Anson Dorrance enters his 43rd year of service to the University of North Carolina soccer programs in the fall of 2019. Dorrance, a distinguished 1974 Tar Heel alumnus, debuted as the Carolina men’s soccer coach in September of 1977 and then added duties as head coach and founder of the UNC women’s program in September of 1979.
A former U.S. Women’s National Team head coach and current University of North Carolina head women’s soccer coach, Anson Dorrance was named the 2016 winner of the prestigious Werner Fricker Builder Award from United States Soccer on January 29, 2016, just one of many awards he has earned at the highest levels of soccer in the United States.
As U.S. Soccer’s highest honor, the Werner Fricker Builder Award is given to an individual or group of individuals who have dedicated at least 20 years of service to the sport, working to establish a lasting legacy in the history and structure of soccer in the United States. The award recognizes those who have developed programs that will outlast their own involvement in the sport. That description fits Dorrance to a T.
When Dorrance was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame on August 2, 2008, it marked one more milestone moment in the career of a man whose coaching prowess became legendary at a young age. Because Dorrance has not yet retired from his coaching career, he was only eligible for election to the Hall of Fame on the “Builders of the Game” ballot, being inducted in his first year of eligibility.
Like fine wine — with age — the coaching career of Anson Dorrance only gets better. There was significant evidence of that in the past calendar year. Dorrance led his 2018 UNC team to its most wins in nine years, its first ACC regular season championship in eight years, its first undefeated ACC regular season in 12 years and runnerup finishes in the ACC and NCAA Tournaments. Dorrance was tapped as the ACC coach of the year and his staff was named the United Soccer Coaches regional staff of the year.
During the past year, alumna Cindy Parlow was chosen for the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame and elected a vice president of U.S. Soccer. Four Tar Heel alumnae won an NWSL title in 2018 with the North Carolina Courage. Seven former Tar Heel players were on rosters for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, including five on the winning American side. England’s Lucy Bronze won the Silver Ball as the World Cup’s second most outstanding player and Tar Heel alumna Sarina Wiegman coached the Dutch side to the World Cup final.
Dorrance earned his 1,000th win as a collegiate head coach (including 172 wins as UNC’s men’s head coach from 1977-88) when he won his 828th women’s game against Ohio State on August 18, 2018.
All this proves that the influence of the Tar Heel program on the collegiate and international levels is as vibrant now as at any time in the program’s 40-year history.
In 2012, Dorrance led the Tar Heels against one of the best College Cup fields in history as North Carolina won its 22nd overall national title and its 21st NCAA crown. When UNC won the NCAA crown in 2009, Dorrance became the first coach in NCAA history to win 20 championships coaching a single sport.
Head coach of the Carolina women’s soccer program since its inception in 1979, Dorrance has built and guided a program successful on multiple levels – on the field, in the classroom and in the community. Under his direction, the Tar Heels have collected national and conference championships at a stupendous rate, compiled an overall record staggering in its numerical verity, established records likely never to be approached and procured the esteem befitting a true dynasty.
At an institution familiar with such incomparable achievement, especially with regard to its storied basketball program, it might be possible to think that Dorrance’s accomplishments could somehow fade to the background. But what he has done at UNC is simply impossible to ignore.
Thus, when an expert panel employed by ESPN announced its list of the Best Coaches of the Past Quarter Century on July 28, 2004 – coincidentally headed at the No. 1 spot by the late legendary Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith – it came as no big surprise that another deserving Tar Heel mentor made the list. That Dorrance was one of only two coaches in the prestigious collection to coach an Olympic/non-revenue sport on the collegiate level speaks even louder about his recognized greatness.
More recently, Beckett Entertainment released a magazine in which it named the Top 30 Sports Dynasties of all-time. UNC’s women’s soccer program success from 1982-2000 was rated the sixth most successful sports dynasty of the 20th century, trailing only the 1957-69 Boston Celtics, the 1947-62 New York Yankees, 1963-75 UCLA men’s basketball teams, the 1991-98 Chicago Bulls and the 1953-60 Montreal Canadiens. Of the Top 30 programs named in the study, only four were collegiate programs.