It's been a banner year for USA stalwart and consistent standout Kristine Lilly . With a career spanning three decades, two FIFA Women's World Cup titles, Olympic gold and a host of individual honours, the current captain and US Women's Player of the Year for 2005 was second only to Marta for the FIFA Women's World Player of the Year (2006) and steered a young US side to glory at the Peace Queen Cup in the Far East, another CONCACAF title and a spot at next year's FIFA Women's World Cup in China .
With 116 goals for the US national team and an astonishing 319 caps, Mrs Lilly is a player of vast experience and someone who speaks eloquently and with authority on the beautiful game, something she was kind enough to do for FIFA.com over the festive season.
Out on the pitch, qualifying for the Women's World Cup was a huge thrill. The final games came in November, right at the end of a very hard year. We worked extremely hard for 11 long months and in the end it all paid off.
Off the pitch, I got married early this year and my new husband is a great inspiration to me. He only recently discovered the game of soccer, but he already loves it and wants me to play for as long as I can. He's always saying, 'Get out there, and keep going'. He wants to watch me play as long as I still enjoy it and he is a great inspiration to me. Our wedding day was far and away my best moment off the field in 2006. Both of our families came together and a lot of my old and current team-mates came out to celebrate with us. It was great.
Overall it's been a pretty good year for US Women's Soccer. We haven't lost a game and we qualified as CONCACAF Champions for next year's Women's World Cup. The best matches we played would have to be our last two qualifying games against Mexico and Canada . We didn't play our best soccer, but we worked hard and the games tested us a bit, which we needed.
Our team goal for 2006 was to get some of the younger girls more comfortable on the field and get them a few more starts. I think we definitely accomplished this. And two of the girls in the team who really impressed me with their play this year were Abby Wambach - who is just a joy to play with - and also Christie Rampone, who came back from having a baby, worked her butt off and is now playing some of her best soccer.
Some of the younger girls in our team have shown their strength this past year as well. Leslie Osborne had a great year, stepping into the breach when Shannon Boxx went down with injury.
As a fan, my favourite moment of the year would have to be just being able to watch so much soccer when the FIFA World Cup was going on in Germany . There's nothing better than having all that soccer to watch on TV. For me the highlight was watching (Zinedine) Zidane work his magic. He never lost the ball, he was always cool and calm and was just amazing - especially against Brazil. I also really liked watching Italy, and Germany were great hosts - the fans were always smiling and they had a good team. Of course, I liked watching the USA play too!
In terms of Fair Play, the highlight for me in 2006 was the FIFA World Player of the Year Gala in Zurich. You had myself, an American, standing next Marta from Brazil and Germany's Renate Lingor. We will all be battling for a World Championship next year, but on that night we were just happy for each other and cheering each other on.
My big goal for 2007 is to bring the Women's World Cup back home from China. I know it won't be easy and we'll have to work hard or it, but I am desperate to get rid of that bad taste in my mouth from USA 2003, when we crashed out early.