College soccer rankings: Five takeaways from men’s preseason poll
The recently renamed preseason United Soccer Coaches men's soccer poll, formerly known as the NSCAA poll, was announced Thursday, giving college soccer fans their first glimpse at the top 25 entering the season.
Here are five takeaways from the poll.
1. Stanford stays on top
Stanford, the defending national champion, has won the past two College Cups and the Cardinal begin the 2017 season ranked No. 1 in the United Soccer Coaches poll. They will try to become the first school to win three straight national championships since Virginia in 1991-94. Stanford has the pieces in place to embark on another national title run with nine players who have at least three years of collegiate experience.
Senior forward Foster Langsdorf, who scored a team-high 15 goals last season, will be the focal point of the Cardinal's attack, with secondary options in midfielder Drew Skundrich and defender Tomas Hillard-Arce.
Stanford also has the No. 1 incoming recruiting class in the country, according to College Soccer News.
Wake Forest, who fell to Stanford in penalty kicks in last year's championship game, is ranked No. 2.
2. The ACC is king
Nearly one-third of the top 25 hails from the Atlantic Coast Conference, including six of the top 10 teams. Wake Forest (No. 2), North Carolina (4), Clemson (5), Syracuse (8), Louisville (9), Notre Dame (10), Virginia (13) and Virginia Tech (17) appear in the rankings, while no other conference has more than three ranked teams. The Big Ten (Maryland, Indiana, Michigan State) and Big East (Providence, Creighton, Butler) each have three top-25 teams apiece.
3. Déja vu?
Seven of the top-10 teams in this year's preseason poll were also in the top 10 in the 2016 preseason poll. Stanford (No. 1/No. 1), Wake Forest (2/5), North Carolina (4/8), Clemson (5/3), Maryland (6/4), Syracuse (8/6), and Notre Dame (10/9) are familiar faces atop this year's rankings, while Akron, Charlotte, Coastal Carolina, Creighton, Denver, Indiana, UCLA and Virginia also appeared in both polls.
4. Schools from non-power conferences scheduled admirably
As mentioned earlier, the ACC is filled with some of the nation's best men's soccer teams. The Big Ten and Big East both had several teams crack the top 25. However, some schools from smaller conferences aren't as fortunate to have such tough competition naturally built in to their schedules due to their conference affiliation. Schools like Charlotte, Denver, New Mexico and UConn remedied this by scheduling aggressively.
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Charlotte travels to Coastal Carolina and Clemson, before hosting Louisville. Denver will play Florida Gulf Coast and Akron during a four-day stretch in August, then travel to New Mexico in late October. New Mexico scheduled three of the best teams out West – Washington, UCLA and Denver. UConn will host Notre Dame, Providence and Maryland in Storrs, Conn.
For players and coaches, these non-conference games are important tests before the NCAA tournament, and they allow fans to see how their team stacks up against tough competition.
5. Welcome to the party, UConn
Of the 25 teams included in the 2017 United Soccer Coaches preseason poll, the Huskies are the only one to not receive any votes for the final 2016 NSCAA poll. They debut at No. 24 this season. Coastal Carolina (No. 19), New Mexico (20) and UCLA (21) also fell outside of the top 25 in the final 2016 poll but they still received votes. UConn had a 10-5-1 record last season and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2015.
The Huskies won the national championship in 1981 and 2000.