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Greenville Head Coach and Sporting Director John Harkes to depart club

By Staff, 10/24/23, 10:30AM EDT


Winningest coach in League One history first to lead club to five postseason appearances

Winningest coach in League One history first to lead club to five postseason appearances | Image Credit: Greenville Triumph SC

GREENVILLE, S.C. – Greenville Triumph SC today announced that Head Coach and Sporting Director John Harkes will not seek to renew his contract after five years with the club. Harkes, the winningest coach in USL League One history, joined Triumph SC shortly after the club's inception in 2018.

The former United States Men's National Team captain came to Greenville after serving as the head coach of FC Cincinnati for the club's inaugural USL Championship season in 2016. He led the club to a 16-6-8 record and a playoff berth, also being named a finalist for Coach of the Year. He continued his coaching success in Greenville, building a roster from scratch in less than a year that finished as League One runner-up in the club's inaugural campaign. Harkes' side 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.

Harkes led the team to the USL League One Playoffs in each of his five seasons with the Triumph, reaching three consecutive USL League One Finals from 2019 to 2021. Greenville is the only club to make the postseason in each of the league's first five seasons. Harkes was honored as the league's Coach of the Year in 2020 and has been awarded Coach of the Month five times. His squads have been known for elite defensive play, highlighted by strong goalkeeping and veteran lineups that included four players with over 100 appearances for the club in Tyler Polak, Evan Lee, Aaron Walker and Brandon Fricke.

"My family and I have had an incredible journey with Greenville," said Harkes. "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 Chris Lewis for their 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. I am forever a member of Greenville Triumph SC, and I will remain a full supporter of the club, fans and community moving forward.

"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, New Jersey 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 USMNT. With the national team, Harkes earned 90 caps, appearing in two FIFA World Cups (1990, 1994), the 1988 Olympics and serving as team captain from 1995 to 1998.

Following a historic 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.

"John Harkes is special – a great head coach and sporting director, who is an even better person," said Triumph Chairman, Joe Erwin. "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 SC."

Harkes, whose contract runs through the end of December, will assist in staff and player transition as the club prepares for the 2024 USL League One season. The club recently announced it will be returning 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.

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