North Carolina and Duke earned national seeds, and N.C. State cracked the field for the first time in eight years as a record-tying nine ACC teams received bids Monday to the 59th annual NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship, which kicks off Thursday.
UNC landed the third seed, while Duke was seeded sixth. As national seeds, both teams received first-round byes and will host second-round matches Sunday. N.C. State meanwhile will travel to Norfolk, Va., for a first-round match Thursday against Old Dominion.
The championship concludes with the College Cup, soccer’s final four, at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pa., on Dec. 8-10.
For the second consecutive year, seven ACC teams were national seeds. ACC champion Wake Forest, which has been ranked No. 1 in the nation for the last four weeks, got the top seed. Louisville (4), Clemson (8), ACC tournament finalist Virginia (11) and Notre Dame (12) also earned national seeds, while Virginia Tech will host a first-round match against Air Force. The national seeds in men’s soccer are listed as Nos. 1-16.
With nine teams in the field, the ACC matched the record it set a year ago. It also marked the fifth straight year that the ACC has had the most teams in the 48-team field and the 17th consecutive year with at least five teams in the bracket.
UNC, which won the NCAA championship in 2001 and 2011, notched its 10th consecutive NCAA bid and 25th overall.
“We’re in, and that’s the good part,” UNC coach Carlos Somoano said. “After that, there’s no freebies. To be honest, we don’t think about seedings as long we get in.”
Duke, which received its 26th NCAA tournament berth but its first since 2011, won the 1986 championship. Duke coach John Kerr was a senior forward on that team and was named the Most Outstanding Offensive Player in the championship final.
“We’re thrilled with the sixth seed, and we’re very happy to be back in the NCAA tournament,” said Kerr, who added that the ACC’s showing validated the league’s reputation as a top soccer conference. “It’s a challenge week in and week out for all of these ACC teams,” he said.
N.C. State, which has never won the NCAA championship, will make its 14th appearance in the NCAA tournament and its first since 2009. However, first-year coach George Kiefer made 10 trips to the tournament during his 15-year tenure as head coach at South Florida prior to taking over the Wolfpack this season.
He and the Wolfpack had to sweat out this bid, though. N.C. State was the final unseeded team named to the field.
“I would be lying if I said there weren’t some nerves,” said Kiefer, who viewed the selection show with his players and staff. “We have the whole thing recorded (on video). Watch the players’ reactions at being the last team in.”
A victory over ODU would send N.C. State to a second-round match Sunday at No. 2 seed Indiana, the only undefeated team in the NCAA field.
NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship
Seed: 3 (at-large pick)
Opponent: UNC Wilmington (11-7-0, at-large pick) or Presbyterian (6-8-5, Big South champion)
Site: WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary
Time: 7 p.m. Sunday
Seed: 6 (at-large pick)
Opponent: Florida International (11-1-4, at-large pick) or Omaha (10-5-3, Summit champion)
Site: Koskinen Stadium, Durham
Time: 6 p.m. Sunday
Seed: Unseeded (at-large pick)
Opponent: Old Dominion (12-5-2, Conference USA champion)
Site: ODU Soccer Complex, Norfolk, Va.
Time: 7 p.m. Thursday