Back in 1985, Gatorade established an award honoring the nation's top high school student-athletes. Since then, the Gatorade Player of the Year award has recognized more than 12,500 state and national winners in 12 sports.
Gatorade Player of the Year alumni include household names like Kevin Love, Dwight Howard, Peyton Manning, Derek Jeter, Candace Parker, Kerri Walsh and Abby Wambach—a distinguished group, indeed.
This week, we're catching up with the Major League Soccer playoffs.
If Gatorade Player of the Year trophies could talk, the fact that a coach is one of the 19 program alumni playing in the Major League Soccer conference semifinals might, well, make a trophy feel old.
Jay Heapscaptured Gatorade Massachusetts Boys Soccer Player of the Year honors as a senior at Longmeadow High in 1995 and accepted the head coaching position of the New England Revolution in 2011, after 10 seasons in the MLS, including eight with his hometown Revs.
In the MLS Eastern Conference semis, Heaps’ Revs feature a pair of fellow former POYs in Lee Nguyen (2005 Texas) and Chad Barrett (2003 Oregon), and face a Sporting KC team that includes three former winners: Matt Besler (2005 Kansas), Jon Kempin (2010 Kansas) and 2010 Gatorade National POY Soony Saad (Michigan).
In fact, the other six teams left standing in the MLS conference semifinals also each feature at least one POY on the roster.
Will Bruin, 2008 Missouri
Ricardo Clark, 2001 Georgia
Brad Davis, 2000 Missouri
NEW YORK RED BULLS
Eric Alexander, 2006 Michigan (National POY)
Luis Robles, 2001 Arizona
Will Bates, 2009 Virginia
Eriq Zavaleta, 2011 Indiana
Brent Richards, 2008 Washington
Brad Ring, 2005 Illinois
A.J. Delagarza, 2004 Maryland
Chandler Hoffman, 2008-09 Alabama
Charlie Rugg, 2009 Massachusetts
REAL SALT LAKE
Ned Grabavoy, 2000-01 Illinois (National POY)
Those 18 former POYs combined for 40 goals and 41 assists this season. The Houston trio of Bruin, Clark and Davis made the greatest impact, amassing 19 goals and 20 assists. Robles, the lone goalie of the bunch, started every match for New York.
The first match of that Dynamo-Red Bulls semifinal matchup was a POY extravaganza. Alexander gave New York a 2-0 lead in the first half, but Clark scored the first of two second-half goals against Robles to send both teams into Wednesday’s Game 2 with two goals apiece.
Really, the only guarantee in these playoffs is that the MLS Cup champion will feature an alumnus of Gatorade POY.