle Reign, as they were still called back then, attempted to pick up the Best Women’s Player baton. Rapinoe was initially nominated for the award but narrowly missed out on making the final, with winner Marta, Dzsenifer Marozsán and Ada Hegerberg finishing just ahead of the American in the voting.
The Best FIFA Football Awards 2019
The most successful year for Americans at The Best FIFA Football Awards to date, and with good reason. The USWNT won their fourth World Cup in France in July and were handsomely rewarded for it in the voting. Runner-up the previous year Rapinoe, who won both the Golden Ball and Golden Boot at the tournament, was voted The Best Women’s Player, just ahead of international teammate Alex Morgan, who won the Silver Boot at the World Cup. Rose Lavelle, who won the Bronze Ball in France, and Julie Ertz were also nominated and finished sixth and seventh respectively.
English-American coach Jill Ellis, who stepped down from her role as USWNT boss after the World Cup, won The Best Women’s Coach after leading the US to victory in France.
The Best FIFA Football Awards 2020
Chicago Red Stars and USWNT goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher was the only American nominee in The Best Women’s Goalkeeper category. She made the final three but finished well behind eventual winner Sarah Bouhaddi of France, who just pipped Chilean Christiane Endler.
The Best FIFA Football Awards 2021
Once again, Naeher was the only American listed in any category (The Best Women’s Goalkeeper). On this occasion, however, she finished down in fifth place with, well adrift of winner Endler, Stephanie Labbé and Berger, who completed the top three.
The Best FIFA Football Awards 2022
Could we see a first American winner since 2019 this year? Morgan, second in the World Cup-winning year, is again a finalist in The Best Women’s Player category following her exploits for Orlando Pride, San Diego Wave and the USWNT.
Naeher was also nominated for Best Goalkeeper for the third year running but will be unable to make it third time lucky, as the familiar faces of Endler and Berger have been joined in this year’s final by Manchester United and England stopper Mary Earps.