2015 is a year that Virginia women's soccer head coach Steve Swanson will never forget because of the successes experienced on the pitch as both a collegiate coach and with the US Women’s National Team.
Swanson served as an assistant coach for the United States as the Americans triumphed over Japan to win its third World Cup while he was watching two of his former UVA standout players, Morgan Brian (Class of 2015) and Becky Sauerbrunn (Class of 2007), play the entire 90 minutes of the final.
In the fall of 2015, he led Virginia to the ACC regular-season title and coached both the ACC Offensive Player of the Year in Makenzy Doniak and the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in Emily Sonnett. Sonnett was also named the ESPNW National Player of the Year. She, Doniak and Brittany Ratcliffe all were drafted in the NWSL with Sonnett taken first overall, marking the second consecutive season for a Cavalier player to be the top pick in the draft. Swanson was also named ACC Coach of the Year for the second time.
Swanson returns to the international stage once again in the summer of 2016 as he returns to the sidelines as an assistant coach with the USWNT in the Olympic Games in Brazil.
Through 26 seasons as a head coach, including the last 16 years at the helm of Virginia's program, Swanson has established himself as one of the elite coaches in collegiate soccer, and certainly one of the most respected. Swanson has led his teams to seven conference championships, 21 NCAA Tournament appearances and 25 consecutive winning seasons during his 26-year career.
In 2014, the Cavaliers made their second-consecutive College Cup appearance and their first-ever College Cup Final. UVa (23-3-0, 9-1-0 ACC) advanced to the ACC final and for the second-straight season, Brian was honored with the Hermann Trophy as the nation's best collegiate player.
During his tenure as head coach of the Virginia women's soccer team, Swanson has had a dramatic impact on the program since he replaced former United States National Team Head Coach April Heinrichs in the spring of 2000. Over the past 16 years, the Cavaliers are 254-76-38 (.742) under his direction, as Swanson has the highest winning percentage in the history of the program.
Swanson's track record of success, not only on the collegiate level but also at the international level, was evident in 2012. That year he won a pair of championships, leading Virginia to its second ACC title and guiding the United States to the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Championship in Japan. For those feats, he was one of ten coaches named to the shortlist for FIFA Women's World Coach of the Year.
Swanson came to Virginia after two highly successful stops at Stanford and Dartmouth. At Dartmouth, Swanson guided the Big Green to national prominence. He did an equally impressive job at Stanford, helping maintain the program's standing as one of the premier teams in the country while leading the Cardinal to two Pac-10 titles in four seasons. In 2004, he led Virginia to the first ACC Championship in school history, making him the only coach in Division I history to win titles in three different conferences. He has since become the only coach in history to win multiple conference championships in three difference conferences. Swanson also enjoyed success as a player in college and as a professional.
In addition to his collegiate coaching experience, Swanson has been associated with the United States youth national teams for over a decade. He was the head coach of the U-20 Women's National Team from 2011-12, leading the team to a World Cup championship. In December 2013, Swanson was named the head coach of the United States U-23 National Team. It is the fourth different age group he has led for the US Soccer Federation.
In 2013, Swanson led the Cavaliers to the best season in school history and was recognized as the NSCAA National Coach of the Year. As Virginia made its second NCAA College Cup appearance, the team set school records with 24 wins and 78 goals scored. The Cavaliers went undefeated through the regular season (19-0 overall, 13-0 ACC) as Swanson earned ACC Coach of the Year honors for the first time in his career. On Sept. 19, Swanson became the 16th Division I coach to join the 300-win club, and the 11th to accululate 300 wins at the Division I level.
In 2012, the Cavaliers won their second ACC Championship, defeating three top-10 opponents to capture the title. Virginia finished the year with an 18-5-1 record and reached the round of 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the eighth consecutive year.
In 2011, Swanson led Virginia to a 17-5-2 record and a NCAA quarterfinal appearance. In 2010, the Cavaliers posted a 15-5-2 record, highlighted by a 3-2 overtime win over No. 1 Boston College, the program's first win over a top-ranked team and Swanson's 250th career victory. The Cavaliers went 10-6-6 in 2009 and 15-5-3 in 2008, reaching the NCAA round of 16 both seasons. In 2007, the Cavaliers went 13-4-6 and reached the round of 16 of the NCAA Tournament. A strong defense highlighted that year as Virginia led the nation with a 0.40 goals against average and set a school record with 15 shutouts.
In 2006, Virginia went 12-8-2, reaching the round of 16 of the NCAA Tournament. During the year, Swanson recorded his 200th career win and his 100th win at Virginia. In 2005, the Cavaliers tied a school record for wins in a season with 18. The team reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament for the third time in school history and finished the year with a top-10 ranking for the fourth time in the past five years.
In 2004, Swanson led the Cavaliers to a historic season, as the team captured its first ACC Championship, defeating North Carolina in penalty kicks in the tournament final and snapping the Tar Heels' 15-year ACC Championship streak. Virginia set six different season school records during the season, including most goals and fewest goals allowed. The Cavaliers were the No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the highest seed in school history, as they made their 11th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. The team concluded the season with a 17-3-2 record, and a No. 2 national ranking by Soccer America.
In 2003, the Cavaliers posted a 12-5-4 record and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The previous season, Swanson led a young Cavalier team with 10 freshmen on the 23 player roster to a 13-7-2 record and a second place finish in the ACC for the second consecutive year. The team defeated Dayton and No. 5 seed West Virginia in the NCAA Tournament to reach the round of 16 for the fourth consecutive season. He guided the team to a 17-4-2 overall record, 5-2 in the ACC and 7-0 against in-state teams, during the 2001 season. UVA finished second in the ACC during the regular season and advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament before losing 3-2 to eventual national champion Santa Clara. The loss marked the second time in as many years the Cavaliers' national title hopes were ended by the eventual national champion. In Swanson's first year at UVA in 2000, Virginia finished with an 11-8-1 record and advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament before losing 2-1 to eventual national champion North Carolina.
During his four seasons at Stanford, Swanson guided the Cardinal to an overall record of 48-27-4, two Pac-10 championships and three NCAA Tournament appearances. His 1999 squad finished with an impressive 14-4-1 record, captured a Pac-10 title and advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Three of Swanson's players were named to the 1998 All-Pac-10 team and four earned Pac-10 All-Academic recognition. Swanson also coached the 1998 Pac-10 Co-Player of the Year. In 1999, he was honored as the Pac-10 Coach of the Year.
In his first year at the helm of the Cardinal, Swanson led his team to a first-place finish in the Pac-10 and a spot in the 1996 NCAA Tournament. In both 1998 and 1999, his recruiting classes were ranked among the top six by national publications. The 1999 recruiting class was ranked first by Soccer America. Among that class were three members of the U.S. National Under-18 team and three Parade All-Americans.
Prior to serving as Stanford's head coach, Swanson served as both the head women's soccer coach and assistant director of athletics at Dartmouth College from 1990-1995. During his years at Dartmouth, he transformed the Big Green into a national powerhouse with an overall record of 55-35-7 (.603). Under his guidance, Dartmouth made its first two NCAA Tournament appearances in school history (1993 and 1994) and won its first two Ivy League Championships in school history (1991 and 1993). During his last three years at the helm, the Big Green was ranked in the year-end top 20. Named New England Coach of the Year in 1992, Swanson led his team to an undefeated conference season the following year en route to winning the Ivy League title for the second time in three years. His 1993 Dartmouth squad not only went through league play undefeated, but also was unscored upon in the conference.
Swanson has coached 30 All-Americans, two national players of the year, 12 conference players of the year, and 90 all-conference selections. Of his former players at Dartmouth, Stanford and Virginia, 31 have played professionally in the WUSA, WPS or NWSL. In 2002, Swanson became the third coach to win at least 40 games with three different NCAA Division I women's soccer programs.
Swanson has been heavily involved with the United States youth National Teams. In addition to currently serving at the head coach of the U-23 National Team, he was the head coach of the U-16 National Team and head coach of the U-18 National Team from 2000-02 and the head coach of the U-20 Women's National Team from 2011-12. In addition, Swanson has been an assistant coach with the U-17, U-18, U-19, U-20 and full Women's National Teams in recent years.
A graduate of Michigan State in 1984, Swanson played professionally in the United States and Canada for four years before returning to school to obtain his master's degree at Iowa. He played more than 150 consecutive games in tours of duty with the Milwaukee Wave and the Chicago Shoccers of the American Indoor Soccer Association, and with AC Roma and the Windsor Wheels in the National Soccer League of Canada (NSLC). While at Michigan State, Swanson was a four-year letterwinner in soccer. He was the team's leading scorer, captain and a regional All-American his senior year.
Swanson and his wife Julie have three children, daughters Alexis and Kelsey, and son Sam.