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Coaching Apr 11, 2024

Former UNC and USWNT player Tracey Bates Leone joins Tar Heels coaching staff

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Three-time University of North Carolina women’s soccer national champion Tracey Bates Leone, a pioneer in the sport’s growth in the United States, has returned to Chapel Hill as an assistant coach. She brings with her over three decades of coaching and playing experience at the collegiate and international level.

“We are thrilled to welcome Tracey back to Chapel Hill as an assistant coach,” said head coach Anson Dorrance. “She has a proven track record of building winning programs and leading her teams to new heights. Tracey understands what it takes to be successful on the collegiate and international stage, and her experience will be invaluable for our student-athletes.”

A standout midfielder under Dorrance in the late 1980s, Leone – then known as Tracey Bates – led the Tar Heels to three national championships (1986, 1987, 1989) and one runner-up finish (1985). She scored the game-winning goal against Colorado College in 1986.

She was named the 1989 NCAA College Cup Defensive MVP and was twice tabbed to the All-NCAA College Cup Team. Leone graduated as a three-time All-America selection, All-ACC honoree and served as team captain during her senior year.

In 2002, she was selected to the Atlantic Coast Conference 50th Anniversary Team as one of the best players in league history.

“I would like to thank Bubba Cunningham and Anson Dorrance for providing me this amazing opportunity,” said Leone. “It is so rare and special to have the chance to coach at your alma mater, and I feel like I struck gold twice. To be able to return to Chapel Hill to serve the program I deeply loved being a part of and to work with Anson, the coach who I loved playing for, is truly an honor. I am so excited to work with and learn from Damon Nahas and Chris Ducar as well as with this extraordinary group of young women.”

Leone played for the United States Women’s National Team from 1987-91, earning 29 caps with 21 starts. She scored five goals and dished out two assists during her time for the stars and stripes. Leone and Team USA won the first-ever Women’s World Cup in 1991 under Dorrance.

She began her college coaching career as an assistant at Creighton University in 1991 while also playing for the USWNT. Soon after, she founded the women’s soccer program at Clemson University in 1993 and served as its first head coach from 1994-99.

After building the program from scratch, Leone led the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament each of her six years, including two Sweet Sixteens and one Elite Eight appearance. She was inducted into the Clemson Athletics Hall of Fame in 2018.

Leone then became the assistant coach at Arizona State in 2005 before assuming the same role at Harvard University in 2007. She helped lead the Crimson to back-to-back Ivy League titles and NCAA Tournament berths in 2008 and 2009.

Prior to her time at Harvard, Leone was the head women’s soccer coach at Northeastern University from 2010-15. The Huskies had five consecutive Colonial Athletic Association Tournament appearances under her guidance, winning one regular season conference title and two conference championships. Leone was tabbed the CAA Coach of the Year and Mid-Atlantic Regional Coach of the Year in 2014.

She arrives back in Chapel Hill having most recently been the head coach at Colby College during the 2022 and 2023 seasons.

Through the years, Leone has spent time working with various levels of the U.S. Women’s National teams, the Olympic Development Program and the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. She became the head coach of the U-16 squad in 2000 and led the U-19 team to the World Championship gold medal in 2002.

After guiding the U.S. U-19 National Team to the inaugural world title in 2002, Leone became the first American to win a world championship as both a player and as a head coach.

She was also an assistant coach of the gold-medal-winning U.S. team at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Additionally, she has served as an assistant coach for the New Zealand Women’s National Team, most recently helping the Ferns in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which the country co-hosted.

A native of Dallas, Texas, Leone graduated from UNC in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in education. She married her husband, Ray Leone, in 1992.