The shortlist for the 2014 FIFA Women's World Player of the Year was announced overnight, and the Seattle Reign's Naho Kawasumi was included on the list of some of the the most talented and accomplished players in the world. The official details are here, and the fact that Naho was nominated based almost entirely on her club performance with the Reign illustrates the increasing influence the NWSL is having on women's soccer across the world.
(Let me interject with a bit of pedantry here. There is no women's Ballon d'Or, despite how often you will hear people talk about it. The Ballon d'Or is the name of the the mens' award. The women have the World Player of the Year.)
Naho's nomination is her first appearance on the WPOTY shortlist, though Japan has had strong representation recently, with 9 nominations and 1 winner (Homare Sawa in 2011) in the last 4 years.
She joins 3 other NWSL players on the shortlist: Western New York's Abby Wambach, Portland's Nadine Angerer (who won the award last year), and Portland's Vero Boquete.
And with the well-deserved congratulations of Naho out of the way, the elephant in the room is the lack of Kim Little on the list. If Kawasumi was nominated largely on her club performance in NWSL, it's hard to imagine how the league's runaway MVP — who was the NWSL Player of the Month in 3 of the 5 months this season and who has guided Scotland to the knockout rounds of World Cup Qualification — didn't merit consideration. It does nothing to change the perception of FIFA as more political than meritocratic, especially after Angerer's head-scratcher of an award last season.
The three-player shortlist for the award will be announced on December 1, and the winner announced in mid-January.