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National Teams Dec 20, 2021

Christian Pulisic and Ricardo Pepi win U.S. Soccer Player of the Year awards

CHICAGO – USMNT forward Christian Pulisic has been voted 2021 U.S. Soccer Male Player of the Year after a banner year in which the 23-year-old won major hardware for club and country while scoring a number of momentous goals for the U.S. Men’s National Team.

This is Pulisic’s third U.S. Soccer Male Player of the Year award after winning in 2017 and 2019. First awarded in 1984, the forward becomes the fourth player to win Male Player of the Year three times or more, joining Clint Dempsey (2007, 2011, 2012), Landon Donovan (2003, 2004, 2009, 2010) and Kasey Keller (1997, 1999, 2005). At 23 years old, he is also the youngest three-time winner of the award. He also took home U.S. Soccer Young Male Player of the Year honors in 2016.

USMNT forward Ricardo Pepi was voted U.S. Soccer Young Male Player of the Year after a massive breakout year for the USMNT during the start of its World Cup qualifying campaign this fall and at the club level with FC Dallas. The 2021 MLS Young Player of the Year sparked a historic 4-1 comeback victory for the U.S. in his debut at Honduras, netting three goals while adding three assists in six World Cup qualifying appearances this year.

For the first time, fans were able to vote for the U.S. Soccer Player and Young Player of the Year Awards, with those votes weighted at 15 percent of the total. Of the six finalists for the Male Player of the Year Award, Pulisic took 31 percent of the overall total, followed by Matt Turner (21 percent) and Brenden Aaronson (15 percent).

Pepi earned 60 percent of the overall vote for Young Male Player of the Year. Midfielder Yunus Musah was second (23 percent) and Gianluca Busio was third (11 percent).

Votes for U.S. Soccer Male and Young Male Player of the Year Awards are collected from respective National Team coaches, National Team players who have earned a cap in 2021, members of the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors, U.S. Soccer Athletes’ Council, professional league (MLS and USL) head coaches, select media members and former players and administrators.

After bursting onto the USMNT at age 17, Pulisic has consistently performed at a high level for the USA and this year wrapped up his second season with English Premier League powerhouse Chelsea.

In 2021, all three of Pulisic’s goals for the U.S. were game winners, including two iconic strikes against archrival Mexico. During June’s inaugural Concacaf Nations League Final, he put home a 114th-minute penalty kick to give the USA a 3-2 lead in Denver. During November World Cup qualifying, Pulisic came off the bench and scored on his first touch when he nodded home Tim Weah’s cross to open the scoring in the USMNT’s 2-0 “Dos a Cero” World Cup Qualifying win over El Trí in Cincinnati. He captained the USA a career-high four times in 2021, including the Nations League Final and two September World Cup qualifying matches.

Pulisic also continued to set a new standard for American players at the club level, becoming the first USMNT player to feature in and win the UEFA Champions League when Chelsea defeated Manchester City 1-0 on May 29 in Porto. Pulisic played a major role in getting his club to the pinnacle match of club soccer, scoring the opening goal in the first leg of the semifinals, a 1-1 draw at Real Madrid. He also put up the second multi-goal game of his Premier League career, bagging a brace in Chelsea’s 4-1 win against Crystal Palace on April 10. Overall, Pulisic made 40 appearances across all competitions for Chelsea, recording six goals and four assists, while also helping the club to a runner-up finish in the 2020-21 FA Cup and a top-four finish in the Premier League.

At just 18 years old, Pepi turned in one of the most memorable USMNT debuts in recent memory during September World Cup qualifying, catalyzing a comeback win in the hostile environs of San Pedro Sula against Honduras in the final match of the window. In the second half, “El Tren” teed up the game-tying goal, scored the game-winner, added another assist and took a hard shot to set up a fourth and final tally for the 4-1 win and a crucial three points.

Pepi continued his hot streak in the October international window, bagging a brace in the USA’s 2-0 win against Jamaica in Austin. The El Paso, Texas, native has played in every qualifier since his U.S. debut.

The forward also took the next step at the club level, finishing the MLS season as the league’s leading American scorer with 13 goals. He also became the youngest player in MLS history to net a hat trick, accomplishing the feat on July 24 against LA Galaxy.

Pepi was selected to this summer’s MLS All-Star Game, scoring the game-winning penalty in a shootout against the Liga MX All-Stars. After mostly serving as a super-sub in 2020, he made a career-high 24 starts in 31 appearances for FCD this season, solidifying himself as the club’s first-choice scoring threat.

A total of 23 of the 24 U.S. Soccer Young Male Player of the Year winners have earned caps with the full USMNT, and 10 have gone on to represent the USA at a FIFA World Cup.

PREVIOUS WINNERS

Year Male Player of the Year Young Male Player of the Year
2021 Christian Pulisic (3) Ricardo Pepi
2020 Weston McKennie Gio Reyna
2019 Christian Pulisic (2) Sergiño Dest
2018 Zack Steffen Alex Mendez
2017 Christian Pulisic (1) Josh Sargent
2016 Jozy Altidore (2) Christian Pulisic
2015 Michael Bradley Matt Miazga
2014 Tim Howard DeAndre Yedlin
2013 Jozy Altidore Wil Trapp
2012 Clint Dempsey (3) Rubio Rubin
2011 Clint Dempsey (2) Brek Shea
2010 Landon Donovan (4) Gale Agbossoumonde
2009 Landon Donovan (3) Luis Gil
2008 Tim Howard Sacha Kljestan
2007 Clint Dempsey (1) Michael Bradley
2006 Oguchi Onyewu Jozy Altidore
2005 Kasey Keller (3) Benny Feilhaber
2004 Landon Donovan (2) Eddie Johnson
2003 Landon Donovan (1) Freddy Adu
2002 Brad Friedel Bobby Convey
2001 Earnie Stewart DaMarcus Beasley
2000 Chris Armas Landon Donovan
1999 Kasey Keller (2) Ben Olsen
1998 Cobi Jones Josh Wolff
1997 Kasey Keller
1996 Eric Wynalda
1995 Alexi Lalas
1994 Marcelo Balboa (2)
1993 Thomas Dooley
1992 Marcelo Balboa
1991 Hugo Perez
1990 Tab Ramos
1989 Mike Windischmann
1988 Peter Vermes
1987 Brent Goulet
1986 Paul Caligiuri
1985 Perry Van der Beck
1984 Rick Davis

 

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