Julie Ertz is the second player from the World Cup winning American side to make the shortlist, and as the 2019 US national team’s player of the year she should stand a good chance of winning the BBC award. Ertz was named in the 2019 FIFA Fifpro women’s team of the year in her favoured defensive midfield position, having been shifted there from her original position of central defence in 2017.
She played a leading role in the USA’s World Cup campaign, playing in six of their seven games and scoring one goal as her team won the tournament. She also had a successful season with her club, Chicago Red Stars, as they reached the play-off final in the NWSL where they lost 4-0 to North Carolina Courage. Kerr played 16 games for the club on their way to the final and won the league’s inaugural player of the season award.
Last summer’s World Cup in France was Kerr’s second, she has won both competitions in which she has competed and played every game of the 2015 tournament. Whilst not the most glamorous player, Ertz’s game relies on interceptions, tackles and building the play from deep rather than scoring and creating goals, Ertz had a hugely impressive 2019 as an integral part of both her club and national sides and should be considered a serious contender for the player of the year award.
A force to be reckoned with, both on and off the pitch, Megan Rapinoe had a sensational 2019. The 34-year-old midfielder co-captained the US Women’s National Team to FIFA World Cup glory, scoring six times and going on to win the 2019 Ballon d'Or. Having made her international debut in 2009, Rapinoe has scored 51 goals for the US team. She has competed in three World Cups and two Olympic games, taking home Gold from London 2012. She currently plays for Reign F.C., one of nine teams in the US National Women's Soccer League.
Rapinoe is one of the leading figures in the fight for equality in sport and a fearless critic of President Trump, who made headlines during the World Cup for exclaiming “I’m not going to the f*cking White House.” The midfielder has kneeled for the US National Anthem since 2016, in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick and in protest of racism in sport. Alongside her team and co-captain, Alex Morgan, Rapinoe has raised the public’s awareness of the gender pay-gap in football and called for the US Women’s Team to be paid the same as their, less successful, male counterparts. Rapinoe and her girlfriend, star basketball-player Sue Bird, were the first openly gay couple to pose on the cover of the ESPN Body Issue.
With the US Women’s team successfully qualifying for the Olympics earlier this month and the upcoming SheBelieves Cup in March, Rapinoe shows no signs of taking it easy in 2020.
Around three years ago, shortly after Lucy Bronze’s transfer to Olympique Lyonnais, I was being given a tour of the City Football Academy. Bronze spent three years at Manchester City under Nick Cushing, winning a league title, a league cup and an FA cup, before leaving for the European Champions. Midway through the tour, our guide, stopped in front of a picture of Bronze before stating “And this is the best female player in the world. She’s better than most male fullbacks”. Given her remarkable ability, it is no surprise that she has once again been nominated for the BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year.
This award is one that Bronze is familiar with, having already won it in 2018, however this is only one amongst many personal accolades that include two PFA Player of the Years, two England Footballer of the Years, a FAWSL Player of the Year and a UEFA Player of the Year Award. Her trophy cabinet is fairly full and was only increased last year, following a relatively successful World Cup. She was awarded the Silver Ball and made the team of tournament.
Phil Neville is one of Bronze’s biggest fans. In fact, he is so confident in her talents that he often plays her in the centre of midfield rather than in her usual right back position, in the hope that she will be able to have a greater impact on the game. Whilst it caused some controversy amongst fans as she wasn’t immediately comfortable playing in the new role, his reasoning was understandable. You want your best player on the ball as much as possible.
And for Phil, and many others, Lucy is “the best player in the world”, not just in England.
Having played Aussie rules football up until the age of 12 with her father, who happened to play professionally, it’s fair to say that Sam Kerr began football at a slightly later stage compared to many, but arrived with plenty of sporting pedigree.
Now 26, Kerr had what many would deem as the perfect 2019. Assigned to both Perth Glory in Australia and Chicago Red Stars in the US, Kerr managed to record the extremely rare feat of becoming top scorer in both the top professional leagues in Australia and America, notching up 18 goals and five assists in the hotly contested National Women’s Soccer League (NSWL) in the process.
Being a native to Australia, Kerr has so far managed to total 83 appearances for her country, scoring 38 times in the process since her debut over a decade ago in 2009.
Sam Kerr was subsequently named as captain of the national team for the 2019 Fifa Women’s World Cup in France. Kerr managed to score on two occasions at the finals, firstly against Italy in their group opener, to which she celebrated by mimicking the famous Australian footballer Tim Cahill’s ‘corner flag punch’.
Kerr then went on to create history as the first Australian player (male or female) to score a hat-trick at a World Cup finals, scoring four times in in the nations 4-1 victory over Jamaica, leading to Kerr finishing as the fourth highest goal scorer at the tournament.
Kerr’s year ended with the high profile move to European football. After admitting she’d received offers from several clubs, Kerr decided to join Chelsea on a two and a half year deal. Her move joins her up with fellow international players such as Ji So-yun and Fran Kirby.
Arsenal’s leading lady, Vivianne Miedema, is staking a claim for BBC’s Women’s Football of the Year 2020.
A WSL title winning campaign with the Gunners also saw Miedema finish as the side’s top scorer and pick up the PFA Players’ Player of the Year in the process. On an international level, the forward has moved to become the Netherlands’ all-time top scorer with a tally of 69 goals – ahead of the men’s leading scorer Robin van Persie too.
A year of success included a six goal and four assist haul against Bristol City in the WSL’s largest ever victory, a four goal tall against Slavia Praha in the Women’s Champions League and being shortlisted for the Ballon d’Or Féminin.
Speaking to the BBC, Miedema picked her own highlight from 2019:
“Probably a couple – winning the league at Brighton with Arsenal. I felt like this was a very special day as the club really needed it and we worked really hard for it. Then going to the World Cup and playing a final that no-one expected, I think is something amazing that you probably only experience once in your life.”