ABBY WAMBACH, whose thunderous header in the final seconds of the Women's World Cup quarterfinals led the U.S. to an improbable victory and sparked a nationwide frenzy rarely seen for women's sports, has been voted the 2011 Female Athlete of the Year.
The 31-year-old forward won the award handily, receiving 65 of the 214 votes cast by members of the Associated Press. Teammate Hope Solo (38 votes) was a distant second and UConn basketball player Maya Moore (35) was third.
Wambach is the first individual football player - man or woman - to win one of the AP's annual athlete awards, which began in 1931. The U.S. women's team won in 1999, when their World Cup triumph at the Rose Bowl transfixed the nation.
Wambach has 13 goals in three World Cup appearances, most by any American and third on the all-time scoring list.
In other soccer news:
* Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was banned for eight matches and fined 40,000 pounds ($62,000) after being found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra, Manchester United's black defender.
The Baltimore Orioles signed free agent outfielder
to a 1-year contract. Chavez, 33, batted .301 with five home runs and 27 RBI in 83 games for Texas in 2011.
* The Tampa Bay Rays have re-signed righthanded reliever Joel Peralta to a 1-year contract, avoiding arbitration.
Officials in Las Vegas said boxer
Floyd Mayweather Jr.
will plead guilty to reduced charges in a plea deal settling felony allegations that he battered his ex-girlfriend and a misdemeanor charge that he poked a security guard.