The UNC men’s soccer program has written a long and successful story for itself, heading into the 2022 campaign, having had just two losing seasons since being founded in 1947. With nine trips to the NCAA national championship, the soccer program at the University Of North Carolina has established itself as one of the finest in the Atlantic Coast Conference and the nation. Carlos Somoano is just the fifth head coach in school history and has extended the rich history of Tar Heel men’s soccer over the past 11 seasons.
UNC Men’s Soccer Begins With Dr. Marvin Allen
Before Carlos Somoano, Elmar Bolowich was in charge for the previous 21 seasons from 1989 through to 2010. Bolowich took over after 12 successful seasons spearheaded by the coaching of Anson Dorrance, a former star player for the Tar Heels, who continues to direct the Carolina women’s program to what is now legendary success each fall.
Dorrance’s UNC men’s soccer teams went 172-65-21 from 1977 through 1988, a winning percentage of .708, the best of any coach in Carolina men’s soccer history. He retired from men’s coaching just two victories shy of becoming the University’s all-time leader in coaching victories in the sport.
That distinction still belongs to Dorrance’s mentor in the sport, Dr. Marvin Allen, the guiding force behind the founding of the men’s soccer program at the University of North Carolina and its head coach for 28 seasons spanning four decades.
Dr. Allen, who also taught in the physical education department at Carolina, scored the first goal for Carolina’s club soccer team when it was founded in the 1930s. In 1947, the University elevated men’s soccer to varsity status, and Allen, in a most natural decision, was named the team’s first head coach. It was a decision by Athletic Director Bob Fetzer that bore fruit for years to come.
28 Seasons As UNC Men’s Soccer Coach
Marvin Allen coached the Tar Heels for 28 seasons from 1947 until his retirement after the 1976 season. However, Allen missed the 1951 and 1952 seasons when he was on active duty with the United States Armed Forces in the Korean War, and the team was coached on an interim basis during those two years by Alan Moore.
In 28 campaigns, Allen’s teams combined for a record of 174-81-23, a winning percentage of .667. In its soccer history, Allen’s 1948 team won the Southern Conference title, the first of three league crowns won by the University of North Carolina. Beginning in 1953, Carolina teams started competing in the Atlantic Coast Conference and compiled a record of 54-41-16 under Allen’s leadership.
In 1966, UNC men’s soccer won the first of its three Atlantic Coast Conference men’s soccer championships, sharing the championship with Maryland as both teams posted 3-1 loop records. Two years later, in 1968, North Carolina earned the first of its nine bids to the NCAA Tournament, losing its first-round match to Michigan State 5-0 in Chapel Hill. However, the Spartans went on that year to share the NCAA national championship with Maryland.
Anson Dorrance Takes Charge
Before Allen’s last season at the helm of the Tar Heel program in 1976, Dorrance was named designated head UNC men’s soccer coach, assisting Allen during his last year before taking over the head duties in 1977. It was a wise choice by Tar Heel Athletic Director Bill Cobey.
Under the direction of both Dorrance and Bolowich, the Tar Heels have established themselves as a force to be heard from in the Atlantic Coast Conference and on the national soccer scene. In addition, competing in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the nation’s toughest top-to-bottom collegiate soccer league, has helped give the Tar Heel program high visibility.
Anson Dorrance had some outstanding teams in his early years at Carolina. His 1977, 1978, and 1979 University of North Carolina teams all finished second in the ACC while posting overall 14-3-1, 12-3-4, and 16-3-5, respectively. The 1981 team finished 15-6 overall and scored a shocking 1-0 overtime upset victory over Clemson in Chapel Hill, the first win for Carolina over the Tigers in 12 years.
Freshman Kenny West scored an overtime goal for Carolina that day at Fetzer Field, which gave UNC its first win over I.M. Ibrahim’s powerhouse team since 1969.
In 1983, the Tar Heels finished the season with a brilliant 16-3-2 record but were snubbed by the NCAA selection committee when it passed out post-season bids. That slight even occurred after Carolina upset No. 1-ranked and undefeated Duke 2-1 in overtime in the final match of the regular season before a large crowd at Fetzer Field. Mark Devey scored an unassisted overtime goal to give the Tar Heels the win over the Blue Devils.
The breakthrough year for the UNC men’s soccer team under Dorrance proved to be 1987. Led by All-America defender David Smyth, the Tar Heels stunned the ACC by winning their second conference title in history. The Tar Heels accomplished that feat by winning the inaugural ACC Men’s Soccer Tournament championship, which was played that year before capacity crowds at Duke University.
The University of North Carolina used that tournament championship as a springboard to future success and advanced to the NCAA Tournament Final Four while recording 20 victories during the season. Carolina had finished fourth that year in the ACC regular-season standings with a 3-3 record, but the Heels defeated fifth-seeded Clemson 2-1 in overtime and top-seeded Virginia 3-0 in the first two rounds of the ACC Tournament.
Carolina then came back from a 3-1 second-half deficit to knock off N.C. State 4-3 in the finals of the tournament. Smyth scored the tying goal for UNC with 4:37 left in regulation, and then tournament most valuable player Derek Massimo, a freshman, scored the winning goal in overtime.
Advancing to NCAA Tournament play for only the second time in school history, the 1987 team had to win three consecutive games on the road to advance to the Final Four, blanking Duke 2-0, edging South Carolina 2-1 on sudden death penalty kicks and beating Loyola of Maryland 1-0 on yet another Massimo goal. The Final Four was awarded to Clemson by the NCAA committee. The Tigers defeated Carolina, 4-1, in the semifinals and then beat San Diego State for the national championship.
Carolina suffered massive graduation losses off that 1987 team and sluggishly started the following season despite a preseason No. 1 ranking. After 11 matches, Carolina found itself with a disappointing 4-6-1 ledger. But the Tar Heels ran off a seven-match winning streak to put themselves in contention for an NCAA Tournament bid. The University of North Carolina played well in the ACC Tournament for the second straight year, upsetting host Clemson 2-1 in the first round. That marked Carolina’s first victory at Clemson since 1968. UNC men’s soccer then avenged a controversial regular-season loss at Duke by beating the Blue Devils 2-1 in the semifinals, a loss that knocked Duke out of the NCAA tournament. The Tar Heels jumped out on top of No. 1-seeded Virginia in the first half in the finals, but the Cavaliers rallied for a 2-1 victory to deny UNC a second straight conference crown.
The Heels did earn an NCAA invitation, however, as the No. 2 seed in the South Region. In the first round, Carolina traveled to Wake Forest and beat the Demon Deacons 2-0 before losing at top-seeded South Carolina 3-1 in the South Region finals at Columbia, S.C.
Bolowich Takes The Reins At UNC Men’s Soccer
Dorrance resigned as men’s coach after the 1988 season to concentrate on his duties with the Carolina women’s team, and Elmar Bolowich has taken the Tar Heels to new heights since taking over as head coach in 1989.
After missing the NCAA Tournament in Bolowich’s first year as head coach, the Tar Heels returned to tournament play in 1990 and 1991. Surviving a mid-season slump in 1990, Carolina claimed a tournament bid on the strength of regular-season victories over third-ranked South Carolina, eighth-ranked Wake Forest, and 10th-ranked ACC champion and NCAA Final Four participant N.C. State. The Heels downed Wake Forest 2-1 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament under the lights at Fetzer Field before losing at perennial nemesis Virginia 3-1 in the second round.
Carolina, with a mark of 15-6-1, found itself in post-season play once again in 1991. The Tar Heels played host to the University of North Carolina-Charlotte in the first round and beat the 49ers 1-0 in overtime as sophomore forward Todd Haskins scored in the 99th minute of play. However, the second-ranked Billikens of St. Louis eliminated the UNC men’s soccer team in the round of 16 with a resounding 4-0 victory at St. Louis.
After a disappointing 1992 campaign, Carolina returned to the limelight in 1993, ranking as high as 12th in the final Soccer News poll. Led by freshman sensation Temoc Suarez, the ACC Rookie-of-the-Year, and All-America defender Gregg Berhalter, University of North Carolina finished 13-7-2 and advanced to the round of 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in six years.
In an NCAA first-round victory over Duke, Berhalter was incredibly impressive as he scored twice and assisted on another in UNC’s 3-2 win over the Blue Devils at Fetzer Field.
The 1994 campaign proved to be another success as Carolina finished 13-7 and made the NCAA tournament for the sixth time in eight seasons. Led by All-Americas Eddie Pope and Temoc Suarez and ACC Rookie-of-the-Year Carey Talley, Carolina’s season was highlighted by a 5-1 victory over national champion Virginia, only UNC’s second win over the Cavaliers since 1980.
Injuries crippled the University of North Carolina team in 1995, but the Tar Heels still managed an 11-8-1 record. Among other injured players, preseason first-team All-America defender Eddie Pope was limited to just nine games. Nevertheless, Carolina played one of the most demanding schedules in the nation, including eight games against Top-15 foes, and reached the semifinals of the ACC Tournament.
Junior Temoc Suarez led the Tar Heels in scoring and was named second-team All-ACC. Pope was named to the first-team despite his limited action, and sophomore Carey Talley was a second-team all-conference choice. Pope was a member of the 1996 U.S. Olympic men’s soccer team in Atlanta, Ga.
The UNC men’s soccer team went 8-8-1 in 1996. Along the way, Carey Talley was named first-team All-ACC and third-team All-America after leading the Tar Heels with nine goals. Temoc Suarez led the University of North Carolina in scoring for the fourth year in a row and was named second-team All-ACC.
First Losing Season
Saddled with a young team and a lack of depth due to injury problems, the University of North Carolina was 6-13 in 1997, its first losing season in 40 years. One of 15 finalists for the Missouri Athletic Club Collegiate Player-of-the-Year award, Senior Carey Talley was named first-team All-ACC and third-team All-America for the second straight year.
The Tar Heels lost Talley to graduation and fielded one of the youngest teams in the nation in 1998 but grew up quickly and posted an 11-6-2 season record, nearly earning an NCAA Tournament bid. After leading the team in goals and points, freshman forward Chris Carrieri was named the ACC Rookie of the Year and Second-Team All-ACC. Michael Bucy was named Academic All-America.
In 1999, Carolina brought back all 11 starters from the 1998 campaign and returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five seasons with a season record of 12-7-1. Chris Carrieri was named first-team All-ACC after finishing third in the conference in scoring, and defender Daniel Jackson was a second-team honoree. Michael Bucy tied for the ACC lead in assists and was named first-team Academic All-America.
The 2000 UNC men’s soccer posted perhaps the best season in school history. That fall, the University of North Carolina (21-3, 5-1 ACC) shared the ACC regular-season championship, won the second ACC Tournament title in the program’s history, and reached the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals for the second time in school annals. Along the way, Carolina was ranked No. 1 in the nation for much of the season and won 15 games in a row, the longest winning streak in school history.
Carolina made its second NCAA Tournament appearance in a row, ninth overall and sixth under Bolowich. UNC’s No. 1 seeding in the tournament was its highest ever in men’s soccer. The University of North Carolina won the ACC Tournament Nov. 10-12 with a 1-0 win over Wake Forest in the semifinals and a 1-0 overtime win over Virginia in the title game. The ACC championship was UNC’s second ever and first since 1987.
Carlos Somoano Becomes 5th Head Coach
Carlos Somoano, who ranks second in the nation in winning percentage among active Division I head coaches, enters his 11th year at the helm of the North Carolina men’s soccer program in 2021.
Somoano reached the summit of collegiate soccer when he led the Tar Heels to the 2011 NCAA title, becoming just the second rookie head coach in NCAA history to win a national championship. He returned to the College Cup with his Tar Heel squad in 2016 and 2017.
In 2020, he led the UNC men’s soccer program on an improbable run to its fourth College Cup under his tutelage. Entering the NCAA Tournament unseeded, the University of North Carolina advanced past Charlotte on penalty kicks in the first round, then upset fourth-seeded Stanford and fifth-seeded Wake Forest to reach the national semifinal. Carolina lost, 1-0, in the semis to eventual NCAA champion Marshall and finished the year 9-5-4.
Somoano, who has guided ten of his 11 squads to NCAA postseason play, owns an impressive 148-49-32 career record, good for a program-best .715 winning percentage. Six of his teams have reached at least the NCAA quarterfinals.
A Rich Tradition of UNC Men’s Soccer Players
The recent success of Carolina in the sport of men’s soccer is certainly no aberration, however. The Tar Heels have had a quality program since Marvin Allen coached that first team back in 1947.
Carolina has had 15 players land All-America honors in its soccer history, beginning with midfielder Frank Nelson in that initial season of 1947. Right-wing Eddie Foy starred for interim coach Alan Moore in 1951 to win All-America honors and was one of three Tar Heel AllAmericas in the 1950s. After Allen returned from his military service in Korea, he helped develop All-America left-wing Pete Cothran in 1955 and midfielder Bill Blair in 1957.
The 1960s saw three All-America selections in Chapel Hill — back Terry Henry in 1966, midfielder Louis Bush in 1967, and midfielder Mark Packard in 1968 and 1969.
UNC Soccer Greats
Some of the other greats to play for the UNC men’s soccer teams include Dave Boak, who led the Tar Heels in scoring twice and paced the team to a Southern Conference championship in 1948; John Ghanim, who scored what was then a school-record 16 goals in 1959, a mark which stood until Missimo broke it with 20 tallies in 1989; Hugh Goodman, the school’s initial first team All-South selection in 1958; Jackie Writer, who scored a then school career-record 26 goals from 1964-66 and went on to coach at Cornell University; Tony Johnson, a striker who is tied for third on Carolina’s career list with 32 goals; Mark Devey, another striker who is connected with Johnson for third on Carolina’s career goal list with 32 and is third in points with 91; Billy Hartman, a midfielder who is fourth on the career charts at UNC in points with 88 and third in assists with 33; Dino Megaloudis, a midfielder who is second all-time at University of North Carolina with 34 career assists; Kevin Kane, who still holds several Carolina goalkeeping records set in the late 1970s; and Watson Jennison, who in his four-year goalkeeping career which ended in 1992, established school records for goalkeeper minutes played, saves, shutouts and consecutive shutouts. Among other accolades, Smyth was a finalist for National Player of the Year honors in 1987.
Donald Cogsville Record
Teammate Donald Cogsville earned first-team All-ACC honors at two different positions — as a defender in 1987 and at forward in 1988. In 1989, a pair of All-ACC and All-South players for the Tar Heels moved to the top of the school’s all-time scoring charts. Midfielder Chad Ashton graduated after the 1989 campaign after becoming the University’s all-time assists leader with 43. Meanwhile, Massimo, who played his senior year in 1990, finished with a school-record 138 points and 56 goals.
All-America choices in the 1990s included sweepers Gregg Berhalter and Eddie Pope, offensive wizard Temoc Suarez, heady midfielder Talley and forward Chris Carrieri.
Carrieri was a two-time All-America who in 2000 shattered school records for goals and points in a season. He was the top overall pick in the 2001 MLS draft. Defender Danny Jackson also was named All-America in the 2000 season.
Pope has become one of the best players in Major League Soccer since the league’s inception in 1996. He and Talley are mainstays for D.C. United, which captured three of the first four MLS championships. The former University of North Carolina stars Suarez, Kerry Zavagnin, Marco Peruzzi, Tim Sahaydak, and Eddie Robinson have joined Pope, Talley, and Carrieri in the MLS, making the Tar Heel program one of the top producers of pro talent in the college ranks.
Rhett is an Australian-born, globe trotter who is a UEFA ‘A’ Licence Soccer Coach. With his family, he has traveled and coached soccer in more than 30 countries, while attending World Cups, European Championships, and some of the biggest local derbies in the world!