North Carolina will host James Madison in a first-round match in the NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship, part of the 48-team bracket that was announced Monday.
Seven ACC teams made the field, and five of them earned national seeds and will get first-round byes. Reigning NCAA champion Notre Dame (11-4-4) garnered the No. 1 seed, followed by No. 2 UCLA (11-4-4), No. 3 Michigan State (11-4-5) and No. 4 Maryland (13-5-3). The men’s national seeds are listed Nos. 1-16.
“I’m glad we’re in it,” said UNC coach Carlos Somoano, whose Tar Heels will play at 7 p.m. Thursday at Fetzer Field. “We’re excited we got a home game. I think we have as good a team as any, but we have to go prove it.”
Five more ACC teams made the field, led by No. 7 Clemson (11-6-3), the ACC tournament champion. The others were No. 9 Syracuse (15-3-1), No. 13 Louisville (10-7-3) and No. 16 Virginia (10-6-2). Wake Forest (10-7-1) got an at-large but, like UNC, was not seeded and will host UMBC (12-5-3) on Thursday night.
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Duke, which was considered on the bubble with a 9-9-1 record and 54 RPI, did not get a bid.
The ACC earned the most bids (7) and the most seeds (5) of any conference. The Big Ten was next with six bids, followed by the Pac-12 with five and Big East with three. The Pac-12 landed five seeds, with the Big Ten and Big East getting three apiece.
“The conference continues to flourish,” Somoano said of the ACC. “We just have to hope every year that the schedule prepares you, which it has historically shown to do, but that it doesn’t beat you up so you can still succeed. We play a grueling schedule during the year. It makes you prepared for these kinds of tournaments.”
Somewhat surprisingly, Virginia was elevated to a seed past two teams that finished higher in the ACC. The Cavaliers were eighth in the league, behind third-place UNC and fifth-place Wake, although UVa owned a much better RPI – 13 to UNC’s 20 and Wake’s 31.
“I thought we played a challenging schedule, traveled quite a bit, but we didn’t get credit in the RPI because teams struggled a bit,” Somoano said. “We depend on opponents to get results, not just be good opponents. In the end we could have controlled it with one or two (better) results. It could have flip-flopped easy.”
Somoano said he had not seen James Madison (10-7-4), the champion of the Colonial Athletic Association, play this year.
“We know they won their conference tournament,” he said. “That’s impressive. And as we know in a one-out tournament game, any team that gets in has a right to be there and is more than capable.”
Should the Tar Heels advance past JMU, they would travel to in-state rival Charlotte (14-3-1), the No. 10 seed, for a second-round game.
UNC’s bracket also poses possible rematches with three teams from the regular season – Clemson in the third round and either No. 2 UCLA or No. 15 California (10-6-1) in the quarterfinals.
Somoano wasn’t looking that far ahead, though.
“I’m glad we don’t have to get on a plane and fly to the West Coast,” he said of his team’s opener.