Soccer Coach Guides University of Portland’s Men’s & Women’s Teams to Record-setting Year
Soccer is prime-time stuff at the University of Portland. Clive Charles is the reason why.
In 10 years, Charles, the school’s director of soccer, has sculpted the Pilots into a work of art, a program that has emerged as one of the elites in the college game. Charles’ contributions are laudable and especially noteworthy because he coaches the men’s and women’s teams.
Under Charles, UP has become a regular in postseason play. The men have appeared in the NCAA playoffs seven of the last eight years; the women have gone four years in a row.
Last year, Charles pulled off the rarest of doubles, as both teams earned berths at NCAA soccer’s Final Four — making him only the second coach in college history to guide two teams to the Final Four in the same season. His bid to become the first coach to take both teams to the 1995 championship game fell short when both Pilot squads lost in the semifinals.
Portland has been Charles’ only job at the college level and he’s made the most of it. His combined winning percentage (which includes 10 seasons with the men, seven with the women) is an eye-catching 70.4 percent.
So how is it that Portland, a relatively tiny school of 2,300 students, is able to go toe-to-toe against its larger, more well-established brethren in NCAA Division I — and win consistently?
Soccer is King
When it comes to college sports, UP is not the main attraction in its home state. The University of Oregon and Oregon State get most of the notoriety.
In spite of that, Charles and the Pilots continue to build a sterling reputation. As far as the coach is concerned, there are no mystical secrets that have paved the way for Portland’s fortunes.
For starters, soccer is the undisputed king at UP. Football and basketball play second and third fiddle. Merlo Field, UP’s home stadium, is one of the top-rated soccer facilities in the country and women’s soccer is a major happening all by itself. The Pilot women led the NCAA in total and average home attendance last year.
Those factors play a key role in how the sport’s status has reached new heights at Portland. But more importantly, it’s been Charles, the catalyst, who has made it all happen. He’s instilled a work ethic that brings out the best in his athletes.
“The difference for us is hard work,” he says matter-of-factly. “It’s a lot like making an investment. The bigger investment you make — before the season starts and in practice — the more you do to protect that investment.”
Former Pro Player
Charles, who grew up in London, England, refined his knowledge of the sport as a pro player. He played 17 seasons, which included stints in England’s Premier Division, the North American Soccer League and the Major Indoor Soccer League. Before hanging up the cleats, Charles was a threetime NASL all-star and was named to the NASL’s all-time team, selected by the legendary Pele.
Portland’s soccermeister is a proven commodity now. And it’s clear that he’s able to inspire his players, regardless of whether they’re male or female.
“I’ve heard people say you have to coach men and women differently,” says Charles. “Seems to me that people are mixed up about that. The way I treat a player depends on that particular individual. It’s more like managing people rather than coaching different genders.”
In looking back on his record-setting 1995 season, Charles is content, even though the Pilots didn’t win an NCAA title. “Things went the way I hoped they would,” he says. “That’s what we worked so hard for … to get to the playoffs. That was the goal for both teams and both teams accomplished what they set out to do.”
When Charles isn’t applying his method at UP, he’s busy coaching at the worldclass level — as head coach of the U.S. women’s under-20 team and as an assistant with the men’s national team. The extra work, he explains, helps him in his role at Portland.
“I get some name recognition,” says Charles, who worked as a guest analyst for ESPN at the ’94 World Cup. “But where it really helps is being exposed to different styles and techniques at a higher level of play. Getting that kind of exposure helps to make me a better coach.”
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