Last Wednesday, the NCAA officially released the first preseason poll (United Soccer Coaches Poll) for the upcoming Division I men's college soccer season. With the new season starting during the normal timeframe this year as well as exhibition matches starting up these next couple weeks, plenty is to be excited about.
Beginning from the top, Marshall overwhelmingly leads the poll with 22 out of the 24 first place votes. This was not the case last season since they were placed as the 15th seed. However, Marshall's shocking tournament run to win last year's Division I title has not gone unnoticed. Additionally, the squad has only lost three seniors (one starter) from their championship team. According the Chuck McGill from HerdZone.com, "Only Jamil Roberts, who scored the game-winner against Indiana, will be missing from the starting lineup. The Herd returns 83 percent of its goal scoring, 83 percent of the assists and 92 percent of the minutes played."
At a glance, Marshall seems the clear favorite to defend the national championship. However, we all know that preseason polls for many college sports are not the most reliable source. The last time a national champion has won after being seeded first in the preseason was Stanford University's 2017 team. The three years after, the team who won was not even seeded in the top ten of the preseason polls.
There is an exciting amount of hope for a handful of universities to be competitive for this season's College Cup, and here are three key takeaways that explain why:
The final four of last season's College Cup are the top four to start this year.
Like Marshall, the other universities in the top four that consist of Indiana, Pittsburgh, and North Carolina have not lost much talent. Furthermore, all three of these teams below Marshall were eliminated in last season's tournament by a narrow 1-0 margin. This includes Indiana's 1-0 defeat on an overtime goal from Marshall's Jamil Roberts to seal the championship. Indiana will be hungry for revenge and look to continue their impressive Big Ten performance since they scored the most goals in the conference (31) while simultaneously conceding the least amount (6).
North Carolina and Pittsburgh are no joke either. Both squads play in arguably the strongest conference in the country (ACC) that include 6th ranked Clemson, 7th ranked Wake Forest, and 15th ranked Virginia Tech. To deal the best of the best on a consistent basis could truly help two two colleges prepare for a title run and get revenge on the top two seeds.
Despite being the first seed entering last season's College Cup, Clemson drop out of the top five.
Considering that the Tigers lost to Marshall in penalties, have only managed to lose five game in the last two seasons, and defeated Pittsburgh twice last season, Clemson find themselves outside the preseason poll top five. Although being 6th ranked should be consider a great achievement, the 14-time ACC Champion and 2-time national champion program will want to prove they are the top dog. A notable game on their schedule where they can showcase that is on September 25th when the Tigers take on Pittsburgh on home turf at 7:00 pm EST.
Multiple teams from multiple conference have the talent capable of brining home a championship.
The current preseason poll (only 25 spots) consists of 15 different conferences! This clearly displays there is championship level talent to be found across the country. These star plays include Vitor Dias returning to Marshall, Indiana's leading goal scorer Victor Bezerra, Dylan Teves who is a versatile midfielder for the University of Washington, and All-American midfielder Dante Polvara. I could go all day listing the great players across the nation, but the main point is that a plethora of college squads have game-changing athletes that can shake up the competition when it comes down to the College Cup. Lastly, in the last four seasons, there has been four different winner coming from four different conferences.
Get ready for some great competition and amazing college soccer!