Carolina students began playing soccer after World War I. The first references to it in the Tar Heel were in 1917, with the first intramural games played in 1919. The first intercollegiate game was played in 1937, when a group of students organized a scrimmage against Duke (the UNC team lost, 2—1). Soccer became a varsity sport in 1947 and was soon successful, winning the Southern Conference championship in 1948. In 1963 Edwin Okoroma, from Nigeria, became the first black varsity athlete at UNC when he joined the soccer team. The men's soccer team won its first Atlantic Coast Conference championship in 1987 and won national championships in 2001 and 2011.
Carolina soccer began a new era in 1977, when Anson Dorrance was hired as coach. Initially hired to coach the men's team, Dorrance also took over as coach of the women's soccer team in 1979, when women's soccer became a varsity sport at Carolina. He would coach both the women and the men through 1988. Women's soccer quickly developed into a successful program. The Tar Heel women won a national championship in 1981, beginning an unparalleled record of success. The team has won twenty-two national championships (as of 2018), including nine in a row between 1986 and 1994. They have had several undefeated seasons, and Dorrance has won national and ACC Soccer Coach of the Year awards multiple times. Many alumnae of the program, including Mia Hamm and Heather O'Reilly, have gone on to successful international careers, leading Olympic and World Cup champion teams. Soccer is without question the most successful athletic program at UNC and is often mentioned as one of the most dominant programs in all of college athletics. The prominence of the program was acknowledged by Dean Smith, who once said of UNC, "This is a women's soccer school. We're just trying to keep up with them."
Date Established: 1917
Date Range: 1917 – Present