The 2023 season for the Greenville Triumph Soccer Club will be the last for the founding head coach and sporting director.
John Harkes says he will not seek to renew his contract after five years with the club. Harkes, the winningest coach in USL League One history, joined the Triumph shortly after the club’s inception in 2018.
The former U.S. Men’s National Team captain joined the Triumph after serving as the head coach of FC Cincinnati for the club’s inaugural season in 2016. He led that club to a 16-6-8 record and a playoff berth, also being named a finalist for Coach of the Year. In Greenville, he built a roster from scratch in less than a year and that club finished as League One runner-up in the inaugural season. The Triumph dominated the COVID-shortened 2020 season, going wire-to-wire at the top of the league table to win the club’s first League One title.
The team made it to the playoffs this year but lost in the opening round to the Charlotte Independence on Oct. 20.
Harkes led the team to the USL League One Playoffs in each of his five seasons with the Triumph, reaching three consecutive League One Finals from 2019-2021. Greenville is the only club to make the postseason in each of the league’s first five seasons, according to a news release. Harkes was the league’s Coach of the Year in 2020 and has been awarded Coach of the Month five times.
“My family and I have had an incredible journey with Greenville,” Harkes said in the news release. “After much reflection and many discussions, I have decided to not renew my contract. I am grateful to this club, in particular the Erwin family, their ownership group and (President) Chris Lewis for the steadfast trust in me to lead the club on and off the field. I hope that I have fulfilled my promises to build Triumph SC from the ground up and my dream to leave it in a better place.”
Harkes, whose contract runs through the end of December, will assist in staff and player transition as the club prepares for the 2024 League One season, the release said.
“John Harkes is special — a great head coach and sporting director, who is an even better person,” Triumph Chairman Joe Erwin said in the release. “Having John guide our coaching staff and players the last five years has been a joy for our supporters, fans and everyone in our club. He’s embraced our community and what makes the Upstate special, and he has built a culture of success that is unmatched in our league. We wish great happiness to John and his family going forward, and we are forever grateful for their contributions to the Greenville Triumph.”
Harkes said he was stepping away from the club in an official capacity but that he would not be giving up the green in his wardrobe.
“I am forever a member of the Greenville Triumph, and I will remain a full supporter of the club, fans, and community moving forward,” he said in the release. “I am indebted to Joe, Gretchen, Doug, Shannon, Billy and Chris as well as my coaching staff and players for their hard work, belief, and trust in me. I’d like to thank my family, in particular my wife Cindi, who supported me along this journey. I’m excited for the next chapter in my career and in our lives.”
Harkes grew up in Kearny, N.J., and played soccer at the University of Virginia from 1985 to 1987 under his future D.C. United head coach Bruce Arena. Harkes was named the MAC Hermann Player of the Year in 1987 before foregoing his senior season to play with the U.S. Men’s National Team. With the National Team, Harkes earned 90 caps, appearing in FIFA World Cups (1990, 1994), the 1988 Olympics and serving as team captain from 1995-1998. Following a career in Europe as the first American to compete in the English Premier League, Harkes returned to the U.S. as one of the foundational players of the newly-created Major League Soccer. In addition to coaching since his retirement as a player, he’s worked with ESPN, Fox, and SiriusXM as a commentator for MLS and World Cup coverage.
The Greenville Triumph recently announced the club will return to Furman’s Paladin Stadium for a second season in 2024 as the organization continues to work on securing a location and plan for a permanent stadium.i