SPOTLIGHT: Naomi Girma Voted 2020 U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year

Naomi Girma, the captain of the U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team and a student at Stanford University, has been voted the 2020 U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year. (Photo: Us Soccer)

U.S. Soccer

CHICAGO — U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team captain Naomi Girma, who attended her first full U.S. Women’s National Team camp this year, has been voted the 2020 U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year.

Girma, who played a major part in helping Stanford win the NCAA Championship in 2019 as the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, was the leader of the U.S. defense during the 2020 Concacaf U-20 Women’s Championship. As a team captain, Girma started six games during the World Cup qualifying tournament to help the USA earn a berth to the since-cancelled 2020 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup and win the regional title, defeating Mexico, 4-1 in the championship game. She finished third on the team in minutes played while marshalling a back line that played an instrumental part in allowing just one goal. The USA went 545 shutout minutes in the tournament before allowing that score.

“It’s been such a crazy year, but it’s always an honor to represent the USA and I’m proud of what our team was able to accomplish at the beginning of the year in Concacaf qualifying even though the World Cup got cancelled,” said Girma. “While the year didn’t go as planned, I’m especially thankful for the coaches and the medical staff who helped keep us playing some soccer and to be mentioned along with the past winners is very cool and humbling. Of course, my family – my parents and brother – have been so supportive, along with my Stanford family and the U-20 WNT family, so I’ll always appreciate everything they’ve contributed to me as a person and a player.”

In her second and final U-20 cycle, Girma was the third most experienced player on the team with 31 U-20 international caps. Girma is only the second pure defender to win the award in its 23-year existence.

Her college season for Stanford – in what would have been her junior year – was postponed to the Spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic so she did not play in a college match this Fall, but in October, Girma attended her first full U.S. Women’s National Team training camp, which took place in Colorado.

Fifteen U.S. Soccer Young Female Players of the Year have gone on to play in a senior level Women’s World Cup for the USA. The first winner, back in 1998, was current U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone.

“First and foremost, Naomi Girma is a great person and a fantastic leader,” said U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team head coach Laura Harvey. “She is highly respected by her teammates and the kind of player who always puts the team first. On the field, she is smart, brave and always pushing to improve. I know it’s rare for a defender to win this award, but it’s a credit to the impact she has on the field and on the people around her.”

Votes for U.S. Soccer Player of the Year awards are collected from respective National Team coaches, National Team players who have earned a cap in 2020, members of the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors, U.S. Soccer Athletes’ Council, National Women’s Soccer League head coaches (for the USWNT awards) and American soccer league (MLS and USL) head coaches (for the USMNT awards), select media members and former players and administrators.


Meet US Soccer Rising Star Naomi Girma (September 2016)

Ethiopian American Naomi Girma is a defender in the U.S. under-17 Women’s National team. (US Soccer)

US Soccer

September 2016


In 1982, Girma Aweke arrived in the United States in search of a better life and education. After spending his early years in Ethiopia, he made his way to San Jose State University, where he studied engineering.

Seble Demissie, the second youngest of eight children, arrived in the USA in 1987 after earning her undergraduate degree in Ethiopia with the same goals. She did some short term training at the University of Pittsburgh and then earned her MBA at Long Beach State.

It was in Northern California, among the tight-knit Ethiopian community, that the two met, fell in love, married in 1995, and settled in San Jose. Living out their version of the American dream, he as an engineer in the medical field and she working in finance and banking.

Both became American citizens, and they had two children, son Nathaniel and daughter Naomi, who was born in 2000. Sixteen years later, the daughter of immigrants, a first generation American, is on the cusp of representing – and perhaps captaining — the United States in a youth Women’s World Cup.

It was the Ethiopian community that first drew Naomi Girma to soccer. (In Ethiopia, the children take the first name of their father as their last name). Girma Aweke was one of the organizers of “maleda soccer” (maleda meaning “dawn” in Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia), a gathering of Ethiopian families that served to strengthen the bonds of the community.

“I was five years old when I first started playing,” said Naomi, who heads into the 2016 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan as one of the USA’s starting center backs. “Girls and boys played together and they always divided soccer games into little kids, medium kids and big kids. I always begged to play with the big kids. Eventually, my parents let me.”

A starting center-back for the U-17 WNT, Naomi Girma has captained the USA on several occasions. (Photo: US Soccer)

Naomi Girma. (Photo: US Soccer)

Through these free play weekend afternoons, which also featured other sports and a big BBQ to end the day, Naomi’s love for the game was nurtured. At age nine, she started playing club soccer for the Central Valley Crossfire and grew into one of the USA’s elite female players for her age. She has committed to Stanford University for the fall of 2018 and has captained the U.S. U-17 WNT on several occasions.

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