Abby Wambach, the rugged U.S. national team forward who played four seasons for the Washington Freedom, was voted FIFA’s world player of the year — the first American to win the Ballon d’Or award since Mia Hamm 11 years ago.
Wambach, 32, recorded 27 goals in 32 appearances in 2012 and helped the United States win its third consecutive Olympic gold medal. She received 21 percent of the votes and beat out fellow finalists Alex Morgan (28 goals in 31 matches) and Brazilian forward Marta, a five-time winner, who took 11 percent and 14 percent respectively.
Wambach (152 goals in 198 international games since 2001) is the second consecutive former Freedom player to win the trophy; Japan’s Homare Sawa was the 2011 recipient. The Freedom competed in the WUSA (2001-03) and WPS (2009-10). A third try at a first-tier U.S. pro circuit, the National Women’s Soccer League, will commence in April with the Washington Spirit based at Maryland SoccerPlex in Montgomery County. Wambach and the other U.S. stars will be allocated to the eight clubs this month.
Lionel Messi, who set a world record with 91 goals in all competitions with FC Barcelona and Argentina in 2012, claimed the men’s honor for the fourth time with 42 percent of the votes. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid, Portugal) and Andres Iniesta (Barcelona, Spain) were the other finalists with 24 percent and 11 percent respectively.
Pia Sundhage, who guided the U.S. women to Olympic glory before stepping down to return home to Sweden, was named FIFA coach of the year. Spain national team coach Vicente del Bosque won the men’s award.
Votes were cast by captains and head coaches of all national teams, as well as selected media representatives.
Every member of FIFA’s World XI, selected by 50,000 pro players, competes in Spain’s La Liga:
Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid, Spain).
Defenders: Dani Alves (Barcelona, Brazil), Gerard Pique (Barcelona, Spain), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid, Spain), Marcelo (Real Madrid, Brazil).
Midfielders: Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid, Spain), Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona, Spain), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona, Spain).
Forwards: Lionel Messi (Barcelona, Argentina), Radomel Falcao (Atletico Madrid, Colombia), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid, Portugal).