Player countdown: Eddie Pope
How it all came to be...
Eddie Pope was born in Greensboro, North Carolina. At the age of six, Pope wanted to play football, but he was not old enough according to North Carolina standards. The only sport left to play for young Pope was soccer. Like many, he started out playing recreationally and eventually competitively. His first club team was the Greensboro Buccaneers.
Pope attended Southwest Guilford High School in North Carolina, and became one of the best athletes to walk through their doors. At Southwest Guilford High School he played four years of soccer, three years of football as a place kicker, and one year of baseball. Pope was the first athlete in North Carolina to be invited to both the soccer and football high school all-star games.
While in high school, Pope also participated in the Olympic Development Program (ODP). He quickly made his way through the ranks making the North Carolina State Team, Regional Team and finally the National Team.
Pope initially wanted to play football and soccer at the collegiate level, and the only college he saw fit to indulge in both was the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Surprisingly, Pope received a scholarship to play football and walked on to play soccer for the Tar Heels. Pope's football career did not last long. He was injured his freshman year and red-shirted as a sophomore. Concurrently, he had begun playing for the Olympic Team, and a decision had to be made. Fortunately for the soccer community worldwide, Pope chose to continue playing soccer.
At UNC (1992-1995), Pope was named to the 1994 first-team NCAA All-America, All-Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and All-South Region teams, and named second team All-ACC his sophomore year. He started every collegiate game of his career, and in the 71 games Pope played throughout his four years at UNC, he left there with 31 points by recording 13 goals and five assists. Pope was also a regular for the Under-23 United States National Team from 1994-1996.
After four successful years at North Carolina, Pope planned to attend law school. However, Bruce Arena, the Olympic Team head coach, who was also the head coach of the D.C. United, approached Pope about playing in MLS. D.C. United selected Pope in the First Round (Second overall) of the 1996 Inaugural MLS Draft.
During his first season with D.C., Pope made his first appearance with the U.S. Men's National Team in a World Cup qualifier in 1996 in a 2-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago. Pope split the season between the U.S. Olympic team and D.C. United. In 1997, and he was named MLS Defender of the Year at age 23. From 1996 to 1999, Pope led D.C. United to three MLS titles. His greatest professional moment came when he scored the game-winning goal in overtime to give D.C. United its inaugural MLS Cup title.
Annually, from 1997 to 2000, Pope was chosen as an MLS All-Star. During the 2001 season, Pope was named the club's defender of the year while missing a number of matches due to National Team commitments. The 2003 season marked a change for Pope when he was acquired by the MetroStars. Pope was named the captain of the MetroStars for the 2003 season and recorded two assists for his new team. In Pope's last season with the MetroStars, he helped the team to third place in the Eastern Conference and was also voted to the MLS Best XI for a second consecutive season. The 2005 season saw Pope embark on yet another journey in his storied MLS career when he signed via allocation by Real Salt Lake February 1, 2005.
Coach Ellinger's call...
"Once the team acquired Eddie, it took the club to a whole new level. It gave us the confidence and leadership that we needed and we felt so much better about our new team. He is by far the country's best defender and he has made his mark on all different levels of the game. Eddie is also a high-quality person and it's a huge plus for our franchise to have him."
Field Vision: Forward Clint Mathis says...
"Eddie has been and still is the best defender in this league. As a forward, he is tough to go up against. He is very quiet on and off the field and radiates leadership. Eddie is one of our veterans and you can tell."
Things you need to know...
Spending time with his family and playing with his son Emilio.
Major in college:
Most memorable moments:
The 2002 World Cup
Hip-Hop and R&B
Mexican, especially empanadas
"Tell No One" by Harlan Coben
Favorite TV show:
Emilio, 3 1/2
Favorite athlete outside of soccer:
Roy Jones Jr.
His little boy
The Eddie Pope Foundation, which assists underprivileged kids and helps them achieve academic success