Nine of the SEC teams made the NCAA Tournament in 2018. The strength of the conference is in the depth, but the top sides always have eyes on the big prize. Texas A&M was selected as the preseason favorite in the conference poll, as voted on by the coaches.
There will be plenty of challengers to the crown in 2019. TopDrawerSoccer breaks down the outlook for every program in SEC below.
2018 SEC Standings
Vanderbilt 16-4-1 (8-1-1)
Tennessee 16-2-3 (7-2-1)
Arkansas 14-5-4 (6-3-1)
Ole Miss(w) 13-8-1 (6-3-1)
South Carolina 14-6-1 (6-3-1)
Texas A&M 17-5-1 (6-3-1)
LSU 13-7-4 (5-4-1)*
Florida 7-10-4 (4-4-2)
Auburn 12-6-2 (4-5-1)
Missouri 6-11-2 (3-6-1)
Alabama 8-8-3 (2-6-2)
Mississippi State 9-7-2 (2-6-2)
Georgia 4-9-5 (1-6-3)
Kentucky 5-14 (1-9)
*=SEC Tournament Champions
2018 SEC Award Winners
Offensive Player of the Year: Bunny Shaw, Tennessee
Coach of the Year: Darren Ambrose, Vanderbilt
Haley Hopkins and Grace Jackson earned spots on the First Team All-SEC, and they’re both back for 2019. Hopkins was the first Commodore to win SEC Freshman of the Year after scoring 12 goals in her debut season. She will be the one to watch this fall as Vanderbilt attempts to defend the league crown, along with a solid recruiting class.
The freshmen made a splash in Tennessee’s exhibition opener last weekend. Lindsey Romig started in goal and Isabella Cook scored the opening goal in the win. Both should be key pieces for Tennessee in 2019. Katie Cousins is back for her senior campaign after earning a spot on the All-SEC First Team for the past two seasons. The big question facing the Volunteers is replacing the special talent of Bunny Shaw -- though they did cope well last fall when she missed time for World Cup qualifying.
Razorbacks defender Haley VanFossen was named to the preseason MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List. The junior will be a key player for Arkansas in 2019. She will have some help from the newcomers too. Freshman Anna Podojil scored twice in her debut with Arkansas in the exhibition opener against Kansas State last week.
After finishing in a tie for third in the SEC last season, Ole Miss was predicted to finish eighth in the 2019 preseason poll, which was voted on by the coaches in the conference. Gabby Little and Julia Phillips are the two seniors on the roster this year. They both appeared in every game last season. Channing Foster is the leading scorer among returners after scoring eight goals in 2018 and 12 goals in 2017. She will need to take over an even bigger role if Ole Miss wants to keep hold of a spot in the top four, especially after the graduation of CeCe Kizer.
English defender Grace Fisk is the two-time defending SEC Defensive Player of the Year, and she’s back for her senior campaign in 2019. The English defender leads the South Carolina side into the season with eyes on national success, and will have compatriot Anna Patten alongside her at the back. Lauren Chang is the leading returner scorer after finding the back of the net eight times.
The Aggies were picked as the preseason favorite in the SEC in the coaches’ poll and have a lot to look forward to this season. Transfer Taylor Ziemer is a big upgrade for the squad. Senior forward Ally Watt was named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List. Watt scored 15 goals last season, and probably will score more in 2019 with the Ziemer sisters providing opportunities.
Heading into a new season with an interim head coach who was working as a television broadcaster for the past two seasons, LSU is coming off a strong season where they won the conference tournament. Debbie Hensley could be the perfect person to lead the program, but it’s a strange way to head into a season where it seems like every team in the SEC is getting better and LSU is figuring it all out on the fly. Tinaya Alexander, Marlena Cuture, and Molly Thompson are among the top returners to the squad.
After an uncharacteristic down season, Florida's preseason got off to a good start with a 3-0 win over the Orlando City Practice Squad last week. Deanne Rose, Kouri Peace, and Alyssa Howell scored the goals for Florida. Peace is one of 12 newcomers to the squad, as the Gators look toward the future with a young team in 2019. Rose will be key after missing a large portion of 2018 due to national team commitments with Canada.
Several key contributors from last year’s squad return for Auburn, which added a couple of promising prospects to the the program as well from the freshman class. Auburn hosts the heavy hitters in the conference so making the Auburn Soccer Complex a fortress could be the key to the season.
Missouri scheduled an early test during the exhibition period with a game against Stanford. The result was not exactly confidence building, but it was a good measuring stick for the program against the best in college soccer. Sarah Luebbert and Julissa Cisneros are the key returners to the squad.
Preseason results don't count, but Alabama can take confidence from a 3-0 win over UCF last weekend. Freshman Reyna Reyes logged 89 minutes to lead the team. Fellow newcomer Carlee Giammona also had a big role with the group in the victory. The positive start should help this squad gain some momentum through the early stages of the season.
With 13 freshmen and a few transfers, there are a lot of new faces on the Mississippi State squad this season, including the head coach. James Armstrong took over in January after Tom Anagnost resigned to take over at UIC. Armstrong’s squad will be aiming for a finish in the top half of the table and picking up where the program left off, making last year's NCAA tournament. Sophomore forward Zakirah McGillivary is one to watch among the returners after scoring eight goals last season.
Georgia has clearly set the sights on improving in the attack in the offseason. The Bulldogs finished tied for last in the SEC in goals scored last season with only 16 on the campiagn. Junior forward Reagan Glisson is one of the key returners for the squad after scoring seven goals in 2018.
Hannah Richardson, a member of the U.S. U20 WNT, headlines the list of newcomers for Kentucky this season. The Wildcats also brought in some international talent along with Richardson as they look to leave the cellar of the conference in 2019.