Los Angeles Soccer: FIFA Ballon d'Or
FIFA's annual Ballon d'Or honors are voted upon by national team coaches, captains and select media.
Here are how the votes for the men's World Player award, which went for the third straight year to the Argentine Barcelona star Lionel Messi, fell within our borders:
Jurgen Klinsmann, coach: 1. Messi; 2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal/Real Madrid); 3. Diego Forlan (Uruguay/Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan)
Carlos Bocanegra, captain: 1. Messi; 2. Xavi (Spain/Barcelona); 3. Cristiano Ronaldo
Paul Kennedy, media (Soccer America): 1. Messi; 2. Cristiano Ronaldo; 3. Xavi.
U.S. women's national team star Abby Wambach and head coach Pia Sundhage will have to be content with being finalists for FIFA's major women's honors.
Japan, as expected, swept the women's awards at FIFA's Ballon d'Or gala Monday night in Zurich, with Homare Sawa claiming the player-of-the-year honor and Norio Sasaki winning as best coach after their surprise triumph at last summer's Women's World Cup in Germany.
Sawa, 33, has extensive experience in the U.S., playing all three seasons in the Women's United Soccer Association for the Atlanta Beat and the first two years in Women's Professional Soccer for the defunct Washington Freedom. She also played in the W-League in the late 1990s.
Wambach, 31, who has a home in Hermosa Beach, finished third for the player award after leading the U.S. to the WWC title game. Former L.A. Sol star Marta, 25, a Brazilian playmaker who helped the Western New York Flash to the WPS title last year, was second in the balloting. She won the award the previous five years.
Hope Solo finished fifth, and Alex Morgan (Diamond Bar/Diamond Bar HS) was eighth.
Sundhage finished second in the coach-of-the-year finalist vote. Former Cal State L.A. coach Leo Cuellar, who guides Mexico's women, was ninth.
Barcelona star Lionel Messi won the FIFA World Player honor for men for the third straight year, and his coach, Pep Guardiola, won the coaching award.
Hermosa Beach's Abby Wambach is a finalist for FIFA's Ballon d'Or women's player-of-the-year honor, joining former L.A. Sol forward Marta and Japan's Homare Sawa, who has starred in both U.S. pro league's, among the top three.
Wambach, 31, was the catalyst for the United States' run to the Women's World Cup final last summer in Germany, scoring four goals, and she led the U.S. with eight goals in 2011. She also won Women's Professional Soccer's scoring title with 11 goals in 11 games, finishing the campaign as player-coach for magicJack, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based club that last month was expelled from the league.
The big forward has in 165 international appearances scored 125 goals, fourth all-time internationally (behind Mia Hamm's 158, Kristine Lilly's 130 and German forward Birgit Prinz's 128).
Wambach, who is from Rochester, N.Y., has finished in the top five four times but never higher than fourth.
Marta, the Brazilian star who helped the Western New York Flash to the WPS title, has won the honor the past five years, deservedly on most occasions, and is again the likely victor. National team coaches and captains and select international media vote for the FIFA awards, and with so little women's soccer readily available on television or online -- unlike the men's game -- reputation carries more weight in the process.
U.S. coach Pia Sundhage is a repeat Coach of the Year finalist, joined by France's Bruno Bini and Japan's Norio Sasaki, the favorite after a surprise Women's World Cup triumph.
The finalist for the men's player-of-the-year honor are Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and Argentine forward Lionel Messi and Spanish midfielder Xavi of Barcelona. Messi has won the last two years.
Men's Coach of the Year finalists are Manchester United's Alex Ferguson, Barcelona's Pep Guardiola and Real Madrid's Jose Mourinho. Finalists for the Puskas Award, for “most beautiful goal,” are Messi, Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and Santos' Neymar.
Winners will be announced at a Jan. 9 gala in Zurich.
FIFA on Tuesday unveiled finalists for its women's Ballon d'Or award -- for global player of the year -- and it includes some of the usual suspects, five-time winner Marta and Japanese star Homare Sawa and star U.S. striker Abby Wambach.
Plus Alex Morgan.
The 22-year-old forward from Diamond Bar, who has emerged in the past year and a half as a force for the U.S. women's national team and played a key role in the Americans' run to last summer's Women's World Cup title game, joins teammates Wambach and Hope Solo among 10 finalists for FIFA's top individual honor.
Morgan (Diamond Bar HS) started just two of 16 games she played for the U.S. in 2011, but she's second on the team, with Wambach and former UCLA star Lauren Cheney, with five goals -- despite playing far fewer minutes, just 589, than anyone else with at least three goals. (Carli Lloyd's six goals leads the U.S. this year.)
She tallied twice off the bench during the Americans' stay in Germany -- in the semifinal victory over France and the final against Japan, which was lost on penalties -- and has scored nine times in 24 international appearances since making her debut in March 2010.
Wambach, who has a home in Hermosa Beach, and Solo are likelier to place in the top three, of course, and Marta has a stronghold on the award. Balloting is conducted among national team coaches and captains, and with so little of the women's game available on television or Internet feeds -- in great contrast to the men's game -- the honor has seemingly always been about reputation more than performance.
What we learned from FIFA's Ballon d'Or festivities Monday night in Zurich: Mongolians love Abby Wambach.
The Hermosa Beach-based striker picked up eight first-place votes in the Women's Player of the Year contest, and two came from Mongolian women's national team head coach Ganjuur Bayartsogt and captain Sugar Bayar.
It wasn't nearly enough to halt former L.A. Sol star Marta's romp to her fifth successive world's-best honor: The Brazilian forward, who led FC Gold Pride to Women's Professional Soccer's title and is now playing in Brazil for Santos, captured 151 of 266 first-place votes from 119 coaches, 121 captains and 26 media. She failed to make the top three on on only 52 ballots, and on two of those -- both from Brazil -- she was ineligible.
Argentina's Lionel Messi won the men's World Player of the Year award for the second straight year, beating Barcelona teammates Xavi and Andres Iniesta. The coaches of the year were Real Madrid's Jose Mourinho, who last spring guided Inter Milan to the UEFA Champions League title, and Germany women's national team coach Silvia Neid.
More interesting than who won is how everyone voted. FIFA won't make public the executive committee members' choices on a World Cup host, but every Player of the Year vote is online, both men and women.
U.S. men's captain Carlos Bocanegra (Alta Loma/Alta Loma HS and UCLA) voted Xavi first, Iniesta second and Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder (Inter Milan) third.
U.S. coach Bob Bradley (Manhattan Beach) went with, in order, Xavi, Sneijder and Messi.
First thought upon seeing the finalists for FIFA's Ballon d'Or award: Where's Wesley Sneijder?
Three very deserving Barcelona stars -- midfielders Andres Iniesta and Xavi, the most prominent figures in Spain's World Cup triumph, and Argentine forward Lionel Messi, the world's biggest star -- are up for the honor, called FIFA World Player of the Year before it merged with France Football magazine's legendary Ballon d'Or (or “Golden Ball” award for the top European star.
Marta, Women's Professional Soccer's two-time MVP, is up for the women's Ballon d'Or, and U.S. coach Pia Sundhage is a finalist for women's Coach of the Year.
Messi, who won FIFA's and France Football's awards last year after finishing second in FIFA's balloting the two previous years, scored 47 goals in 53 appearances for Spanish champs Barca during the 2009-10 season and has 25 in 20 games this season. He did not score during the World Cup in South Africa but was nonetheless among the event's finest attacking players.
Xavi provided the foundation of Spain's World Cup triumph, combining with Iniesta to create the mobile, quick-passing attack so key to the victory.
Sneijder should be there, too, probably in place of Iniesta. The Dutch midfielder led Inter Milan to its fifth straight Italian Serie A title and to the UEFA Champions League crown, then was the pivotal player as Holland reached the World Cup final. Inter's poor start to this campaign might have harmed his candidacy.