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John Harkes (born March 8, 1967) is a retired American soccer player who is currently serving as head coach for Greenville Triumph SC.[1]

John Harkes
John Harkes (29752565795) (cropped).jpg
Harkes coaching FC Cincinnati in 2016
Personal information
Date of birth (1967-03-08) March 8, 1967 (age 52)
Place of birth Kearny, New Jersey, United States
Height 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Playing position Midfielder
Club information
Current team
Greenville Triumph SC (head coach)
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)
National team
1987–2000 United States 90 (6)
Teams managed
2006–2007 New York Red Bulls (assistant)
2016–2017 FC Cincinnati
2018– Greenville Triumph
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

A member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame, Harkes was the first American ever to play in the English Premier League with Sheffield Wednesday, the second American to score at Wembley Stadium, and the first American soccer player to appear in the final of a major English tournament, in the 1991 Football League Cup Final with 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 from ahead of the 1998 World Cup. Harkes ended his national team career with 90 caps and 6 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.[2]

Amateur careerEdit

High schoolEdit

Harkes grew up in the soccer hotbed of Kearny, New Jersey,[3] and played youth and high school soccer with future national team teammates Tony Meola and Tab Ramos.[4]

Harkes graduated from Kearny High School in 1985.[5] 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.[6]


From 1985 to 1987, Harkes played soccer at the University of Virginia under his future D.C. United head coach Bruce Arena. He was named the MAC Player of the Year winner by the Missouri Athletic Club in 1987. He decided to forgo his senior year in order to play full-time for the national team in 1988. That was the year the team played in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul and began the qualification process for the 1990 FIFA World Cup.

Professional careerEdit

U.S. minor leaguesEdit

Harkes began his professional career with the Albany Capitals of the American Soccer League in 1989. He was a first team All Star that year.

England: 1990–1996Edit

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 Year" award. That season, Harkes became the second American (after Bill Regan for Romford F.C. in the 1948–49 FA Amateur Cup final) to play at Wembley Stadium 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.[1]

Major League Soccer: 1996–2003Edit

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.[7]

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.[8] 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 careerEdit

Harkes playing in a World Cup qualifying match in 1997

John Harkes played in the 1990 and 1994 FIFA World Cups and was controversially cut from the team weeks before the 1998 tournament by national team coach Steve Sampson.

Harkes made his national team debut on March 23, 1987 against Canada. 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 and Eric Wynalda, 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.[9] 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 controversyEdit

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.[10] 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".[11] The 1998 team went on to lose all three games in the group stage, finishing last overall.

In February 2010 Sampson and former teammate Eric Wynalda claimed that an alleged affair between Harkes and Wynalda's wife, Amy, had prompted Harkes' sudden dismissal.[10][12] Sampson confirmed Wynalda's claim in a 2016 podcast interview with Alexi Lalas.[13]

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.

International goalsEdit

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

Off the fieldEdit

In 1994, Harkes appeared in People magazine's annual "The 50 Most Beautiful People" issue.

In September 1997, Harkes prepared for the 1998 World Cup with an ill-advised trip to California that ultimately defined his legacy. In 2010, it was finally revealed by Eric Wynalda that former US national team manager Steve Sampson had cut Harkes from the 1998 World Cup team only two months prior to the tournament because Harkes had been having relations with teammate Eric'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 cut Harkes to restore locker 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 would publish an autobiography in 1999 panning Sampson's tenure as manager, but made no mention of the affair.[14][15][16]

In 2003, John Harkes announced his retirement from professional soccer. He became the Director of Youth Development for D.C. United and a color commentator for soccer broadcasts on Fox Sports Channel.

Harkes was elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 2005.

Harkes appeared in the 2005 film The Game of Their Lives in the role of Ed McIlvenny, a member of the U.S. World Cup team that upset England 1–0 in the 1950 FIFA World Cup.

Harkes worked as an analyst for ESPN and ABC in broadcasting the 2006 World Cup, also working in 2008 – 2011 as lead soccer analyst for both networks. Harkes returned to his role offering color commentary for ESPN and ABC in those networks' coverage of the 2010 World Cup.

In July 2006, John Harkes left his job at D.C. United to become an assistant coach for New York Red Bulls under coach Bruce Arena. He was let go, though, after Arena was fired.

A longtime supporter of childhood youth development, Harkes joined the National Board of America SCORES in 2010. America SCORES provides afterschool programming to elementary and middle school children in under-resourced communities around the country, providing soccer, poetry and community service.

In 2012–2013 Harkes worked as the lead soccer analyst for Comcast Sports' coverage of D.C. United.

Harkes coaches defender Harrison Delbridge during a 2016 FC Cincinnati match.

On August 12, 2015, Harkes was introduced as the head coach of the newly formed FC Cincinnati, which began play in the United Soccer League in March 2016. After the team's inaugural season, which saw the team finish 3rd in the league and set numerous USL attendance records. The team relieved Harkes of his duties on February 17, 2017.

Personal lifeEdit

Harkes is a first-generation-born American as both his parents are Scottish immigrants.[17]

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, and currently plays for Dundee United.[18]

Career statisticsEdit

Club performance League Cup League Cup Continental Total
Season Club League Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
England League FA Cup League Cup Europe Total
1990–91 Sheffield Wednesday Second Division 23 2 0 0 1 0 0 0 24 2
1991–92 First Division 29 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 29 3
1992–93 Premier League 29 2 2 0 1 1 0 0 32 3
1993–94 Derby County First Division 32 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 32 2
1994–95 35 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 35 3
1995–96 West Ham United Premier League 12 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 12 0
USA League Open Cup League Cup North America Total
1996 D.C. United Major League Soccer 29 3 0 0 6 0 0 0 35 3
1997 25 5 1 0 5 0 0 0 31 5
1998 29 6 0 0 6 0 0 0 35 6
1999 New England Revolution 22 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 22 0
2000 28 2 1 0 3 0 0 0 32 2
2001 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 0
2001 Columbus Crew 18 0 3 0 2 0 0 0 23 0
2002 11 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 11 0
Total England 160 12 2 0 2 1 0 0 164 13
United States 167 16 5 0 22 0 0 0 194 16
Career total 327 28 7 0 24 1 0 0 358 29



Sheffield Wednesday

D.C. United

Columbus Crew

United States team


  1. ^ "John Harkes Named Club's First Head Coach". Greenville Triumph SC. August 27, 2018. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
  2. ^ "John Harkes Out as Lead ESPN US Soccer Analyst: Replaced by Taylor Twellman". Washington Post. Archived from the original on November 23, 2011.
  3. ^ Bondy, Filip. "SOCCER; Harkes, Accent and All, Back for Tourney", The New York Times, June 6, 1993. Accessed March 28, 2011. "John Harkes, the pride of Kearny, N.J., rejoined the United States national soccer team this week to resuscitate his old mates in the U.S. Cup '93 opener today against Brazil in New Haven."
  4. ^ Soccer Ruminations Recall Soccertown USA, The University News (Saint Louis University), April 28, 2005
  5. ^ Yannis, Alex. "Cosmos Spirit Infuses 2 At Tournament Debut", The New York Times, June 2, 1989. Accessed December 17, 2007. "Harkes, who went to Kearny High School, has been the most industrious player for the Americans in their three World Cup qualifying games (1–1–1) thus far."
  6. ^ Jandoli, Ron. "The Century's Best – Boys Soccer: Top 10 Players of each decade", The Star-Ledger, November 7, 1999, backed up by the Internet Archive as of January 10, 2003, Accessed September 11, 2008
  7. ^ Looking back: John Harkes Archived August 14, 2006, at the Wayback Machine, September 28, 2005
  8. ^ "D.C. deals Harkes to New England". CBS Sportsline. Associated Press. February 2, 1999. Archived from the original on May 5, 1999. Retrieved September 28, 2014.
  9. ^ What the world is waiting for
  10. ^ a b "Harkes dropped in '98 for allegations". ESPN. AP. February 3, 2010.
  11. ^ Langdon, Jerry (June 14, 1999). "Bitter Harkes closes with blistering shots at Sampson". Soccer Times. Gannett News Service. Archived from the original on March 29, 2006. Retrieved May 31, 2006.
  12. ^ Davis, Steve (February 3, 2010). "L'affair John Harkes: Details emerge on the once-U.S. captain's affair with Wynalda's wife". SB Nation.
  13. ^ "Ep. 6 – 5/15/16 – Ibrahimovic to MLS & USA/Mexico 2026, Guest: Steve Sampson". ART19, Inc. May 15, 2016. Retrieved December 7, 2017.
  14. ^ Blum, Ronald (February 3, 2010). "John Harkes Affair? Soccer Captain Allegedly Slept With Teammate's Wife". The Huffington Post. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
  15. ^ "Truth be told . . . 12 years later". Denver Post. February 3, 2010.
  16. ^ "The Most Notorious Mistresses in Sports".
  17. ^ "MLS Insider: John Harkes traces soccer's roots in historic Kearny, New Jersey". Major League Soccer. December 27, 2014. Retrieved December 28, 2014.
  18. ^ Goff, Steven (January 6, 2017). "Ian Harkes wins Hermann Trophy as college soccer's best player". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 3, 2017.

External linksEdit