The men’s college soccer season kicks off this week and the schedule is packed with quality matchups across the country.
With the heavy reliance on RPI for postseason seeding, more programs are scheduling difficult games earlier in the season. The opening weekend features games between top 10 teams in Kentucky and North Carolina.
Below is a breakdown of the five games to watch this weekend (August 29-31):
The Irish take on the Hoyas as part of the adidas/IU Credit Union Classic. This is the second game of the season for both teams as Notre Dame opens its campaign on Friday against No. 17 Marquette. The Hoyas take on hosts Indiana in a rematch of the 2012 National Championship. Sunday’s fixture offers a bit more for both sides though as Notre Dame’s experience will be tested against some talented freshmen and sophomores from the Hoyas. Keep an eye on Patrick Hodan for the Irish and center back Joshua Yaro for the Hoyas.
The Bruins start the season with four games away from home, which is a pretty challenging schedule for a team loaded with young prospects that need time to develop. The opener for UCLA is against No. 9 Wake Forest while the Tar Heels open up against No. 25 California. The Sunday meeting between UCLA and UNC should feature a number of MLS-bound players. UCLA stud midfielder Leo Stolz will be the man to mark for UNC. The Bruins defense will need to shut down a talented Tar Heels attack that includes Tyler Engel, Andy Craven, and Alan Winn.
The debut of Louisville’s new Lynn Stadium comes on Friday on ESPN3 when the Cardinals play host to Maryland. From pictures and early renderings, the stadium looks like it will be a Mecca for college soccer and its only fitting that the opening game there is a tremendous fixture between two of the perennial powers in the sport. The Terps are coming off a season where they came up just short in the bid to win the national title. Louisville returns the majority of its team as Ken Lolla gets his group ready for its debut campaign in the ACC. The Cardinals’ attack of Andrew Brody and Ricardo Velazco will be the top priority for Maryland to stop on the day. It will be interesting to see how Maryland utilizes transfer Mael Corboz.
Akron did not take the easy road to start the 2014 season. The Zips are heading to one of the most difficult places in the country to play in New Mexico. The Lobos bring a six-game home winning streak into the match. On top of the formidable visiting difficulties, Akron is replacing a ton of players from last year’s squad. Sophomore Adam Najem is the key piece for the Zips in their bid for a deep postseason run. The story for the Lobos is how transfer Kevin Correa will fit into the puzzle. The talented forward could be the missing piece for the squad, but it might take some time for him to figure out his role.
The Cardinal also head into a difficult place to play in Morrison Stadium. Stanford, as opposed to Akron, can rely on a bit of experience to help secure some points from the road contest. Sophomore sensation and the hope of all Sounders fans Jordan Morris headlines a Stanford attack that is lethal on the counter. Brendan Hines-Ike and the Creighton defense will have their hands full. The Cardinal’s weakness is in the center of the field following JJ Koval’s departure for MLS. Junior Ty Thompson did not appear in Stanford’s final exhibition game, which would be a big loss if he can’t go on Friday. Creighton, the darling of Nebraska, is buzzing after a 4-2 win over Wisconsin to close out the exhibition schedule. Freshman forward Ricardo Lopez-Espin scored twice in the victory and is one to watch this season.