Coming off its first Missouri Valley Conference regular season championship, the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville men’s soccer program has unveiled a challenging schedule which includes nine regular season home games.
The Cougars will play host to two home exhibition contests bringing their total to 11 home dates, which is the most they have played since returning to Division I in 2008.
SIUE will begin the season with three exhibition contests against 2015 NCAA tournament participants.
The Cougars begin the 2016 campaign with a home exhibition contest against Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish advanced to the third round of the NCAA tournament and finished the year with an 11-5-6 record. Notre Dame finished the season ranked No. 8 in the National Soccer Coaches Association (NSCAA) poll and an RPI ranking of 11.
“To have a team the caliber of Notre Dame here on our campus is phenomenal,” SIUE head coach Mario Sanchez said. “It’s an outstanding opportunity for our guys and a great game for the entire soccer community here.”
After a trip to 2015 NCAA tournament qualifier Kentucky Aug. 16, the Cougars return home to face Dayton Aug. 19. The Flyers earned the Atlantic 10’s automatic berth and advanced to the NCAA second round. Dayton was the No. 1 offense in college soccer last season, averaging 2.52 goals per game.
The game against Dayton is slated to be part of a soccer doubleheader. Following the 6 p.m. men’s kickoff, the SIUE women’s team will open its season against Chicago State at 8 p.m.
The regular season opens for the Cougars on Aug. 26 with a 7 p.m. game against Northern Illinois. Valparaiso comes to Korte Stadium on Aug. 29 for a 7 p.m. game.
The Cougars will play road nonconference games against Butler (Sept. 3) and Memphis (Sept. 14) sandwiched around a home contest against Cal State Northridge (Sept. 9). CSUN finished the year with eight wins and an RPI of 67.
“People may not realize how good of a team Cal State Northridge is,” Sanchez said. “They are one of the best teams in California. This is a good RPI game for us and a good game to have at home.”
SIUE will welcome Lipscomb to town Sept. 17 before opening the MVC schedule a week later at Loyola (Sept. 24).
The Missouri Valley schedule features a change in format which will see the Cougars play Loyola and Bradley twice in a home-and-home series. They will face each of the other four teams just once.
SIUE also has road MVC games at Bradley (Oct. 8), Central Arkansas (Oct. 26) and Evansville (Nov. 5).
The Cougars’ home MVC schedule is highlighted by a Homecoming matchup with Drake (Oct. 1). The Bulldogs outlasted SIUE for a 1-0 win in last season’s MVC tournament championship game at SIUE. Other home Valley contests include Missouri State (Oct. 11), Bradley (Oct. 22) and Loyola (Oct. 29).
“The Homecoming game is always great with our home crowd and the tradition,” Sanchez added. “Having Drake here will just add to that night.”
Last season SIUE was 5-1 in Missouri Valley play, including a 3-0 mark at home.
The change in conference format means a longer MVC season, but opens up more weekends to play nonconference opponents. SIUE will travel for games at Ohio State (Sept. 28) and Xavier (Oct. 18) while playing host to IUPUI (Oct. 4).
The 2016 MVC Tournament will be hosted by Missouri State (Springfield, Missouri) and will take place Nov. 8, 9, 11 and 13. For the first time, all seven teams will take part in the postseason event. The sixth and seventh seeds will face off Tuesday with the winner to face the No. 3 seed Wednesday.