Third-seeded Knights take on No. 2 UConn in American Athletic Conference tournament semifinals
Having guided the Knights to the second round of the NCAA Championship in 2010 and 2011, Bryan Cunningham has developed one of the nation's elite men's soccer programs at UCF. Cunningham, who completed his ninth season with the Knights in 2016, continues to build a program that enjoys consistent improvement on and off the field.
During his tenure with the Knights, Cunningham has guided, developed and mentored three players - Romario Williams (2015), Deshorn Brown (2013) and Sean Johnson (2010) - to ink MILS Generation Adidas contracts. Seven Knights have heard their names called at the MLS SuperDraft - James Georgeff (2008/4th Rd/Houston), Johnson (2010/4th Rd/Chicago), Kevan George (2012/2nd Rd/Columbus), Warren Creavalle (2012/2nd Rd/Houston), Deshorn Brown (2013/1st Rd/Colorado), Romario Williams (2015/1st Rd/Montreal) and Hadji Barry (2016/1st Rd/ Orlando City).
In 2011, Cunningham led UCF to the finest season in school history. UCF spent nearly the entire campaign in the top-25 nationally, moving to as high as No. 6. His squad went 12-6-3 overall and again advanced past the first round of the NCAA Championship. UCF received its second-straight invitation to the postseason, and opened the tournament with a 1-0 overtime victory over visiting Florida Gulf Coast.
UCF defeated a pair of nationally-ranked squads during the year, and opened the campaign 6-0-1. The Knights advanced to the Conference USA Championship semifinals for the third-straight year.
Six members of the team earned postseason honors from C-USA, with Warren Creavalle, Kevan George and Andrew Quintana garnering first-team recognition. The trio, along with McKauly Tulloch, were selected to the NSCAA All-South Region Second Team. Off the field, A.J. Nelson earned CoSIDA Academic All-District IV First Team honors, and was also selected to the C-USA All-Academic Team.
UCF recorded plenty of highlights in 2012, including as it finished third in its final campaign in C-USA. The Knights posted a 1-0 win over No. 17 SMU during the year and also had big road victories at Kentucky and Marshall in league play. Deshorn Brown and Andrew Quintana garnered all-league first team honors and Brown was named to the NSCAA All-South Region First Team. Off the field, eight Knights received C-USA Commissioner's Academic Honor Roll recognition.
In 2010, Cunningham guided UCF to a remarkable season. The Knights finished the season 12-5-3 overall, including earning the No. 2 seed in the C-USA Championship with a 4-1-3 league mark, their best finish since joining in 2005.
Despite falling in the semifinals of the C-USA tournament, Cunningham and his team earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in six years. UCF hosted its first-ever NCAA Tournament game against USF in the first round, beating their in-state rivals, 3-0. The Knights would fall in the second round to eventual College Cup semifinalist Michigan in Ann Arbor, 2-1, in overtime to end their season.
Cunningham also helped UCF players earn individual accolades in 2010 as Creavalle was named a Third-Team All-American. A program record six players were named to the All-C-USA Teams, including three on the First Team. The Knights also had three players named to the NSCAA All-South Region Teams in 2010, including Creavalle on the First Team.
In 2009, the Knights made drastic improvements offensively en route to a 6-7-3 record. The team improved its goal scoring from 16 in 2008 to 25 in 2009, despite playing three fewer games. The team also increased their shot total by 63 and collected an astonishing 20 more assists.
In Cunningham's second season in charge, the Knights improved their win total by three from the previous season to seven in 2008. Despite playing an extremely challenging slate that included 2007 national runner-up Ohio State and a ranked South Florida squad, the seven wins equaled the most by a UCF team since 2005.
On the field, UCF finished the 2008 campaign with a 7-11-1 record. After the team tied for third and claimed UCF's highest C-USA finish to-date, Cunningham led the Knights to a 1-0 victory over Memphis in the quarterfinals of the C-USA Tournament, the first win for the program since joining the league.
Off the field, the men's soccer team posted the highest grade point average for any men's team at UCF, and the Knights had 14 players gain spots on the C-USA Commissioner's Honor Roll for having a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or better.
After assisting in the continued development of the soccer programs at Pfeiffer, Appalachian State and South Carolina, Cunningham first joined the UCF men's soccer program as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator in May 2005 after serving in a similar position at South Carolina for three years. Cunningham's first recruiting class was ranked in the top 30 nationally by College Soccer News and first in the south region by StudentSports.com. By the end of 2006, three of those players garnered C-USA All-Conference honors.
Following the resignation of Brent Erwin in January 2007, Cunningham was appointed interim head coach before being formally named to the position a month later.
In his first season at the helm, Cunningham helped the offense score 24 goals, the most tallies since 2002. The Knights also claimed the New Mexico Invitational and the UCF Fall Classic titles en route to a 4-12-2 record. In the classroom, a total of 15 Knights earned spots on the C-USA Commissioner's Honor Roll.
Cunningham has helped several of his players move on to the professional and has coached four MLS SuperDraft picks. Brown was selected with the No. 6 overall pick by the Colorado Rapids in 2013. A pair of Knights were selected in 2012 as the Columbus Crew tabbed George with the 29th overall pick and the Houston Dyanamo took Creavalle with the 37th overall selection.
Former UCF standout goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who played under Cunningham in 2007 and 2008, was drafted by the Chicago Fire in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft. He has spent time with the U.S. National Team.
Over the summer of 2008, Cunningham was invited to Euro 2008 as a guest of the Swedish FA, Malmo FF and the Northern Ireland Schoolboys. In the summer of 2010, he served in the same capacity for the World Cup in South Africa. He also went to Belfast, Northern Ireland, to complete his UEFA `A' license.
As a member of the South Carolina staff, Cunningham recruited several highly-touted student-athletes into the program. Among his recruits were Mike Sambursky, a 2007 draftee of Major League Soccer (MLS) champion Houston Dynamo; Makan Hislop, captain of the U-20 Trinidad and Tobago National Team and Brad Guzan, an All-America and No. 2 pick in the 2005 MLS Super Draft.
On the field, Cunningham helped guide the Gamecocks to a combined 21-14-3 mark and an NCAA Tournament berth in his final season. Both seasons USC was ranked as high as seventh in the national polls.
In 2003-04, Cunningham saw the team post the highest GPA on record as 10 players earned Southeastern Conference All-Academic Team recognition.
Prior to his stint at USC, Cunningham was an assistant coach at Appalachian State for five years. At ASU, he worked with eight All-South Region honorees, a SoCon Player of the Year, 13 All-SoCon selections and a College Soccer News Freshman All-American. ASU also boasted an Academic All-American and 18 players on the league's All-Academic Team.
In addition to his coaching experience at the collegiate level, he was also active in the North Carolina and South Carolina Olympic Development Programs. On the international level, Cunningham presently serves as an advisor for the Northern Ireland U-18 Schoolboys and managers Bob Ramsey and Andy McMorran.
Cunningham has been active promoting youth soccer in the Seminole and Orange County school systems, as well as at three area Christian schools, the YMCA and the Boys' and Girls' Club. For the past three years, he has been the guiding force in the men's soccer team's involvement in the annual UCF Youth Sports Festival.
A native of Allentown, Pa., Cunningham was a four-year letterwinner and three-time captain for the Pfeiffer University soccer team. The Falcons won two Carolinas-Virginia Athletic Conference Championships and earned a berth in the NCAA Division II Tournament. He was also a four-time Scholar-Athlete and Dean's List honoree and earned a bachelor's degree in communications, while appearing in the Who's Who among American College Students book.