Mark Berson is the winningest active coach in NCAA Division I men's soccer and is tied for the most NCAA Tournament appearances among active Division I coaches as well with 22 in his illustrious career. He has led the Gamecocks to one NCAA Championship game, two College Cups, four national quarterfinals and 11 round of 16 appearances.
In addition, over 60 of his players have either been drafted or signed to play professional soccer. At least one former Gamecock has been on each of the last four US Men's National Team roster during World Cup play dating back to 2002, one of only two NCAA programs that can boast of such a legacy. And twice in the last decade (2010 and 2013), Berson's teams have achieved the highest GPA in NCAA Division I men's soccer according to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
*based on information compiled from NCAA Division I men's soccer media relations contacts
Berson has been at South Carolina from the beginning. He was hired to move the program to varsity status in 1978, and he quickly put Carolina on the map. He has gone on to mold the Gamecocks into consistent winners that compete for championships.
Before coming to Carolina in 1978, Berson went 11-5-0 in one season at The Citadel, putting his overall record coming into 2015 at 483-223-70, a .668 winning percentage. In 2006, Berson became the 10th Division I coach all-time to reach the 400-victory milestone when his Gamecocks defeated UAB, 2-0, in a televised contest at Stone Stadium. Berson enters 2016 with a 472-218-70 record at South Carolina.
In 2015, Berson received two major honors. The National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) honored him with the Bill Jeffrey Award, given to an individual for outstanding service or achievement in college soocer, at its annual convention in January. In the fall, Berson was inducted into South Carolina Lettermen's Association Hall of Fame, where he joins six of his former players.
Berson has made his mark on the college soccer world by taking the Gamecocks to 22 NCAA Tournaments. The Gamecocks have advanced to at least the second round 13 times and have four quarterfinal and two semifinal appearances. In 1993, the Gamecocks advanced to the NCAA Championship game.
Though Carolina has been independent during the majority of the program's tenure, the Gamecocks have captured four conference titles under Berson's leadership. Carolina won the 1993 Metro Conference Championship in one of its two years competing in the conference. The Gamecocks joined Conference USA in 2005 and promptly claimed the league's tournament championship and automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament, while Carolina also won the C-USA Championship Tournament in 2010 and collected the regular season championship in 2011.
The Gamecocks made a triumphant return into the NCAA Tournament in 2015, advancing into the second round after hosting Furman in an exciting opening-round contest. Seven Gamecocks earned Conference USA awards, led by junior Danny Deakin's first-team nod. Deakin also led three Gamecocks who made the NSCAA All-Region team, garnering first-team accolades. Both Koty Millard and Jeffrey Torda took spots on both the C-USA and NSCAA squads, with Torda adding CoSIDA Academic All-District, C-USA All-Academic and NSCAA Scholar All-Region nods to his credit.
Besides making an impact in collegiate soccer, Berson's presence is also felt at higher ranks. The Gamecocks are one of only two collegiate programs to have had a player on each of the last four US Men's National World Cup teams. Josh Wolff competed on the US teams in 2002 and 2006 and was also an Olympic team member in 2000. Clint Mathis, a teammate of Wolff during his time at Carolina, also enjoyed a celebrated professional career that spanned 11 seasons in Major League Soccer. Mathis, who retired from professional soccer in 2010, was a member of the 2002 U.S. World Cup squad and helped his MLS team, Real Salt Lake, capture the MLS Cup in 2009. Mathis also graced the cover of Sports Illustrated in May 2002 prior to the World Cup, marking the third Gamecock athlete, in any sport, to be featured on the cover of the prestigious magazine. Former Gamecock goalkeeper Brad Guzan has been on the US roster for the past two FIFA World Cups in 2010 and 2014.
Gamecock players have represented the United States on many other national-level teams, including the U.S. Olympic team, the U.S. National team, the National "B" team, the U.S. Under-20 and Under-23 teams, the World University Games squad, and the U.S. Olympic Festival teams.
Over 60 Gamecocks have either been drafted or signed to play professional soccer. Two-time First-Team C-USA pick Danny Deakin was selected in the third round of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft by Orlando City SC. He signed his contract with the club in March and is currently playing for the team's USL affiliate, Orlando City B. Four other former Gamecocks have moved on to the USL in the past three years, including Troyer (Richmond), Mahamoudou Kaba (Wilmington), Robert Beebe (Charleston) and Asa Kryst (Charlotte). Blake Brettschneider played with two MLS teams in 2012, DC United and the New England Revolution. Tyler Ruthven played with the MLS's New York Red Bulls in 2012 and Jimmy Maurer is playing for the NY Cosmos in the NASL.
In January 2005, Guzan made MLS history when he was the No. 2 overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft, selected by CD Chivas USA. Guzan became the highest goalkeeper ever drafted into the league. In the fall of 2007, he was selected as the 2007 Panasonic MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. He received his first invitation to the U.S. National Team Camp in January 2006 and was selected to the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team that competed in Beijing as the starting goalkeeper. In 2004, goalkeeper Henry Ring enjoyed a breakout season representing the Garnet and Black in the MLS All-Star game and started in goal for the East.
Berson's 2014 squad made the C-USA Tournament Championship Match before ending its season at 10-10. Mikkel Knudsen won two conference individual awards, including becoming the fourth Gamecock to claim Freshman of the Year accolades. Senior Braeden Troyer earned a spot on the CoSIDA Academic All-America first team, was a candidate for the Senior CLASS Award and won the C-USA Men's Soccer Scholar-Athlete of the Year award, the only award winner in any sport to come from an affiliate member.
South Carolina saw continued success during the 2011 campaign, earning the Conference USA regular season crown with a stellar 6-1-1 mark in league contests. The Gamecocks earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and held hosting duties in the event's first round. Several Gamecocks earned postseason accolades from the league and NSCAA, including first-team All-C-USA member Bradlee Baladez and All-Freshman honoree Braeden Troyer.
South Carolina won the 2010 Conference USA Tournament Championship, earning the No. 7 national seed in the NCAA Tournament en route to a first-round bye. The home field advantage propelled the Gamecocks to a 1-0 win over Duke during the second round, advancing the squad to the Round of 16. South Carolina concluded the season ranked No. 12 in the final NSCAA Top 25 Poll, while the team also earned the NSCAA's top team academic award. Blake Brettschneider earned Conference USA's Co-MVP and Co-Offensive MVP awards with his stellar play.
Berson led Carolina to a 113-39-12 mark (.726) in the 1990s, which rated the Gamecocks as one of the winningest programs in NCAA Division I soccer. In 1998, Berson earned the inaugural Independent Coach of the Year award after leading Carolina to the best record of all Independent schools.
Berson has also been honored as the National Soccer Coaches Association (NSCAA) Coach of the Year in the South on four occasions (1984, 1985, 1988, 1995).
Berson has coached 11 NSCAA All-Americans, 12 CoSIDA Academic All-Americans and 15 Freshman All-Americans, including Soccer America's 1989 Freshman of the Year, Ruben Tufino. Twice, Berson has tutored the National Goalkeeper of the Year, Warren Lipka in 1985 and Charles Arndt in 1988. Peter Duitsman was named the Boyd McWhorter SEC Male Scholar Athlete of the Year in 1994, while a year later Greg King garnered an NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarship. Troyer earned Conference USA's Men's Soccer Scholar-Athlete of the Year honor for 2014-15, the only affiliate member student to earn any of the league's scholar-athlete awards.
Berson began his coaching career when he joined the soccer staff at The Citadel in 1976 and served as an assistant coach under Eddie Teague. He took over the Bulldogs' head job the next season and led The Citadel to an 11-5-0 mark and a second-place finish in the Southern Conference. Berson came to Columbia to start the varsity program in 1978 and promptly posted a 13-3-1 mark in his inaugural season with the Gamecocks. A year later, South Carolina finished with a 14-5-0 record and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time.
Berson has been involved in soccer development as a coach, teacher and administrator on many levels. He is a U.S. Soccer National Instructional Staff Coach with an "A" coaching license and has served as a US Soccer National Instructional staff coach since 1989. He has served as State Coach for the South Carolina Youth Soccer Association (SCYSA), working in player development and coaching certification. In 1992, he was inducted into the South Carolina Youth Soccer Association Hall of Fame.
Berson also coached the U.S. National U-18 team in the Granatkin/Leningrad Tournament in January 1989, in the Soviet Union. In July 1987, he directed the South team to the gold medal in the U.S. Olympic Festival in Durham, N.C., one year after serving as an assistant coach for the South squad.
Berson has served on the NCAA South Region Advisory Committee for the NCAA Tournament and the Division I Coaches Subcommittee for the National Soccer Coaches Association. He has also served as a scout for U.S. Soccer for the South Region. His Carolina Soccer Camp continues to be one of the country's finest soccer camps for children of all age groups and skill levels.
A 1971 graduate of Summit (N.J.) High School, Berson attended the University of North Carolina and received his bachelor of arts degree in journalism in 1975. Berson played on the Tar Heel soccer squad for four years, one as a midfielder and the other three in goal. As a senior, Berson received the UNC Educational Foundation Award and was a member of the Academic ACC Honor Roll. Berson earned his master's of education degree in sport administration from Ohio University in 1977.
Born March 16, 1953, in Hartford, Conn., Berson is married to the former Shauna Hopkins, a South Carolina alum, of Columbia. They have two children, Erin Rhea, and Luke William. Erin graduated from South Carolina in 2009, and Luke is a 2011 graduate of the University of South Carolina Moore School of Business.