The Orlando Pride have announced the hiring of former University of Florida women’s soccer head coach Becky Burleigh as the team’s interim head coach. Burleigh will lead the team through the remainder of the 2021 NWSL season. The move was necessary after Marc Skinner resigned as head coach on Friday to accept the same position with Manchester United, and Carl Green led the Pride during last night’s 2-0 home loss to OL Reign before leaving the club.
After coaching Berry College to two NAIA championships in five years, Burleigh became the first head coach of the Gators women’s soccer program in 1994. She spent the next 26 years in Gainesville, compiling a record of 513-160-4, winning 14 SEC championships, and the 1998 national championship.
“In addition to having a distinguished coaching career, Becky is among the most widely-respected leaders in our sports,” Pride Executive Vice President Amanda Duffy said in a club press release. “Under Becky’s guidance, I’m confident that she will instill a new focus and confidence amongst the team, and strengthen the team’s existing foundation during this unique transition period for our club. Our goals and expectations for this season remain unchanged, and we look forward to Becky shepherding this team through the remainder of this season to build on its early success.”
The Tarpon Springs, FL native announced her retirement from the college game back in February. While she will be a new coach for the Pride, Burleigh has experience with some current players. Erika Tymrak (2009-2012) and Meggie Dougherty Howard (2013-2016) both played for the Gators while Burleigh was the head coach.
“I’m excited to become a member of the Orlando Pride franchise,” Burleigh said in the club release. “My hope is to create a seamless transition plan to build on the growth and strides that Marc and the team have made so far this season. Change, despite being difficult, always brings an opportunity for growth. I’m eager to work in partnership with the existing staff and players to make that happen.”
In addition to Burleigh, the club also hired Alan Kirkup as an interim assistant coach. Kirkup played professionally for Manchester United from 1972-76 before entering the coaching profession. He spent the last 15 years as an assistant for Burleigh at the University of Florida, before leaving the program with Burleigh in February.
It was announced last week that the Wilf family had completed the purchase of Orlando City, the Pride, OCB, and the academy from Flavio Augusto da Silva. The hiring of Burleigh is the first move by the Wilf family as owners of the club.
“Becky has a tremendous reputation and history of success in women’s soccer, and we are thrilled to welcome her and Alan to the Orlando Pride organization,” club chairman Mark Wilf said in the release. “Building the Pride, both on and off the field, is of utmost importance to us, and adding Becky will position this team for continued growth and success.”
Burleigh and Kirkup will join the Pride for training this week and lead the team against the North Carolina Courage next weekend.