Ranked opponents and regional rivalries headline the 2012 Belmont University men's soccer schedule, released Wednesday.
Following three home exhibition matches in a five-day stretch, the Bruins' 17-match regular season schedule features seven Top 100 RPI opponents from a year ago, including nationally-ranked Louisville and Bradley.
Belmont opens play Aug. 24 at Missouri State, the reigning Missouri Valley Conference regular season co-champions. The Bruins claimed a 2-1 victory in 2011. Two days later, Belmont stays within the MVC traveling to Evansville, Ind. for a meeting with the Purple Aces.
The rigorous stretch continues Sept. 1, as the Bruins visit the Louisville Cardinals - a 2010 NCAA National Runner-Up and 2012 Elite Eight participant. The road jerseys will stay in good use Sept. 3 at Memphis; the Tigers went 11-6-1 in 2011 in Conference USA.
Belmont's six-match road odyssey concludes at the Lipscomb Invitational Sept. 7-9, with contests against Oral Roberts and defending Southern Conference tournament champion Elon.
"We have an exciting schedule this year. It is an ambitious schedule, one designed to show our quality, as we have a number of teams that were in the NCAA Tournament in 2011 and have outstanding profiles," Belmont head coach Earle Davidson said.
The Belmont Invitational Sept. 14-16 starts a five-match homestand for the Bruins. The hosts will take on Northeast Conference regular season co-champion Central Connecticut State, before playing a Bradley side that was ranked much of the year and advanced to the 2011 NCAA Round of 32.
The Bruins welcome Northern Kentucky Sept. 22. The Norse, 2010 NCAA Division II National Champions, begin their first season in NCAA Division I.
Lipscomb comes to E.S. Rose Park Sept. 27 for the much-anticipated and always lively 'Battle of the Boulevard' match. The homestand concludes with a Sept. 29 date against longtime conference foe Jacksonville.
As the calendar turns to October, the Bruins head back to the road; a closing gauntlet of five out of six matches away from Nashville.
The run begins at Horizon League stalwart Cleveland State Oct. 3. Then comes a trip down Tobacco Road, as the Bruins face NC State of the Atlantic Coast Conference Oct. 9.
Belmont's final regular season home match and Senior Day festivities will take place Oct. 13 versus Longwood.
From there, road dates at Southern Conference stronghold Appalachian State (Oct. 16) and proven Summit League sides Eastern Illinois (Oct. 30) and Western Illinois (Nov. 4) round out regular season play.
"We have a talented team who is capable of pushing to make the most of this quality schedule," Davidson added. "We are looking forward to it."