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NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament preview: Clemson likely to earn hosting bid

Philip Nixon

The average attendance at Historic Riggs Field is 2,457. That’s second in the ACC and seventh nationally, according to Clemson Athletics.

After being eliminated from the ACC tournament by Wake Forest this Wednesday, the Clemson men’s soccer team is looking forward to making a run in the NCAA tournament. The Tigers, who entered Wednesday’s match at No. 5 in the nation, suffered a 2-1 defeat on the road in Winston-Salem against the nation’s top- ranked team. Despite the loss, the Tigers will still enter the NCAA tournament primed to make a run at the College Cup. 

Each year, 48 teams are selected to compete for college soccer’s top prize. Sixteen of the 48 teams are given a first-round bye and assigned a seed one through 16. While there are still some matches to be played that could shake up these rankings, there are a few teams that will surely be amongst the highest seeded teams in the tournament. 

The consensus No. 1 team in the nation at the moment is, as mentioned earlier, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. The Demon Deacons boast a record of 17-1-1, and are one win away from securing back to back ACC tournament championships. Wake Forest is led by senior forward Jon Bakero, the current NCAA leader in points and assists. With Bakero leading the way, Wake Forest has torn up their competition en route to becoming the second highest scoring team in the nation. 

While the Demon Deacons’ attack is one of the best in the nation, their defense also ranks among the nation’s best. Wake Forest has conceded a mere 0.563 goals per game which is good for ninth in the nation. With their combination of stellar attacking play and lock down defense, the Demon Deacons will enter the tournament as the team to beat. 

Another team that is expected to compete for the College Cup is the No. 2 Indiana Hoosiers. Indiana is one of two remaining undefeated teams in the top 25 of the US Soccer Coaches poll. The Hoosiers are currently 14-0-4 and looking to capture their first Big 10 tournament championship since 2013. 

The Hoosiers’ key to success is undoubtedly their defense as they have only conceded an average of 0.207 goals per game. On top of their impenetrable defense, the Hoosiers attack their opponents with a balanced offense that scores just over two goals per game on average. If Indiana can continue to produce the same results defensively throughout the NCAA tournament, they very well may be hoisting the College Cup come December. 

Clemson will enter the tournament with a record of 12-5-1 and will likely be a top-10 seed. This means that the Tigers will have at least one, maybe two guaranteed home games in the tournament, which bodes well considering the Tigers have a 9-2 record at Historic Riggs Field this season. 

The Tigers will need to continue to score goals at a rapid pace like they have done all season. Their offense currently ranks eighth in the nation, having scored 40 goals in 18 contests. In order for the Tigers to make a deep run in the tournament, they are going to have to step up defensively. At times, the Tiger defense has been elite, holding opponents scoreless six times this season. On other occasions, they have given up some heartbreaking goals late in games, perhaps most notably the 79th minute winner they conceded to Bakero and Wake Forest this past Wednesday. The Tigers are capable of being one of the best defensive teams in the nation, and in order for them to make a run for the College Cup, they will have to start proving it next week. 

While the No.1 and No. 2 seeds in the tournament are set in stone barring any conference tournament upsets, the rest of the field is largely up for grabs. 

It has been widely noted just how competitive the ACC is this season, and the seeding for the tournament will likely reflect this. The ACC stands to have at least seven teams contend for a seed in the tournament, and any one of them can realistically compete for the title. 

Although these teams have had a great deal of success in the regular season, if past tournaments have taught us anything, it is that anything can happen in the NCAA tournament. 

Just last year, the No. 1 seeded Maryland Terrapins lost their first match of the tournament to the unranked Providence Friars. Clemson will hope that they can avoid the drama of the tournament and allow their experience and talent to carry them to Philadelphia

in December. 

The NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship bracket will be announced on Monday, Nov. 13 before the first round begins on Thursday, Nov. 16. 



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