UCA men’s soccer team nearly toppled national power Louisville on Sunday.
One of the enduring hot topics of this college football season will be SEC expansion, and which team(s) may soon be joining the conference assuming the Aggies get in.
TV market, academic reputation, strength of football and basketball programs are all major criteria by which this next SEC members will be chosen. While soccer program strength isn’t a major factor, it’s still interesting to imagine what would happen if powerhouse teams from the Big East or ACC joined the SEC. Would the addition of a Maryland, Louisville, North Carolina State or North Carolina make the SEC more likely to sanction men’s soccer competition among its members?
If so, teams like Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama would likely have the initial advantage, considering those states’ large number of elite high school players relative to other SEC states and their U.S. Development Academy club teams.
At first glance, it seems the Arkansas Razorbacks’ hypothetical men’s soccer team would suffer from the relative lack of talent available in a small state like Arkansas. Its key would be capitalizing on the large number of talented players in Oklahoma and north Texas.
But here in real life world, there is only one Division I men’s soccer program in the state, and its success is in part determined by how many of those very same players it can pluck. UCA soccer is the southern-most team in the Missouri Valley Conference, one of the mid-major soccer conferences in the nation. Although only in its second full year of Division I, the Bears are slowly evolving into a regionally competitive program.
On Sunday, UCA traveled to Kentucky and lost 3-2 to a Louisville team ranked #2 in the nation, according to Soccer America and College Soccer News. It was the second highest-ranked team any UCA sports program had ever faced, following a college baskeball game against #1 Kansas early in the 2009-10 season. UCA lost 94-44 that night and only led for two minutes of the game.
The soccer Bears led most of the match against Louisville, but had to play a man short for the final 26 minutes after Stephen Williams’ ejection following his second yellow card. The Cardinals scored with 56 seconds left.
Still, this is a major local soccer story. And it of course got swallowed by football coverage in local media outlets.
Nearly three thousand people watched the match, which more than doubles the previous attendance record for any UCA men’s match, according to UCA spokeperson Josh Goff. He added: “This might be topped soon, since we play at Creighton on Oct. 29 and they’re averaging about 4800 in their 6000-seat stadium in their two home games this season.”