At first glance, it seems awesome: little ol’ Arkansas’ very own Springdale High boys soccer team is ranked as the 13th-best team in the nation. At second glance, it gets a little less awesome: at the top of the poll, you’ll find the ranking pertains only to “Spring Boys” and that the #1 ranked team is something called “Snohomish, Wash.”
What, exactly, is going on here?
Welcome to the unique world of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s rankings. This major national association divvies up the nation’s teams in a few ways – first, by season. Texas schools, for instance, play in the winter. Arkansas plays in the spring. Secondly, the NSCAA divides the nation into five regions:
Region I-South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia
Region II-Alabama and Georgia
Region III-Iowa, Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming
Region IV-Arkansas and Oklahoma
Region V-Alaska, California, Washington
Schools are ranked within each of those regions primarily based on win-loss record. The NSCAA then stiches together its Top 20 poll almost purely based on rankings within the five regions. The first five spots of the Top 20 are reserved for the five No. 1 teams, each from a different region. Spots 6-10 in the Top 20 are reserved for the five No. 2 teams from each region, spots 11-15 for the No. 3s and so on.
It’s important to note that a team’s ranking within its own region matters more than anything else in this formula. In the latest poll, for instance, #4 Union (Tulsa, Okla.) is one spot ahead of Auburn (Ala.). Auburn, however, has a better win-loss record AND beat Union in the teams’ only head-to-head matchup this season.*
So, while Springdale deserves props for taking care of business within the state, it’s not yet safe to presume it would be nationally competitive because of this ranking.
Here’s a list of other nationally-ranked Arkansas teams of the recent past, as found by Pat Madden, the NSCAA’s college programs coordinator:
- Conway (No. 2, boys, June 10, 2008)**
- Conway (No. 5, boys, March 17, 2009; No. 6 , boys, April 15, 2009; No. 12, boys, May 12, 2009; No. 13, boys, June 16, 2009; No. 13, boys, March 16, 2010; No. 15, boys, March 30, 2010)
- Russellville (No. 16, boys, April 27, 2010)
- Springdale (No. 19, boys, April 28, 2009)
Other ranked teams have included Catholic (Little Rock), Van Buren and Bentonville.
*H/t to ESPN”s prep soccer analyst Sheldon Shealer for background help
**Highest ranking in state history