Top 15 Athletes Who Are Ready to Break Out in 2015

It's something that happens quite a bit when the calendar turns over and we begin a new year. People all around the world choose to view this time as a beacon of hope as they usher in the promise of a

It's something that happens quite a bit when the calendar turns over and we begin a new year. People all around the world choose to view this time as a beacon of hope as they usher in the promise of a new year and all of its possibilities. But the cold, hard truth is that it only take a few weeks (or days) to pass in January before New Year's resolutions fall by the wayside - and sometimes, the optimism gets thrown out right along with it.

The year 2015 has been no different. While many people are still shaking off the post-holiday blues and getting back up to speed in their lives, the new year has already dished out some serious blows. For example, DISH Network went through a PR nightmare after it jettisoned Fox News from its lineup, losing some 90,000 subscribers before finally reaching a deal to get the channel back on the air. The film Selma largely was shut out of the Golden Globe Awards, and didn't receive any directing or acting Academy Award nominations either. And of course, let's not start talking about what happened in Paris.

The same phenomenon is happening in the sporting world. As of this writing, the Buffalo Sabres have yet to win in 2015, and the New York Knicks are playing even worse then the perennially-hapless Philadelphia 76ers. John Fox was ousted (or left, depending who you talk to) as head coach of the Broncos, despite giving Denver four divisional titles in the last four years, as well as a Super Bowl appearance less than a year ago. Finally, it may be a while before the Alabama and Florida State football teams get their swagger back after losing on New Year's Day.

That said, there are a few athletes who are still extremely hopeful that 2015 will be a banner year for them. And it's not just in the high-profile sports where this is the case. So let's take a look at the one athlete in 15 different sports that will most likely break out in 2015.

15 Mixed Martial Arts: Rob Font

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The 27-year old Leominster, Massachusetts native made a big splash in his UFC debut last summer, when he needed just two minutes, 19 seconds to knock out George Roop on the undercard of UFC 175 in Las Vegas. In fact, all three of Font's 2014 fights didn't make it past the first round, with two KOs and one submission, allowing the bantamweight to run his winning streak to ten. Font doesn't yet have a fight scheduled in '15, but if he can continue his run this year, look for him to jump into the Top 15 rankings in his class.

14 Major League Soccer: Wil Trapp

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The 22-year old midfielder finished his first full season with Columbus Crew SC in 2014, starting 28 games and netting a goal and four assists. But don't let those numbers tell you the story about the suburban Columbus native; instead, you should focus on the compliments he received on his play from the likes of Thierry Henry, who called him "the key" in the Crew's defeat of the Red Bulls in October. Jurgen Klinsmann thinks so highly of Trapp that he tapped him for USMNT 28-man roster earlier this month. Look for Trapp to anchor Columbus's midfield in 2015.

13 World Football: Alexandre Lacazette


Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Suarez, and Alexandre Lacazette. Those are the only four men in the five major European soccer leagues who have scored two goals in four straight games in the last decade. The 23-year Olympique Lyonnais forward leads Ligue 1 with 19 goals, and his club sits atop the table, four points ahead of the mighty PSG, who site in fourth. So it's no surprise that clubs like Liverpool are taking a long look at the versatile and gifted Lacazette, though his contract will keep him in Lyon through 2018.

12 Women's Soccer: Sydney Leroux

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If the American women are to have any shot at winning their first World Cup in this century, they will have to get stellar play from the 24-year old forward come June. But since opponents are likely to focus on U.S. star Abby Wambach, that should open up some space for the speedy, powerful, and talented Leroux. The LA native netted nine goals and started 13 games last year for the Americans, while also playing in all five CONCACAF qualifiers. Leroux will return to return to her native Canada for this year's tournament (her father is American) and play for the stars and stripes.

11 Women's Tennis: Belinda Bencic

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Some call her "the new Martina Hingis." The Swiss standout is second the youngest player in the Top 100 female tennis rankings at age 17. The 32nd-ranked Bencic was impressive enough in 2014 to be named the WTA Newcomer of the Year after reaching the top spot in the junior rankings the previous year. Bencic's best finish in a major last year was at the U.S. Open, when she defeated the seventh and ninth ranked players in the world (Angelique Kerber and Jelena Jankvic) back-to-back to become the youngest player to reach the tournament's quarterfinals since - you guessed it - Hingis in 1997.

10 Men's Tennis: Dominic Thiem

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Like Bencic, Thiem is the most junior player in the ATP's Top 50. Also like his Swiss counterpart, the 21-year old Austrian turned heads in Flushing Meadow by reaching the fourth round after dispatching the event's 11th seed (Ernests Gulbis) and 19th seed (Feliciano Lopez) before being ousted by Tomas Berdych. The 37th-ranked Thiem is coming off a year in which he earned over $700,000 in prize money, and the powerful baseliner is poised to make waves in 2015.

9 Women's Golf: Lydia Ko

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This one's a no-brainer, as the 17-year old New Zealander is currently ranked second on the LPGA Tour and is coming off her victory in the CME Group Tour Championship in November (where she survived four sudden-death playoff holes to grab the title). Ko also won two other LPGA  tournaments in 2014, posted an amazing 15 top-ten finishes, and earned an astounding $2 million for the 2014 season. No wonder she won the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year. She could even become a household name in '15.

8 Men's Golf: Will MacKenzie

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He's probably the person on this list that had the roughest 2014. Between late April and late August, the Greenville, North Carolina native made only one cut in 12 PGA tournaments. Perhaps not coincidentally, MacKenzie was dealing with the divorce of his wife Alli. But in the three tournaments thus far this season, the 40-year old MacKenzie has made all three cuts, notched two top-ten finishes, and was the runner-up at the McGladrey Classic in Georgia (which included a third-round ace from 178 yards out). Perhaps he's finally gotten back on track for 2015.

7 Formula One Racing: Daniel Ricciardo

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The 25-year old will proudly tell you that he's the first F1 driver to hail from Western Australia. But Ricciado's accolades last year were incredible: knocking off four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel out of the top spot on the Red Bull team, winning three races (including back-to-back checkered flags in Hungary and Belgium this summer), and being named the year's best driver in the world by AutoSport magazine. Oh, and Ricciardo also finished third overall in the points standings behind Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Those two had better watch their rear-view mirrors lest they get passed by the kid from Perth in 2015.

6 NASCAR Racing: Kyle Larson

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Another easy pick. The 2014 Sprint Cup series Rookie of the Year did everything but win races last year. Driving for Chip Ganassi Racing, Larson recorded 21 top-ten finishes to end in the #17 spot in the points standings, just one slot away from the Chase. And he's already started hot in 2015 by winning three straight midget nationals races in Tulsa, Oklahoma. NASCAR watchers think it's only a matter of time before the 22-year old Japanese-American racer steps onto the winner's podium this year.

5 College Basketball: Kasey Hill

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As a freshman, Hill didn't get a chance to make his mark on his Florida squad since he backed up Scottie Wilbekin, the SEC Player of the Year. But now that Wilbekin has graduated, Hill can step into the starting point guard spot and run the Gator offense. Considered to be one of the top two high school point guards two years ago, Hill finished calendar year 2014 with a career-high seven made field goals in a loss to Florida State. But we all know the Gators are capable of making a postseason push; and if they do, it will largely be because of the speedy 6'1" Umatilla, Florida native operating the controls.

4 NFL: Derek Carr

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If there's any optimism after a 3-13 season, it's that Oakland fans won't have to worry about who their 2015 starting quarterback will be. In his rookie season, Carr started every game for the Raiders - something no signal-caller has ever done in Oakland since the 2002 season, after which the Raiders made it to the Super Bowl. The Fresno State product also became just the seventh rookie quarterback in league history to throw for 3,000 yards and 20 TDs. The troubles Carr did have seemed to be issues that can improve with experience. Look for him to make the Raiders relevant again in '15.

3 MLB: Anthony Gose

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Sometimes, all it takes is a change of scenery to flourish. That's what the Detroit Tigers are hoping after they acquired Gose from Toronto this offseason. No one is disputing the 24-year old's defensive ability, and Detroit is hoping that he can become its starting center fielder in 2015 to replace Austin Jackson, who was traded to Seattle in July. If that happens, the lefthanded Gose can get some regular at-bats and perhaps turn into a leadoff man for a power-packed batting order.

2 NHL: Alex Galchenyuk

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Montreal fans are pointing to Galchenyuk's move to the top line center as a big reason why the Canadiens won nine of ten games in a 3 1/2-week stretch in December and January. The 20-year old Milwaukee native was back in his natural position instead of on the wing, and appears to be getting comfortable with NHL play in his third season. However, Galchenyuk has gone goalless in his last eight games and has since been dropped to the Habs' third line. Still, his future looks bright - and he can't even have a legal beer in America yet.

1 NBA: Kyle Lowry

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The Toronto Raptors appear to be coasting to a second consecutive Atlantic Division title, and Lowry's hands are firmly on the wheel of this train. The "once-uncoachable" player in Houston has found new life in the Great White North, and now he's posting career-high averages in scoring, assists, steals, and even rebounds. His season's performance is so good that Raptors' head coach Dwane Casey has threatened to get into a "physical fight" with certain coaches if Lowry doesn't get into next month's All-Star game.

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Top 15 Athletes Who Are Ready to Break Out in 2015