Jill Ellis, who won back-to-back FIFA Women’s World Cups as coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team, will serve as the Illinois University-wide Commencement speaker Saturday, May 14, at 9:30 a.m. in Memorial Stadium.
During her tenure between 2014 to 2019, national soccer team head coach Jill Ellis won two FIFA Women’s World Cups (2015, 2019), earned two FIFA World Coach of the Year honors and coached 132 USWNT games—the most of any coach. She has the most wins in U.S. soccer history and is the only person to win back-to-back Women’s World Cups. She left in 2019 with a record of 106-7-19. She is now president of the San Diego Wave FC and also serves as an ambassador for the United States Soccer Federation.
Ellis’ first head coaching opportunity came when she was hired in 1997 to lead the University of Illinois women’s soccer team. Ellis was considering two other head coaching offers, but she said her Illinois campus visit sealed the deal.
“Before coming for the interview, I hadn’t been to the university, and I’m not even sure I had been to (the state of) Illinois,” she said. “But I talked to everyone, I asked a lot of questions and I saw a wonderful opportunity. Illinois is a massive and sprawling campus, but it’s also charming and friendly. Everyone was so supportive and excited about the program. When I got the offer, I was thrilled.”
After two successful seasons at Illinois, she was recruited and hired by UCLA, where she led the team to eight Final Four appearances and six straight Pac-10 championships in 12 seasons. While at UCLA, she also won National Coach of the Year honors in 2000 before being hired by U.S. Soccer full-time in 2011.
Ellis said it is an honor to return to Illinois after giving her a life-changing coaching opportunity at a young age.
“I am so unbelievably honored to be the commencement speaker,” Ellis said. “I have such fond memories of my time at the University of Illinois and it was a time of so many firsts in my coaching journey. I truly feel Illinois, the players, my staff and the peers I worked alongside provided me with a solid foundation on which to grow. I don’t necessarily think about specific matches, but the warmth and energy of the campus left an impact on me. Honestly, if it hadn’t been a great experience, I might not have ended up pursuing my career in coaching.”
Tickets for the University-wide Commencement ceremony are available at the Event Services Office in the Illini Union, located near the Green Street entrance.
For more information about Commencement at Illinois, visit commencement.illinois.edu.