Legacy. Tradition. A who’s who of American sport. As the Gatorade Player of the Year program celebrates its 30th anniversary year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, fans can count many a household name on the roster of former award-winners. Over the past three decades, prep sports’ most esteemed honor boasts Super Bowl, World Series, NBA, WNBA, MLS Cup, NCAA and Olympic champions among more than 13,000 State Players of the Year and 270 National POYs across 12 sports. Let’s not forget the scores of program alumni who have gone on to capture league-MVP, All-Star and All-American recognition. Today, we’re catching up with the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team.
On the morning of the 2011 ESPY awards, less than 24 hours after becoming the first soccer player to win the Gatorade National Female High School Athlete of the Year award, Morgan Brian pulled up a chair in a conference room at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel in Los Angeles to watch the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team take on France in the semifinals of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany.
The U.S. won that game, 3-1, with help from an early goal by 2005-06 Gatorade National Girls Soccer Player of the Year Lauren (Cheney) Holiday and a late tie-breaking goal from 1997-98 Gatorade New York Player of the Year Abby Wambach.
As Brian watched the game with 2010-11 Gatorade National Boys Soccer Player of the Year Luis Rendon, more than one observer asked the Georgia native if her goal was to play in the next Women’s World Cup in Canada in 2015. Brian simply smiled at the idea.
Fast forward four years and that idea is now reality. National coach Jill Ellis named the 23 members of the U.S. team for this summer’s World Cup on Tuesday, and Brian was one of 11 former Gatorade winners—as were Holiday and Wambach—to make the squad.
Brian and Holiday are two of five former Gatorade National Girls Soccer Players of the Year on the roster. Like Brian, goalkeeper Ashlynn Harris (2003-04 National POY) will be making her World Cup debut. Fellow former national winners Amy Rodriguez (2004-05) and Heather O’Reilly (2002-03) will be playing in their second and third World Cups, respectively.
This will mark the fourth World Cup for the 34-year-old Wambach. The world record-holder for international goals for both men and women with 178, Wambach scored one of her most memorable goals against Brazil in the 2011 quarterfinals.
Other returning Gatorade winners from the 2011 World Cup roster include Lori Chalupny (2001-02 Missouri), Tobin Heath (2004-05 New Jersey), Ali Krieger (2002-03 Virginia), Kelley O’Hara (2005-06 Georgia) and Becky Sauerbrunn (2002-03 Missouri).
Brian, who led the University of Virginia to the NCAA championship game in December, is the only current collegian to make the roster.
The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup runs from June 6 to July 5. The U.S. team, which hasn’t won the World Cup since 1999, opens play in Group D against Australia on June 8 in Winnipeg, followed by games against Sweden on June 12 and Nigeria on June 16.
To see the legacy for yourself, visit the Gatorade Player of the Year winner archive, where you can relive history and see which future stars won their first national recognition as high school athletes. To see the cream of the crop, visit the roster of Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year winners, showcasing Gatorade’s top male and female National Player of the Year honoree, selected annually from each POY class.