Mark Berson, one of three coaches all-time to post 450 victories while an NCAA Division I head coach, begins his 37th season at the helm of the South Carolina soccer program in 2014. Below are some of Berson and the team's accomplishments:
*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 472-215-68, a .670 winning percentage. In 2006, Berson became one of five active (at that time) Division I coaches and the 10th all-time to reach the 400-victory milestone when his Gamecocks defeated UAB, 2-0, in a televised contest at Stone Stadium. Berson enters 2015 with a 461-210-68 record at South Carolina.
In 2015, Berson has taken home two huge honors. In January, 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 July, Berson was announced as one of eight selected to join 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 20 NCAA Tournaments. The Gamecocks have advanced to at least the second round 11 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.
His 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.
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.
Most recently, Blake Brettschneider, the 2010 C-USA Co-MVP and Co-Offensive MVP, has made his mark in MLS as a member of DC United (2012) and the New England Revolution (2012). Former Gamecock defender Tyler Ruthven is also playing in MLS with the New York Red Bulls in 2012 and former goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer is playing for the NY Cosmos in the NASL. Troyer is in the USL playing with the Richmond Kickers.
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 starting in goal for the East.
Most recently three Gamecocks were selected in the 2011 MLS Supplemental Draft, as Sam Arthur (Chicago Fire), Brettschneider (DC United) and Jimmy Maurer (New York Red Bulls) were drafted following their senior seasons at Carolina.
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).
Under his leadership, 19 Gamecocks have been selected to represent South Carolina in either the MLS Combine, the ISAA Senior Bowl or the UMBRO Select All-Star Classic. Included in that group are Brettschneider (2011), Maurer (2011), Mike Sambursky (2006), Josh Alcala (2005), Guzan (2004), Tim Glowienka (2003), Jordan Quinn (2003), Joey Worthen (2002), Chris Morman (1999), Mathis (1997), Billy Clifford (1995), Andrew Coggins (1991), Tommy Loeber (1990), Charles Arndt (1988), Doug Allison (1987), Bill Hency (1986), Warren Lipka (1985) David Burr, (1982) and Paul Turin (1979). Two of those players, Lipka and Arndt, were honored as National Goalkeeper of the Year in 1985 and 1988, respectively.
Berson's success has ranged beyond the college ranks, as 53 South Carolina players have been drafted into or entered professional soccer since 1978, while Gamecock players have represented the United States on 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. Berson has coached 11 individual NSCAA All-Americans (Doug Allison, Marty Baltzeger, Charles Arndt, Clark Brisson, Tommy Loeber, Chris Faklaris, Rob Smith, Mathis, Henry Ring, Guzan and Greg Reece), 11 individual Academic All-Americans (Peter Duitsman, Greg King, Jeff Love (twice), Pat Mihm, Phil Seidenberg, Loeber, Ruben Tufino, Arthur (second team/third team) Maurer (second team/first team), Brettschneider (third team) and Will Traynor (third team) and Soccer America's Freshman of the Year (Tufino). Duitsman was also named the Boyd McWhorter SEC Male Scholar Athlete of the Year in 1994.
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.
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. South Carolina has gone on to achieve a winning record in 31 of 35 seasons.
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 currently enrolled at the University of South Carolina in the Moore School of Business.