Charlotte women's soccer Head Coach John Cullen, the all-time winningest coach in program history, announced his resignation on March 15. Cullen's illustrious career with the 49ers spanned 13 seasons. Under his watch, Charlotte won 131 games with an NCAA tournament appearance in 2016.
"It's with mixed emotions that I say 'Goodbye' to my Charlotte 49er family," said Cullen. "For those that know me well—there is nowhere else I love more than being on a soccer field working with players, coaching teams and encouraging players to fulfill their potential. I leave with the greatest of gratitude to my 49er family."
Cullen revolutionized the women's soccer program by putting the team on the map. The 49ers reached new heights with Cullen from three Conference USA (C-USA) championship games to coaching multiple accolade holders. Thus, here are the top 10 moments from Cullen's coaching career:
10. Making Charlotte a soccer destination
With the contributions of Cullen, the 49ers have become well-known in player circles, and Charlotte is a destination for players worldwide. The team is a contender to land high-end talent through the transfer portal and recruiting each year.
Junior midfielder Malina Pardo, a Puerto Rican national team member, transferred from UNCW while senior defender Nicole Palmer hails from Morehead State. The 49ers are represented internationally, with the additions of Amber Treweek, Saskia Kacary and Charlotte Harris.
9. Captain of the Charlotte men's team in 1992
As a student-athlete, Cullen played with the Charlotte men's soccer team from 1989 to 1992. The 1991 squad made the program's first appearance in the NCAA tournament, where they fell to No. 24 North Carolina in the first round.
In 1992, Cullen was the captain for the 49ers. The team finished the season 14-3-2 and peaked at No. 2 in the national rankings. The 49ers made the NCAA tournament for the second straight season, where they took on cross-county rival Davidson.
8. 16 wins in his first season at the helm
In Cullen's first season, Charlotte saw immediate success by winning 16 games. Charlotte boasted wins over Appalachian State, Davidson and North Carolina State while going 9-0-2 in Atlantic 10 (A-10) play. The successful season ended with a loss to No. 21 Dayton in the final of the A-10 tournament, but it set the tone for his tenure at Charlotte.
7. C-USA tournament run to end 2020-21 season
The 2020-21 season, filled with adversity and a delayed start, saw a historic run to cap off the season. The 49ers had a lackluster regular season boasting a 4-5 overall record and entered the C-USA tournament as the three seed in the East division.
In the quarterfinals, the 49ers defeated the North Texas Mean Green with a 1-0 victory. The win set up a matchup with the No. 1 seed in the East division Western Kentucky, and Charlotte cruised to a 2-0 win. The run ended when the 49ers fell to the Rice Owls 2-0 in the C-USA championship game.
6. A-10 Regular season co-champions in 2010
The 49ers secured the A-10 regular-season co-champions crown in 2010. The team went 8-1 in conference play. In the A-10 tournament final, Dayton played spoiler knocking out Charlotte in two overtimes.
5. C-USA East division champions in 2013
In Charlotte's first season in the C-USA, the 49ers clinched the East Division regular-season championship. The team finished conference play 5-3-2. Charlotte lost to North Texas 1-0 in overtime in the C-USA semifinals.
4. Three appearances in the C-USA Championship game
Cullen has led the 49ers to three appearances in the C-USA Championship game in the last six years. The first appearance in the game came in 2016; Charlotte defeated Florida Atlantic 4-0 to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Charlotte made a repeat appearance in 2017, coming up short to North Texas in penalty kicks. The last appearance for Cullen came in 2020-21, where the team went on a historic run but lost to Rice 2-0.
3. Countless Player Accolades
Over the years, Cullen coached an All-American, Freshman All-American, three conference offensive players of the year, 20 All-Region choices and over 40 All-Conference Selections. Award winners Martha Thomas, Megan Greene, Abby Stapleton, Julia Patrum and Michaella Arteta have played for Cullen. These players and awards have made Charlotte a flagship program in college soccer.
2. NCAA tournament bid in 2016
In the 2016 season, the 49ers made the NCAA tournament for the first under Cullen. Charlotte finished 11-9-2 overall and 5-4-1 in conference play. The team boasted wins over Western Carolina, Mercer and Elon.
Charlotte put it together in the C-USA tournament as they defeated Western Kentucky, UTEP and Florida Atlantic for the automatic bid. The 49ers faced the No. 14 Duke Blue Devils in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
1. All-time winningest coach
In Cullen's 13 seasons, the 49ers have experienced an era of winning and success. Cullen holds a 131-95-21 record as head coach at Charlotte. The 131 wins are the most all-time and are a Charlotte program record. Cullen has been with the team through it all and will go down in the record books.