US Soccer names nominees for male athlete of year; Is winner obvious?

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It’d be cool if there was a debate here, but we feel pretty confident telling you which of the six nominees for the 2014 U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year award is going to take home the prize on Thursday.

Kyle Beckerman, Alejandro Bedoya, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Fabian Johnson and Jermaine Jones have all been nominated for the honor, as announced by the US Soccer site earlier today, but it’s fair to say we can hazard a strong guess at the winner (which will be unveiled on Sportscenter at 4pm ET Thursday).

There are compelling cases to be made for the six nominees: Dempsey scored to help erase the Ghana demons, Jones now has one of the most memorable goals in US history and the trio of remaining field player nominees did yeoman’s work all year for the Yanks.

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But, although the voting process is new this year, it’s hard to imagine the voters will produce a name that doesn’t rhyme with Jim Towered.

Howard was incredible, and would be the front-runner for the award if only for the career achievements he posted for the USMNT this year. He passed Kasey Keller for all-time wins and appearances, moved ahead of Brad Friedel for World Cup appearances and picked up his 100th cap.

And, oh yeah, he broke the World Cup record for saves in a game, almost willing the States past Belgium.

So apologies to the TV audience come Thursday, but it has to be Howard. Has to be.