After a pair of massively productive individual seasons, Josh Sargent (St. Louis Scott Gallagher) and Sophia Smith (Real Colorado) are the recipients of this year’s TopDrawerSoccer.com Player of the Year honor, presented by IMG.
This is the second year of the award, after Mallory Pugh and Isaiah Young won it last year. It’s the second straight year a girls player from Real Colorado took home the honor. Both Sargent and Young are junior forwards set to graduate in 2018.
The annual award honors the two best and brightest boys and girls amateur club players in the country based off their body of work over the previous season in addition to their assessed ability by our panel of judges. That includes not only club performance but also any relevant national team duty.
To be considered, a player must be eligible for a U.S. youth national team, and they must be college eligible and have retained their amateur status at the time the award is given. Players who’ve signed professional contracts or have already begun their college careers by the July 31 deadline are not eligible for consideration.
For Sargent and Smith, this season could hardly have gone any better.
Smith’s time spent playing club soccer with Real Colorado’s U17 team was necessarily limited due to national team duty. And she did not waste the opportunity to shine. The marauding attacking player’s national team season kicked off in earnest with an impressive showing at the U17 World Cup in October. That precipitated an incredible national team run of form in which she scored for the U17, U18, U20 and U23 WNT sides in various competitions.
Her ripping form was not limited to the national team. Though she was often kept from club by national team duties, she was an irrepressible force for Real Colorado’s high-flying U17 team. She racked up multiple-goal games on several occasions, and her single most dominant moment came during a seven-goal performance during the second half of the season. Smith is currently committed to Stanford for the 2018 season.
Sargent’s season, like Smith’s, was limited on the club side by a breakout series of performances on the national team scene. And no one’s busted onto the scene in such short order quite like Sargent.
Sargent exploded at the Nike International Friendlies in December, scoring five goals in three games to pace the U.S.’s tournament championship run. Then the prototypical forward scored five goals in six games in CONCACAF U17 World Cup qualifying, pushing the U.S. to the brink of a tournament title before a narrow loss in the finale against Mexico. For his crowning moment, Sargent was called into the U20 MNT days later to participate in the U20 World Cup. All he did was score four goals, just one off the pace for the golden boot despite being one of the youngest players at the tournament.
Whatever the future holds for Sargent, it certainly looks bright.
The TopDrawerSoccer.com Player of the Year award presented by IMG, the most prestigious yearly honorific for amateur youth players with U.S. ties, will honor one top girl and boy player at the conclusion of each season. Announced each August following a July 31 cutoff, the award takes into account the player’s body of work over the previous season and will be picked by an internal panel of judges.
The award is bestowed annually and seeks to reward two top up-and-coming youth players in the country by identifying and celebrating their accomplishments over the previous season. TopDrawerSoccer.com and IMG Academy, two of the world’s leading advocates for U.S. youth soccer, are partnering in the endeavor and will hand out the award jointly each year.