The men’s college soccer season is just around the corner and there’s more than a few big games to circle on the calendar.
All four of the College Cup semifinalists from a year ago should be back in the mix as contenders. Maryland will look to defend its title, while Akron, Michigan State and Indiana are looking to get back to the big stage.
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Meanwhile, programs like Wake Forest, Virginia and Saint Mary’s are looking to take that next step this season. Could we see them in the Final Four in Cary, North Carolina in December? Maybe.
Here’s seven games that you can’t miss during the regular season.
Aug. 30, 6 p.m. ET — UCF at Wake Forest
This early-season non-conference game features a talented Wake Forest team that advanced to the third round of the NCAA tournament last season and a UCF team that made it to the second round.
The Knights return the second-leading scorer from last season in Cal Jennings, who netted 20 goals in 2018. The forward was also the American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year.
The Demon Deacons had the second best offense in Division I last season, scoring 2.48 goals per game. Wake Forest lost four players to Major League Soccer in the offseason, but return U.S. U-20 camper Aristotle Zarris and ACC Midfielder of the Year Bruno Lapa. Incoming for the Deacs is Omar Hernandez, who was named a national player of the year for boys high school soccer.
Coming soon at Spry...— Wake Men's Soccer (@WakeMSoccer) July 29, 2019
Sept. 2, 6 p.m. ET — Maryland vs. Virginia (in Washington, D.C.)
A rivalry dating back to Maryland’s days in the ACC, this year’s game is being played on a bigger stage at Audi Field, the home of MLS side D.C. United. The regional rivalry has been dubbed “the Battle for the District” and the Terps and Cavaliers played to a 0-0 draw last season. This will be the second contest Maryland plays in its quest to defend its national title.
Virginia advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament last season and will be looking to go a bit deeper in the tournament this year. The Cavaliers return four from the All-ACC freshmen team last season, as well as Joe Bell and Henry Kessler, who made the All-ACC Third Team. Incoming for Virginia is graduate transfer Chris Shutler — a goalkeeper from Binghamton — and a trio of players who have featured for youth national teams in Norway, Sweden and Jamaica.
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Sept. 13, 6:30 p.m. ET — Akron at Maryland
This is a rematch of last year’s College Cup final, which was won 1-0 by Maryland thanks to a 57th minute score from Amar Sejdič. He and a few other Terps — including four MLS SuperDraft selections — are off to the pros, but Sasho Cirovski’s side will surely be reloaded and ready.
Returning for the Terps is All-Big Ten midfielder William James Herve, second-leading scorer Paul Bin and second-leading assister Eli Crognale. Incoming for the Terps is Hofstra transfer Luke Brown, Montreal Impact academy product Marques Antoine and German goalkeeper Niklas Neumann.
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Sept. 19, 8:30 p.m. ET — Saint Mary’s at UNLV
By the numbers, Saint Mary’s had the best offense and defense in men’s college soccer last season, scoring 2.5 goals per-game while allowing just .384 goals per-game. The Gaels shot up to fifth place in the national rankings and won the WCC title, but stumbled against Stanford in the second round of the NCAA tournament and lost in penalty kicks. It will be difficult for them to replicate their regular season success, where they never lost, but the Gaels seem up for the challenge.
Meanwhile, UNLV brings back a team that went .500 a year ago, posting a 10-10-1 record. They’ll rely on Nico Clasen to create offense for them again this season. Last year, Clasen dished out 10 assists, which was seventh most in the country and a UNLV freshman record.
Oct. 15, 7 p.m. ET — Michigan State at Akron
Akron will be looking to get back to the national championship game this year, but faces a tough mid-season test against Michigan State. Returning for the Zips is TopDrawerSoccer Freshman of the Year Carlo Ritaccio, All-American forward David Egbo, All-MAC First Team Selection Skye Harter and a host of other talented players. The Zips will have to replace goalkeeper Ben Lundt, who was drafted by MLS side FC Cincinnati.
This game is a rematch of the College Cup quarterfinals from a year ago, where Akron topped Michigan State 5-1.
Today we caught up with another former @ZipsMSoc standout @wil_trapp who is in town this weekend as a member of a @USMNT team that will be playing at Cleveland's FirstEnergy Stadium in the Gold Cup vs. Trinidad and Tobago on Saturday at 8 pm @ZipsMSoc pic.twitter.com/uSWWiKwNFG— Akron Zips M Soccer (@ZipsMSoc) June 20, 2019
Oct. 18, 6:30 p.m. ET — Indiana at Maryland
The Hoosiers fell to Maryland in the College Cup semifinals last year, 2-0, but beat the Terps in penalty kicks in the Big Ten tournament. Indiana and Maryland met three times last season, and each match was a fun one.
In the offseason, Indiana lost Hermann Trophy winner Andrew Gutman, U.S. U-20 attacker Justin Rennicks, and four others to MLS clubs. The Hoosiers do return Big Ten Freshman of the Year Jack Maher and pick up FIU transfer Joris Ahlinvi.
Nov. 3, TBA — Indiana at Michigan State
The Spartans got an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament last year and went on a bit of a Cinderella-like run to the College Cup Final Four before they lost to Akron in the semifinals. Spearheading that run last season and returning for the Spartans this year is midfielder Giuseppe Barone, who was an All-American and the Big Ten Midfielder of the Year in 2018. Also returning for Michigan State is Big Ten First Team selection Patrick Nielsen, and All-Big Ten freshman selections Farai Mutatu and Jack Beck.
Mitchell Northam is a graduate of Salisbury University. His work has been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Orlando Sentinel, SB Nation, FanSided, USA Today and the Delmarva Daily Times. He grew up on Maryland's Eastern Shore and is now based in Durham, N.C.