Paul Gardner (right) with former Argentine World Cup championship coach Cesar LuisMenotti. (Michael Lewis/FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – United Soccer Coaches announced Tuesday that longtime Soccer America columnist Paul Gardner has been selected as the recipient of the inaugural United Soccer Coaches Media Career of Excellence Award.

The award was established to provide an opportunity for the association to recognize a media professional for a distinguished career covering the events and issues of soccer in the United States. The award will be presented during the association’s annual Awards Ceremony taking place Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021 as part of the United Soccer Coaches digital convention.

“The legendary pioneer in American soccer journalism, Paul Gardner has kept us engaged through his columns and books for decades,” United Soccer Coaches president Kevin Sims said. “Through his passionate, opinionated, celebratory, provocative, controversial, and joyful musings, Paul has kept the American soccer community on the edge of its collective seat. What shines through is his deep regard for the purity of the beautiful game. There is no better choice as the recipient of the United Soccer Coaches inaugural Media Career of Excellence Award.”

For more than five decades, Gardner has covered U.S. and international soccer, writing over 1,000 columns for Soccer America. He has written for Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, USA Today, the New York Daily News, The Sporting News, Village Voice, Soccer Week, Times of London, The Guardian and Independent, and has been a contributor to World Soccer (UK) for 48 years.

He served as a color commentator for the first-ever live telecast of a World Cup Final in the U.S. in 1982 and served alongside Jim McKay calling NASL games from 1979-81. He did commentary for NBC at the 1986 World Cup, for CBS on NASL games, and college games on ESPN.

Gardner has covered nine World Cups, 10 U-17 World Cups, in addition to FIFA U-20 World Cups, the Olympics, European Championships and Copa America.

Born in England, Gardner is a passionate writer, whose columns often provoke controversy, but they stem from his deep, long love for the game, which has not wavered after a half century. He has also written about soccer in terms of business and entertainment.

Gardner’s published works have even affected international soccer. In 1977, he began writing that the offside rule be changed so that an attacker in line with the last defender would be considered onside, FIFA made the change in 1990. FIFA also adopted his suggestions on how referees deliver second yellow cards, requiring numbers on the front of jerseys, and clarifying in its rulebook the ejection of coaches.

Gardner was honored with the Colin Jose Media Award from the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2010.