SAN LUIS OBISPO – Steve Sampson, former manager of the United States Men's National Team, Major League Soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy and head coach of Santa Clara's 1989 NCAA Tournament championship team, has been selected as the head coach of the Cal Poly men's soccer program. The announcement was made on Thursday afternoon by Mustang Director of Athletics Don Oberhelman.
"It's an incredible honor to be selected to coach Cal Poly. My tenure as a collegiate coach at Santa Clara was one of the most enjoyable periods of my life and I look forward to the challenge of competing in the Big West Conference and bringing success to a university known for excellence," said Sampson, who becomes the fourth head coach in Cal Poly's 21-year Division I history. "Having a son who graduated from Cal Poly's College of Architecture as well as two brothers-in-law and two sisters-in-law, I've seen firsthand Cal Poly's philosophy of Learn by Doing. I'm incredibly impressed with the quality of the experience afforded to students at Cal Poly and consider it a privilege to be involved with the growth of the student-athlete."
One of the most accomplished coaches in the history of American soccer, Sampson managed the United States at the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France and directed LA Galaxy to the 2005 Major League Soccer Cup title. Among other notable assignments during more than three decades of coaching and teaching, Sampson has served as both the Costa Rica Men's National Team manager (2002-04) and as an assistant with the United States Men's National Team for the 1994 FIFA World Cup after also directing Santa Clara to an undefeated record during its NCAA Division I national championship run.
"We are delighted to welcome Steve Sampson to the Mustang family," Oberhelman said. "Steve's coaching background and experience speak for themselves. To have won an NCAA national title is impressive, but when factoring in his years as the United States manager and a coach at two World Cups, we have one of the most qualified coaches in the country. Having Steve come to Cal Poly showcases what a great reputation we possess as an athletics department and university."
Sampson, who has enjoyed coaching success at every level between junior high school and the international stage, arrives at Cal Poly from the Camarillo-based Eagles Soccer Club, where he serves as the executive director and technical director overseeing 44 youth teams and nearly two dozen coaches. Sampson also currently serves as president of Global Sports Institute, which operates the Steve Sampson Soccer Academy and serves as a soccer consulting agency.
Fluent in Spanish, Sampson has served as an on-camera analyst for Time Warner Cable Deportes in Southern California and Televisa Deportes Network in Mexico for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, 2012 UEFA European Championship, CONCACAF World Cup qualifying matches and various international friendlies. He remains the only American-born individual to have served as a soccer analyst on Mexican television.
Named LA Galaxy manager on Aug. 18, 2004, Sampson directed the club to that year's MLS Western Conference finals. A year later, Sampson became just the third manager to guide a club to both the MLS Cup and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in the same season.
As the Costa Rica Men's National Team manager (2002-04), Sampson led the country to the second round of CONCACAF World Cup qualification in 2004 and the 2003 UNCAF Nations Cup championship (a competition for Central American countries). Also serving as technical director for all of the country's national teams, Sampson helped Costa Rica qualify for the 2004 Olympic Summer Games and the 2003 FIFA U-17 World Championship in Finland.
With his Costa Rica managerial appointment, Sampson became the first American-born coach to manage a national team outside of the United States.
From 1999-02, Sampson served as the technical director for California Youth Soccer Association South, overseeing the selection and development of youth players in the largest association in the United States (Cal South features more than 100,00 registered players). During his time with Cal South – which regularly placed players on Olympic Development Program sides and youth national teams – the organization produced seven national championships.
Appointed interim manager of the United States Men's National Team in April 1995, Sampson immediately led the Americans to a fourth-place finish at the 1995 Copa America, a run that included a 3-0 romp past Argentina. Promoted to the full-time managerial position, Sampson then helped the United States qualify for an unprecedented third successive World Cup Finals appearance with the Americans losing just one match during the qualification process.
On the way to the World Cup, the United States topped Brazil 1-0 in the 1998 Gold Cup semifinals, a victory that helped Sampson become the only American manager with victories against both Brazil and Argentina in competitive play.
With the United States, Sampson created the "El Equipo para Todos" campaign to promote and help recognize the men's national team as "Everyone's Team" in Hispanic communities. Through this endeavor, his managerial positions with the United States and Costa Rica national teams and his continued work on Spanish-language television, Sampson remains one of the more recognizable coaching figures in North, Central and South America.
Sampson's tenure with the United States Men's National Team began in 1993, when he was named an assistant coach on Bora Milutinovic's staff in preparation for the 1994 World Cup in America. With Sampson on the bench, the United States reached the knockout phase of the World Cup for the first and only time since 1930, losing 1-0 to Brazil in the round of 16.
In the buildup to the 1994 World Cup, Sampson served as the vice president for competition on the organizing committee and as the Chairman of the United States National Team Committee.
As head coach at Santa Clara (1986-90), Sampson compiled a 64-19-19 record with the crowning achievement coming during the 1989 season as the Broncos finished 20-0-3 en route to capturing the first and only NCAA Division I title by a men's program in university history. For his coaching efforts, Sampson was named both NSCAA and ISAA National Coach of the Year and West Coast Conference Coach of the Year. Sampson, who enjoyed four winning seasons in five years at Santa Clara, also directed the Broncos to the 1990 NCAA Tournament.
No stranger to NCAA Tournament success, Sampson – prior to his five seasons at Santa Clara – was an assistant coach with UCLA and helped guide the Bruins to the 1985 NCAA championship.
A competition director and outlying site coordinator for the football tournament at the 1984 Olympic Summer Games, Sampson was also an assistant coach at Foothill Junior College (Los Altos, Calif.), where he helped the Owls to the 1980 and 1981 state championships.
Sampson earned his master's degree in education from Stanford and a bachelor's degree in human performance from San Jose State.
He presently resides in Agoura Hills, Calif., with his wife, Sheri. The Sampsons have three children: Brandon, Emily and Trevor.
Photo courtesy of Ray Ambler (RAPhotos.com)