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Former Bulls coach hoping to help U.S. win World Cup title

After four years with the Bulls, John Hackworth took a position coaching the U.S. National Team. PHOTO COURTEST OF USSOCCER.COM

Imagine the difference between coaching at the USF soccer stadium and coaching in the World Cup. In just six years, John Hackworth has figured out how to bridge that gap.

Hackworth coached the Bulls from 1998-2001. In that time he led USF to two NCAA tournaments, a conference tournament title in 1998 and a shared Conference USA regular season title that same year. He resigned in 2001 to join U.S. soccer.

On Oct. 24, he was named assistant to men’s national team coach Bob Bradley. His duties with the team go deeper than coaching, however, as he is also the director of U.S Soccer’s Development Academy.

“Joining the staff as the team gets focused on World Cup qualifying in 2008 is a great next step as a coach,” Hackworth said. “I’ve known Bob for many years. We have a great connection in terms of how we see the game, both technically on the field and in the ways you can help prepare a team off the field.”

The most surprising part of Hackworth’s ascent into the men’s ranks is how quickly he’s done so, having never coached a professional team.

During his speedy success, certain stops were instrumental in shaping Hackworth into a better coach. One of those stops was USF.

“I’ll always cherish the four years I spent at USF,” Hackworth said. “That’s a place where I cut my teeth as a coach and started making all the decisions for a team and a program. I got the job when I was only 28 and I think it’s what spring-boarded me to where I am now. It’s where I learned how to run a program.”

In his time at USF, Hackworth left his mark on his players’ careers and lives. Former USF goalkeeper Troy Perkins, who now plays for Major League Soccer’s D.C. United, was one of those players.

“It was the atmosphere that he had worked to build for his program that inspired me to go to USF,” Perkins said. “That first year with him helped me learn how to push myself and be a leader. I think about that time in my life a lot and he was one of the people that helped me during that time.”

For Hackworth, his hard work and dedication to the game have made the progress an arduous task.

“It doesn’t seem like this happened that fast,” Hackworth said. “It is, when I sit down and look at it, but my maturity as a coach has been a lot of work. It’s been work that I’ve enjoyed immensely, however, and I’m blessed to have had the opportunities I’ve had so far.”

After leaving USF in 2002, Hackworth spent some time as an assistant coach for the under-17 men’s national team before taking over as head coach two years later. During his time there, he led the

U-17 team through two FIFA World Cups in which they advanced to the second round of the tournament.

U.S. men’s national team coach Bob Bradley has high expectations for what Hackworth can bring to the table as part of U.S. soccer’s push toward World Cup success in the future.

“John is a great addition to our coaching staff,” Bradley said. “Having him around, while he also works directly with the technical aspects of the academy program, is going to help us forge a strong connection between the youth clubs and the elite national team level.”

Moving on to the next level has Hackworth excited to begin his work with the national team. For the first time in his career, he’ll be coaching world class professional athletes.

“It’s a different type of coaching,” Hackworth said. “All these guys are professional athletes and you’re dealing with the spectrum of their careers as well as the athlete. It’s something I’m looking forward to adding to my list of experiences.”

With MLS growing quickly and the success of American players overseas, Hackworth sees good things for the future of U.S. soccer.

“I’ve been part of the process,” Hackworth said. “My job was to develop talent within the U.S., and now that talent is coming of age where they’re senior level players. Having seen it, I personally think that U.S. soccer has a very bright future, and with the way the leagues are growing there is no reason to suspect that the level of play won’t continue to improve.”