Each fall that goes by I tell myself I’m going to be more attuned to NCAA soccer. Perhaps I’ll follow one of the perennial top teams like the University of Akron or University of Maryland or UCLA. Well, this year has been no different in that I planned on watching a few games and following the few dozen players scattered across the country who will make the transition to the professional game. The difference is that this year I am actually following through and I think you should join me.
I grew up in Western New York, between the Rochester Raging Rhinos and the Buffalo Blizzard. I go to school at near in Central New York between Syracuse and Albany. This winter both Rochester and Syracuse will be playing in the newly restructured Major Indoor Soccer League; Utica has been rumored to be interested in adding a franchise in the near future, as well. Also, FC Buffalo has been playing in the National Premier Soccer League, a regionalized national amateur league that plays in the summer, for the last two seasons. There is clearly a market for soccer in Upstate New York. Now let’s add to that mix the men’s college teams.
NCAA Division 1 has 203 nationally ranked teams, 13 of which are in Upstate New York in 7 different athletic conferences. The season’s first edition of Rankings Percentage Index (RPI) was released today. This system calculates a national ranking based on a school’s record and the strength of their schedule.
SUNY Binghamton (170), and SUNY Albany (176) play in America East. Syracuse (165) plays in the Big East. Niagara (93), Siena (163), Marist (129), and Canisius (189) play in Metro Atlantic. Hartwick (66) and Universtity at Buffalo (145) play in Mid-American. Colgate (73) and Army (198) play in Patriot. Cornell (40) plays in Ivy. St Bonaventure (151) plays in Atlantic 10.
In the full list of rankings can be found here, the best represented conference is the Big East which has 3 teams in the top 10. Sadly my college does not have a Division 1 athletic program, but I will be following some or all of these 13 teams throughout the season. Somehow NCAA got a TV deal with Fox Soccer Channel to broadcast a couple games a week for the duration of the college soccer season. Every year after the MLS Draft, dozens of promising college soccer talents are signed by the MLS club while several others are waived. Some of these players wind up in the lower divisions of American soccer like Rhinos rookie sensation (and mah boy) J.C. Banks. Others still opt to ply their trade in Europe with Scandinavia and the Germany lower levels the most popular destinations recently.
As the season heats up and teams get ready for the NCAA national tournament I’ll compile a list of “Players to Watch”. Who knows, maybe the superstar for the 2012 Olympic cycle is still is school right now waiting to break out on the national scene.
Good luck to all the schools in Upstate New York, there’s still enough of the season left to improve those records and get a bid to the big show (or is that only a basketball reference?).