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John Harkes

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John Harkes
Harkes talking and pointing on a soccer field
Harkes coaching FC Cincinnati in 2016
Personal information
Full name John Andrew Harkes[1]
Date of birth (1967-03-08) March 8, 1967 (age 57)
Place of birth Kearny, New Jersey, United States
Height 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Position(s) Midfielder
College career
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1985–1987 Virginia Cavaliers
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1989 Albany Capitals 20 (0)
1990–1993 Sheffield Wednesday 82 (7)
1993–1995 Derby County 67 (5)
1995–1996West Ham United (loan) 12 (0)
1996–1998 D.C. United 83 (14)
1999Nottingham Forest (loan) 3 (0)
1999–2001 New England Revolution 55 (2)
2001–2002 Columbus Crew 29 (0)
Total 351 (28)
International career
1987–2000 United States 90 (6)
Managerial career
2006–2007 New York Red Bulls (assistant)
2015–2017 FC Cincinnati
2018–2023 Greenville Triumph
*Club domestic league appearances and goals

John Andrew Harkes (born March 8, 1967) is an American soccer coach and former professional player who last coached Greenville Triumph SC.[2]

A member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame,[3] Harkes was the first American to play in the English Premier League with Sheffield Wednesday, the second American to score at Wembley, and the first American soccer player to appear in the final of a major English tournament, in the 1991 Football League Cup Final with Sheffield Wednesday. After moving to Major League Soccer in 1996, he won two MLS Cup titles with D.C. United.

A mainstay in the U.S. national team midfield for most of the 1990s, Harkes appeared in two FIFA World Cup tournaments. He was named the team's "Captain for Life" by then-head coach Steve Sampson before having that title stripped ahead of the 1998 World Cup. Harkes ended his national team career with 90 caps and six goals.

Following his retirement, he served as a color commentator for ESPN's coverage of MLS and U.S. international matches, including the 2010 FIFA World Cup.[4]

Amateur career


High school


Harkes grew up in the soccer hotbed of Kearny, New Jersey,[5] and played youth and high school soccer with future national team teammates Tony Meola and Tab Ramos.[6]

Harkes graduated from Kearny High School in 1985.[7] During his high school career, Harkes played in four New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association championship matches and led his team to the 1984 Group 4 State Championship and a 24–0 record. He was the 1984 Parade High School Player of the Year.

In 1999, he was named by The Star-Ledger as one of the top ten New Jersey high school soccer players of the 1980s.[8]



Harkes played for University of Virginia where he was named 1st team All-American in 1986 and 1987, and was the Hermann Award winner in 1987, as the best player in US colleges.

Professional career


England: 1990–1996


Harkes moved to Sheffield Wednesday of the English Football League in 1990. In a game that season against Derby County, his 35-yard blast glided into the net past former England World Cup goalkeeper Peter Shilton and earned him English football's "Goal of the Season" award. That season, Harkes became the third American (after Bill Regan for Romford in the 1948–49 FA Amateur Cup final and Mike Masters for Colchester United in the 1991-92 FA Trophy final) to play at Wembley when Sheffield Wednesday reached the 1991 League Cup final. There, the Second Division (now Football League Championship) Wednesday upset the First Division (now Premier League) side Manchester United 1–0. Also that year, Wednesday won promotion to the First Division.

In 1993, Harkes became the only American to score in a League Cup Final, in a 2–1 loss to Arsenal. His goal was the second by an American at Wembley Stadium following Mike Masters' goal for Colchester United in the F.A. Trophy Final the year before. He appeared in the FA Cup Final one month after that League Cup disappointment, with Sheffield Wednesday again losing to Arsenal (2–1 in the replay, after a 1–1 draw in the first game). Harkes played one more season in England after moving to Derby County in the summer of 1993. In 1995, Major League Soccer (MLS) began preparing for its first season, which it first thought would come in the fall of 1995. As part of that process, MLS signed prominent U.S. players to league contracts. Harkes was one of the players who signed with MLS, only to discover the league would not begin play until 1996. Therefore, he, and MLS, negotiated a one-year loan to West Ham United.[9]

Major League Soccer: 1996–2003

Harkes playing for D.C. United in 1997

In 1996, Harkes, along with his U.S. national teammates based overseas, returned to the U.S. for the launch of Major League Soccer. MLS had signed numerous prominent U.S. players and eventually allocated them throughout the league's teams in order to create an initial equitable distribution of talent. MLS allocated Harkes to D.C. United, making him the team's first player ever. That first season, he led the club to a MLS Cup win and a U.S. Open Cup title. D.C. United successfully defended its MLS Cup title in 1997, with Harkes assisting on the match-winning goal in the cup final.

Despite the disappointment of being left off the 1998 World Cup squad, Harkes helped United capture the Supporters Shield for the best regular season record in the league, before losing in the MLS Cup Final to the Chicago Fire. He also helped United become the first MLS club to win the CONCACAF Champions' Cup and upset Brazil's Vasco Da Gama in the Interamerican Cup.[10]

At the end of the 1998 season, he traveled back to England for a two-week trial with Nottingham Forest. On January 28, 1999, the team accepted Harkes for a two-month loan period. He played only three games for Forest (including the infamous 8–1 defeat to Manchester United) before returning to the U.S. While he was in England, D.C. United traded him to the New England Revolution for the Revs first and second round 1999 MLS College Draft picks.[11] United traded Harkes in order to make room under the salary cap.

Harkes played three seasons in New England before being traded to the Columbus Crew in the mid-season of 2001. After an injury-plagued 2002 season, Harkes announced his retirement in 2003.

International career

Harkes playing in a World Cup qualifying match in 1997

John Harkes played in the 1990 and 1994 FIFA World Cup Harkes made his national team debut on March 23, 1987, against Canada. He was on the U.S. team at the 1987 Pan American Games.[12] He quickly established himself as a national team regular and was selected for the 1988 Olympics. That year the U.S. went 1–1–1 and failed to qualify for the second round. Harkes continued to play for the national team as it went through the qualification process for the upcoming World Cup. The team qualified for those games after an improbable 1–0 road victory over Trinidad and Tobago in the final qualification match.

In 1990, he was a member of a World Cup squad made up mostly of college and semi-professional players. The United States side was routed 1–5 by Czechoslovakia, but were respectable losing 0–1 to host nation and eventual semi-finalist Italy, and 1–2 to Austria. Despite losing all three matches, many players from the 1990 squad, including Harkes, Ramos, Meola, Marcelo Balboa formed the core of the U.S. national team for most of the decade and played an important role in the development of MLS.

U.S. fared better as the host nation in the 1994 World Cup, upsetting Colombia 2–1 in a group stage match to advance to the Round of 16. Harkes contributed to the Andrés Escobar own goal which arguably led to the Colombian defender's shooting death weeks later.[13] Harkes delivered a cross from the left aimed at Earnie Stewart, which Escobar attempted to clear, but instead sent the ball past his goalkeeper.

However, Harkes missed the Round of 16 match against Brazil after receiving his second yellow card of the group stage against Romania, earning a one-match suspension. Brazil won the match 1–0 and went on to win the World Cup.

In Copa América 1995, Harkes led the United States, a guest team at the tournament, to a 3–0 upset of defending champion Argentina and a semi-final finish. He was named co-Most Valuable Player of the tournament, along with Uruguayan Enzo Francescoli.

1998 World Cup controversy


In 1996, before the beginning of the qualifying for the 1998 World Cup, head coach Steve Sampson named Harkes "Captain For Life", which meant Harkes would be the captain of the national team as long as he wished and Sampson was the coach. He responded by leading the team in assists in qualifying and helped the United States qualify for a third straight World Cup finals appearance.

However, Sampson controversially left Harkes off the World Cup squad, citing "leadership issues", although the decision was never fully explained at the time.[14] The bitterness resulting from the omission and the irony of the "Captain for Life" title would serve as the inspiration for his autobiography, Captain for Life: And Other Temporary Assignments (ISBN 1-886947-49-X), co-written with Denise Kiernan and published in 1999. In the book, Harkes criticized Sampson for lacking "credibility to a group of guys who had hundreds and hundreds of caps among them" and "putting a huge amount of pressure on young, internationally inexperienced players", and concluded, "I can't think of one thing that Steve did right in the months leading up to the World Cup".[15] The 1998 team lost all three games in the group stage, finishing last overall.

In February 2010 Sampson and former teammate Eric Wynalda revealed that an alleged affair between Harkes and Wynalda's wife, Amy, had prompted Harkes' sudden dismissal.[14][16] Sampson confirmed Wynalda's claim in a 2016 podcast interview with Alexi Lalas.[17]

Harkes was called up to the national team again by his former college coach, Bruce Arena in 1999, and helped the United States win the bronze medal in the Confederations Cup that year. He ended his international career in 2000 with 90 appearances.

Coaching career

Harkes with defender Harrison Delbridge during a 2016 FC Cincinnati match

In August 2015, the formation of FC Cincinnati, a new franchise in the then-third-division United Soccer League, was announced, with Harkes as the team's first head coach.[18] In FC Cincinnati's first season under Harkes, the club finished third in the USL Eastern Conference with a 12–6–4 record. However, on February 17, 2017, FC Cincinnati announced the firing of Harkes ahead of the 2017 season.[19] From outside the club, the dismissal was seen as a surprise; reports later emerged of a 2016–17 offseason that was "unstructured and somewhat chaotic behind the scenes", according to The Cincinnati Enquirer's Pat Brennan.[20]

In August 2018, Harkes was named as the first head coach of Greenville Triumph, a new club set to join USL League One in 2019. Harkes was signed to a three-year contract to lead the entire technical side of the organization.[20] In the team's first season, they finished third in the standings and were the runner-up in the playoffs. In the 2020 season, the Triumph finished first in the standings and won the playoffs, and Harkes was named the USL League One Coach of the Year. On January 26, 2021, the Triumph extended Harkes's contract through the 2023 season.[21] The Triumph finished second in the standings in both the 2021 and 2022 seasons.

Off the field


In 2010, Eric Wynalda stated that former U.S. national team head coach Steve Sampson had dropped Harkes from the 1998 World Cup team two months prior to the tournament because Harkes had been having relations with teammate Wynalda's wife, Amy, in the couple's house, and near the playpen of their young child. Sampson became aware of the scandal and brewing feud between Wynalda and Harkes, and chose to drop Harkes to restore dressing room accord. Despite intense criticism from the media and subsequent failure in the World Cup, Sampson remained silent regarding the true reason for Harkes' dismissal from the team out of respect for the privacy of those involved. Harkes himself published an autobiography in 1999 panning Sampson's tenure as coach, but made no mention of the affair.[22][23][24]

Personal life


Both of Harkes' parents are Scottish immigrants; his father Jim is originally from Dundee,[25][26] and was a youth team player at Dundee United.[27]

He is the father of Lauren Harkes, who played collegiately at Clemson University, and Ian Harkes, who won the Hermann Trophy in 2016, played for John's old team, D.C. United, Dundee United in Scotland, and for the New England Revolution, where John played from 1999 to 2001.[28][26][29]

Career statistics



John Harkes in international competitions
Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
August 13, 1989 Los Angeles, California  South Korea 1–2 1–2 Friendly
February 24, 1990 Palo Alto, California  Soviet Union 1–0 1–3 Friendly
May 30, 1992 Washington, D.C.  Republic of Ireland 3–1 3–1 1992 U.S. Cup
May 6, 1992 Chicago, Illinois  Italy 1–1 1–1 1992 U.S. Cup
June 11, 1995 Boston, Massachusetts  Nigeria 1–1 3–2 1995 U.S. Cup
June 18, 1995 Washington, D.C.  Mexico 3–0 4–0 1995 U.S. Cup



Sheffield Wednesday




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  6. ^ Soccer Ruminations Recall Soccertown USA, The University News (Saint Louis University), April 28, 2005
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  27. ^ "A grandson's phone call heralds glorious new chapter in Tannadice love story for this expat son of Dundee". The Herald. February 2, 2019. Retrieved June 11, 2022.
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