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Ranking the finalists: Who should win USMNT player of year award?

Robbie Earle speaks with Christian Pulisic following Chelsea's 1-1 draw with Manchester United about the Blues' title chase, Thomas Tuchel's impact and more.

The six finalists for the USMNT player of the year award for 2021 have been announced, and we thought it would be fun to pick a winner.

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Based on their displays for club and country in 2021, which American star deserves to be crowned the top USMNT player over the calendar year?

This really is a very close call, and there is no right answer here. Well, until we find out who wins the award when it is announced later in December.

For the first time ever a fan vote will count for 15 percent of the overall tally, with U.S. Soccer saying the rest of the vote will come from “national team players, coaches, media and other related constituencies.”

You can vote here via U.S. Soccer from Dec. 6 at 11am ET until Dec. 12 at 11:59pm ET, while below is our ranking and analysis on the USMNT players in the running.

Ranking the contenders for USMNT player of the year - 2021

6. Kellyn Acosta

A solid, consistent performer who played a huge role in the Gold Cup success. He’s an experienced player (still just 26 years old) in an inexperienced team and Berhalter enjoys how he can help control a game with his clever positioning in central midfield. Along with Sebastian Lletget, their game management is very helpful off the bench.

5. Matt Turner

The 2021 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year beat Zack Steffen to the number one jersey in the fall, then lost it for the key November qualifiers. Turner was superb for the Supporters’ Shield winning New England Revolution and made a huge step forward this year. The next step is getting better with the ball at his feet and pushing Steffen all the way for a starting spot in 2022.

4. Brenden Aaronson

What a year for Aaronson, who was the top goalscorer for the USMNT and he also moved to RB Salzburg and became a starter and made his mark in the UEFA Champions League. The Philadelphia Union product, 21, has a big future ahead of him and he became the USMNT’s chief creator when Pulisic missed several games and carried them early in qualifying. That said, Aaronson did fade a little in recent World Cup qualifiers and the winter break in Austria will do him good.

3. Weston McKennie

The Juventus midfielder, 23, has become the main man in central midfield for the USMNT and his goal against Mexico in the 2-0 World Cup qualifying win in Cincinnati was huge. At Juve he’s become a regular too, which is no mean feat after Max Allegri arrived as the new boss, and the USMNT really miss his presence, quality and character when he isn’t in midfield. His suspension from the team due to an off-field incident in Nashville is the only reason he’s down in third place.

2. Miles Robinson

What an incredible year for the Atlanta United center back. Robinson, 24, grabbed his chance with both hands in the Gold Cup, as he played in every single minute and scored the winning goal in extra time in the final against Mexico to cap off a fine tournament. Add to that his assured displays in World Cup qualifying and Robinson is now the USMNT’s first-choice center back. Who saw that coming? A move to Europe next?

1. Christian Pulisic

It has to be him. It just has to. Yes, Pulisic, 23, has missed significant minutes for the USMNT through injury. But he’s been there when it mattered most. From his epic penalty kick winner to win the CONCACAF Nations League final against Mexico to his clutch finish to seal the Dos A Cero win in World Cup qualifying, Pulisic is by far the USA’s most gifted player and he pops up when it matters most. The reason he wins it, for us, is this: he played a key role in Chelsea winning the UEFA Champions League (remember that goal away at Real Madrid in the semifinal in his man of the match display and the way he ran Porto ragged in the quarterfinal?) as he became the first USMNT player to play in the final and win it. It really is that simple.

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