CHICAGO -- For their excellence at the highest levels of the sport, U.S. Soccer named U.S. men's national team goalkeeper Kasey Keller as the 2005 Male Athlete of the Year and U.S. women's national team midfielder Kristine Lilly as the 2005 Female Athlete of the Year. Under-20 MNT midfielder Benny Feilhaber and WNT defender Lori Chalupny won the Young Male and Young Female Awards, respectively.
The U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year awards have a longer history than any major award in American soccer – more than 20 years. They join the FIFA Players of the Year as the only two awards to honor both the top male and the top female in the sport.
Keller becomes the first MNT player to win the award three times, having also garnered the honor in 1997 and 1999. Marcelo Balboa and Landon Donovan are the only other MNT players to have won the award multiple times, doing so twice.
"Kasey is well deserving of this honor. He had an outstanding year and continues to demonstrate why he is such a valuable part of our team," said U.S. manager Bruce Arena. "His leadership and ability to make saves at key moments in a game were a large factor in our success during the qualifying campaign. The fact that he is the only three-time winner of the award is a testament to the consistency, commitment and dedication he has displayed throughout his career."
Lilly is also a repeat recipient of the honor, having won the award in 1993. This is a record span between winning any of the awards, with the largest previous span being eight years by Michelle Akers (1991-1999). In the 12 years between awards, Lilly appeared for the U.S. 235 times and has scored 85 goals, while winning three World Championships.
"Of course it's an honor, and it's always nice when people appreciate your contribution to the game and to the U.S. national team," Lilly said. "I know I won this award 12 years ago, and I'm not sure what I think about that!"
"We had quite a few players who played well this year; including some younger ones who I am sure will be leading us to future World Cup and Olympic success. I want to congratulate Kasey, Benny and Lori. I have enjoyed watching all of them play and I'm looking forward to a great 2006 with the women and to rooting on our men in Germany."
Feilhaber's first year with a U.S. national team was in 2005, and he made the most of opportunity as a star for the U.S. U-20 MNT at the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship, earning a professional contract in Germany and a call up to the full MNT.
Chalupny started six games at left back for the U.S. WNT in 2005 after playing most of her career as a midfielder. She also starred for the U.S. U-21 WNT in the Nordic Cup title run.