Mark Berson, who has led the South Carolina men's soccer program from day one, is the winningest active coach in the country. In 40 seasons seasons at the helm, he has led the Gamecocks to 22 NCAA Tournaments (second amongst active NCAA Division I coaches), 34 winning records, one NCAA Championship game, two College Cups, four national quarterfinals and 11 round of 16 appearances.
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 ever.
His winning ways have spanned decades and in 2017, he became just the fourth coach in NCAA Division I men's soccer history to hit the 500-win plateau when the Gamecocks beat UAB 1-0 on the road in the regular season finale to punch their ticket to the Conference USA Tournament. In 2006, Berson became just the 10th NCAA Division I men's soccer 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 2018 with a 500-240-73 (.660 win percentage) record at South Carolina.
The Gamecocks made a triumphant return to the NCAA Tournament in 2015, advancing into the second round after beating Furman in PKs in the opening round at Stone Stadium. An experienced Carolina squad made it back to the NCAA Tournament again in 2016, defeating Mercer 1-0 in the first round at home before falling 2-1 at No. 3 Clemson in the second round. It marked the first back-to-back NCAA berths for the program since 2010-11.
In the Gamecocks' 22 NCAA Tournament appearances, Berson and his team have advanced to the second round 13 times with four quarterfinal and two semifinal appearances. In 1993, the Gamecocks advanced to the NCAA Championship game, a first for the program. 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 that year. Carolina also won the C-USA Tournament Championship in 2010 and collected the regular season title in 2011.
While in Columbia, Berson has coached 13 All-Americans and 15 Freshman All-Americans. His players have garnered 79 All-Region honors and 59 All-Conference USA honors (since 2005).
The Gamecocks have also excelled in the classroom with 31 Academic All-American selections. Berson's teams have twice posted the highest GPA in that nation (2010 and 2013) and have earned 12 NSCAA Academic Team Awards (1999, 2001, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016). Since joining C-USA in 2005, Carolina has had the highest GPA in the league five times (2008-09, 09-10, 11-12, 12-13 and 16-17).
Alongside the women's program, Berson has also helped developed a strong fan base thanks to a culture of winning as both program's have ranked in the top-10 for national attendance average in four consecutive seasons (2014-17).
A highly respected individual throughout the soccer community, Berson received two major honors in 2015. The National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) presented 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 joined six of his former players.
Besides making an impact in collegiate soccer, Berson's presence has also been felt at higher ranks. The Gamecocks are one of only two programs nationally to have had a player on each of the last four U.S. Men's National Teams in World Cup play. Josh Wolff competed on the U.S. 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 was on the U.S. roster for the World Cup in 2010 and 2014. 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.
Carolina 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 All-C-USA pick Danny Deakin, Carolina's most recent draftee into Major League Soccer, was selected in the third round of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft by Orlando City SC. Guzan, the highest ever draft pick in program history, was selected No. 2 overall in the 2005 MLS SuperDraft by CD Chivas USA. The Gamecocks have had 12 MLS Draft selections total during Berson's tenure.
Berson led Carolina to a 113-39-12 mark (.726) in the 1990s, which pitted the Gamecocks as one of the winningest programs in the country. In 1998, Berson earned the inaugural Independent Coach of the Year Award after leading Carolina to the best record of all 1A-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).
He 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 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 U.S. 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 southeast region. His summer camps at Carolina continue to be one of the best in the area 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.
• 34 winning seasons in 41 years coaching at the NCAA Division I level
• 22 NCAA Tournament appearances, including 21 in the last 33 seasons
• One College Cup Final (1993)
• Two College Cups (1988, 1993)
• Four National Quarterfinals (1985, 1988, 1989, 1993)
• 11 Round of 16 appearances (1979, 1985, 1987-90, 1993-94, 1997-98, 2010)
• Conference USA Coach of the Year (2011)
• Conference USA Tournament Champions (2005, 2010)
• Conference USA Regular Season Champions (2011)
• Four-time NSCAA South Region Coach of the Year
• U.S. National U-18 Team Coach (Granatkin/Leningrad Tournament, Soviet Union - 1989)
• United States Soccer National Instructional Staff (1989-present)
• 1992 Inductee - South Carolina Youth Soccer Association Hall of Fame
• 2015 inductee - South Carolina Letterman's Association Hall of Fame
• 2015 recipient of the NSCAA's Bill Jeffrey Award for outstanding service or achievement in collegiate soccer
• 1998 Independent Coach of the Year
• One of just four coaches in NCAA Division I Men's Soccer with 500 career wins
• Four conference titles in 15 seasons competing under conference affiliation
• One of two collegiate programs (UCLA) to have had a player on each of the last four United States World Cup teams dating back to 2002*
• Over 60 Gamecocks have been drafted or signed to play professional soccer
• 13 individual All-Americans and two National Goalkeepers of the Year
• 53 individuals have combined for 79 NSCAA All-South Region honors
• Nine individuals have earned 12 CoSIDA Academic All-America nods
• In 13 seasons in the league dating back to 2005, 17 First Team All-Conference USA selections
• Four Conference USA Freshman of the Year honorees (Mikkel Knudsen, 2014; Jimmy Maurer, 2007; Jeff Scannella, 2006; Mike Gustavson, 2005)