NEW YORK – To MLS fans, Kevin Payne is synonymous with D.C. United and the tradition of success the club has built in MLS since the league’s founding in 1996.
But United’s president and CEO has had a more extensive role in the game outside the confines of RFK Stadium. He was recognized for his service with the Werner Fricker Builder award, which was presented at the US Soccer Federation’s Annual General Meeting in Las Vegas on Saturday.
It represented the first time in the history of the award that a high-ranking MLS club official was honored.
It was Werner Fricker who originally hired 57-year-old Payne as USSF national administrator back in 1990. Payne has been involved in a variety of roles within the federation ever since, including as a long-time member of the US Soccer Board of Directors.
“Werner Fricker was very important to me,” Payne said in a club statement. “He brought me into US Soccer originally and was a man I admired greatly.
“I am deeply honored to have been chosen and proud to join the previous winners of the Werner Fricker Builder Award.”
The Werner Fricker Builder Award is presented annually to an individual who has played a significant role in helping grow the sport in the United States. It was under Fricker’s tenure as USSF president that the United States won the right to host the 1994 World Cup, which eventually led to the birth of Major League Soccer.
"Kevin has been at the forefront of the game for more than 20 years," U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said in a federation statement. "He has devoted his career to advancing soccer, and he is certainly deserving of this honor."
WERNER FRICKER AWARD WINNERS
2002 - Werner Fricker, Sr. (former USSF president)
2003 - Sunil Gulati (current USSF president, former USSF executive VP)
2005 - Gerhard Mengel (president, Michigan Soccer Association)
2006 - Sal Rapaglia (president, Eastern New York Amateur Soccer Association)
2007 - Francisco Marcos (president, United Soccer Leagues)
2008 - Bob Gansler (former USMNT and Kansas City head coach)
2009 - Alan Rothenberg (former USSF president)
2010 - Bob Contiguglia (former USSF president)
2011 - Kevin Payne (president & CEO, D.C. United)