(Virginia Cavalry FC)
(Virginia Cavalry FC)

John Harkes, a former D.C. United and U.S. national team captain with deep ties to the Washington soccer scene, is the leading candidate to become head coach of the Virginia Cavalry, a second-division expansion club based in Loudoun County.

Harkes, 46, has met with club officials several times and could reach a deal in the coming weeks.

The sides are in “serious talks,” Cavalry director of soccer operations Mark Simpson told the Insider. The short list of candidates included four or five individuals, Simpson said. Simpson and Harkes were United teammates from 1996 to 1998 and have remained close.

Simpson declined to say how far along they are in negotiations, but one source said they’ve reached a tentative deal.

(ESPN photo) John Harkes (ESPN photo)

“We have had chances to sit down and talk,” said Harkes, a longtime Fairfax resident. “It’s something that could be very exciting. We hope to know more soon.”

The Cavalry will compete in the North American Soccer League, one level below MLS. The club is slated to begin play in spring 2014, pending league approval of a temporary home stadium. (George Mason University is among the options.) Construction delays have pushed the opening of Edelman Financial Field, which will house the Cavalry and Loudoun Hounds minor league baseball team, to 2015.

Harkes’s previous coaching experience on the pro level was in 2006-07 as an assistant under Bruce Arena with the New York Red Bulls. He was a candidate for head coaching jobs at various levels. Previously, he oversaw United’s youth development program. Harkes served as an ESPN analyst for MLS and national team matches and worked in Comcast SportsNet’s booth for United games.

His playing career was among the most distinguished in American soccer, earning him a Hall of Fame induction in 2005. After starring at the University of Virginia, the New Jersey native played six seasons for Sheffield Wednesday, Derby County and West Ham in England. When MLS launched in 1996, he signed with United, reuniting with Arena, his U-Va. coach. He played three years for United before being traded to New England and eventually ending his career with Columbus after the 2002 campaign.

For the national team, Harkes was a starter at the 1990 and 1994 World Cups and 1988 Olympics. His 90 caps are 18th on the U.S. career charts.

Harkes’s son, Ian, is a starting freshman midfielder for 12th-ranked Wake Forest and a member of United’s youth academy. He leads the Demon Deacons with seven assists.

The NASL championship will be decided Nov. 9 when the Atlanta Silverbacks host the expansion New York Cosmos.