Paul Souders joined the men’s soccer staff in the spring of 2016 as an assistant coach and was promoted to Associate Head Coach in the fall of 2018.
Souders has seen five of the student-athletes he's coached at UCF get selected in the MLS SuperDraft during his tenure, two of which were first round selections. Gino Vivi was taken in the first round, 23rd overall in 2023. Nick Taylor and Yanis Leerman were selected in 2022. Cal Jennings was a first round selection with the 17th overall pick in 2019, followed by Jonathan Dean with the 39th overall pick.
The sixth season of Souder's tenure with Calabrese and staff saw the Knights earn a ranked win over No. 13 Charlotte, the fourth straight year in which UCF had beat a ranked opponent and the fifth straight in earning a result. 2022 saw Lucca Dourado and Anderson Rosa receive nods to the All-Conference First Team while Vivi was a member of the Second Team and Juanvi Muñoz was named to the All-Rookie Team. Dourado, Rosa and Vivi were named to the 2022 All-East Region Second Team.
Dourado and Vivi were also members of the 2021 All-East Region Second Team and were two of six total All-Conference selections in 2021. Dourado was the lone Knight on the First Team while Vivi, Rosa, Yanis Leerman, Nick Taylor and Mauricio Villalobos all earned Second Team nods.
The fourth campaign of Souders' tenure was delayed due to the global pandemic of COVID-19. The 2020 fall season was pushed to the spring of 2021 with a shortened, 10-match, conference-only schedule. The team got off to a slow start, coming out of the gates 1-3. UCF quickly rebounded as they won six consecutive matches to earn their third straight American regular season crown. The unbeaten streak didn't stop there, as the Knights topped SMU in penalty kicks in the conference tournament semifinals before going on to defeat Tulsa 1-0 in the championship match, earning the program's first conference tournament title and securing an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which had been cut from 48 teams to 36 for the season due to COVID-19. The Knights sat dormant in the first round of the NCAA Tournament as they had earned a bye for the third straight season. They met James Madison in the second round, besting the Dukes 2-1 to advance to the team's second straight Sweet 16 appearance.
Souders helped guide UCF to their best season in program history in 2019. The Knights posted a record of 15-3-2 and reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, the farthest the team had ever gone. The 15 victories ties a program high and was the highest win total in UCF’s Division I tenure. The Black and Gold posted a 6-0-1 record in conference play, making them just the third team in the history of The American to go unbeaten in conference play.
For the 2018 and 2019 campaigns, Souders and staff earned the American Athletic Conference Coaching Staff of the Year. The squad went 16 straight matches without a loss in 2019, obliterating the previous record of 10 straight matches unbeaten which was achieved in 2018. The program earned their second straight national seed ahead of the NCAA Tournament, checking in at No. 9. In the second round, the Knights defeated Missouri State by a score of 2-1 in overtime. The victory marked the first time that UCF had advanced to the third round of the tournament.
In 2018 and 2019, Souders has helped coach one of the best offenses in all of Division I. For the entirety of those two regular seasons, the Knights have been ranked top 10 in the nation in almost every offensive category including total assists, total goals, total points, scoring offense, points per game, assists per game and goals per game. They were the top team in shots per game and shots on goal per game in 2018 and led the nation in corners in 2019. UCF was also the top team in The American in all of those categories.
The accolades have piled up over the past three seasons. The Knights took home four major conference accolades in 2019. Cal Jennings won his second consecutive Offensive Player of the Year while Yannik Oettl earned his second straight nod as goalkeeper of the year. Yoni Sorokin was dubbed as the Midfielder of the Year while Gino Vivi was honored as the Rookie of the Year. The Black and Gold had five All-Conference selections in The American, including four on the first-team. Two freshman made their way onto the All-Rookie squad. The awards kept coming during the 2020-21 season as Oettl three-peated as the conference's Goalkeeper of the Year and Sorokin repeated as the Midfielder of the Year. Five Knights made the All-Conference First Team and another made the cut for the Second Team. Three rookies were named to the American's All-Rookie Team, and the team was tabbed with the conference's Fair Play Award.
Souders and company have had a hand in coaching two All-American in the past two seasons. Jennings was named to the All-American First Team in 2018 and 2019 while Yanis Leerman earned a nod to the All-American Second Team in 2020-21.
Three of UCF’s eight NCAA Tournament nods have come with Souders as a member of the staff, with the first two including hosting privileges as the Knights were the No. 14 national seed in 2018 and No. 9 in 2019. The team shattered their highest ranking in the United Soccer Coaches poll during the 2018 and 2019 campaigns, as the team set a personal best of No. 7 in 2018 and went on to climb as high as No. 5 in 2019.
Souders helped produce a two-time MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist in Cal Jennings who scored 20 goals in 19 games including three hat tricks in 2018. The following season saw Jennings post 18 goals in 20 games and tally a hat trick in The American tournament semifinals.
2018 saw UCF win the conference regular season title with a 5-1-1 record in conference play. Overall, the Knights finished 13-3-3. Since becoming a Division I program, it is the fourth best record the Knights have garnered. UCF put together an impressive 8-2-3 record at the UCF Soccer Complex scoring 29 goals and grabbing 86 points. The Knights also went on a 10-match unbeaten streak, which at the time was their best in program history.
Souders and the staff produced three major award winners in 2018 (Offensive, Midfielder, Goalkeeper of the Year), seven All-Conference selections, and eight Player of the Week awards from The American. They also produced five All-Region selections and two All-Americans (Cal Jennings and Louis Perez). In addition to all the awards, the Knights capped off the regular season with a ranking of No. 9, which is the third highest in program history. Throughout the season, the Knights reached as high as No. 7.
During the 2017 season, Souders helped produce nine All-Conference selections, Offensive Player of the Year, and two NSCAA All-East Region honorees while finishing the season 8-6-2 with a 4-2-1 conference record. The Knights went on an eight-match unbeaten streak to make it to The American Conference Tournament finals. During his first year, the Knights never lost a match at home.
Souders also oversaw student-athlete academics where Matias Pyysalo was named The American’s Men’s Soccer Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
The two-time NSCAA Far West Region Assistant Coach of the Year spent eight seasons at New Mexico before coming to Orlando, Fla.
During a nine-year stint with the Lobos, Souders helped the program to three NCAA Sweet 16 appearances, including a run to the 2013 NCAA College Cup in Philadelphia, Pa. New Mexico’s success includes qualifying for five NCAA Tournaments, four conference championships and an undefeated (18-0-4) campaign in 2011. The Lobos posted a 101-42-21 overall and 45-18-7 league mark during that span.
While serving as associate head coach over the past seven campaigns, Souders was responsible for recruiting, academics, scheduling and coaching the offensive attack.
Academics are a point of emphasis for Souders, who aided the Lobos to a program-record 3.43 grade point average in the fall of 2013. He mentored two-time COSIDA Academic All-America selection Levi Rossi and NSCAA Scholar Athlete Kyle Venter. Lobo student-athletes have also earned eight COSIDA Academic All-Region and 27 academic all-conference honors under his guidance.
Prior to arriving at New Mexico, Souders spent three seasons as an assistant coach at Dayton, helping the Flyers to a 27-18-11 overall record. During his tenure, four former Flyers who have played professionally in North America and Europe.
Dayton finished the 2007 campaign 10-4-5 overall and advanced to the opening round of the 2007 Atlantic 10 Men's Soccer Championship. The Flyers completed the season on a six-game unbeaten streak, had two players selected to the All-Atlantic 10 and NSCAA Middle Atlantic Region teams and finished No. 8 in the regional rankings.
The Dallas, Texas, native earned a bachelor's degree in secondary education at Clemson. Calabrese coached Souders during his senior campaign, which led to Souders playing in his fourth NCAA Tournament. He was a part of two NCAA Sweet 16 berths with the Tigers.
Souders also played in the U-23 United States Olympic Pool. He also has coaching experience with the New Mexico State U-16 team and served as a graduate assistant in 2004.
Souders and his wife, formerly Lindsey Gramley, have two daughters Kya and Tegan.