Surprise: USF men's soccer hosting in NCAAs
Overrun with injuries, USF's men's soccer team stumbled badly at the end of its regular season, winning just one of its final seven Big East matches and missing the conference tournament entirely.
But after a two-week break, the Bulls will keep their streak of NCAA Tournament appearances alive at six years in a row, not only making the NCAA field but potentially hosting games in the first two rounds, starting Thursday at Corbett Stadium against Florida Gulf Coast.
The Bulls weathered the rough finish by keeping a strong RPI rating, thanks to a 4-2 record against RPI top 30 opponents, and coach George Kiefer had enough confidence his team would make the NCAA cut that he scouted FGCU in its conference championship game, anticipating the in-state matchup for the first round. As a bonus, that game's winner will be able to host a seeded Tulsa team in the second round.
Kiefer said his team -- once ranked as high as No. 2 nationally early in the season -- is now back at full strength, after missing as many as five key players during the final month of the conference season. He was able to schedule an exhibition Friday against the U.S. national under-17 team, giving them a tuneup of sorts to lessen the effects of going 20 days between their last match and the FGCU showdown.
USF is 8-5-4, but those wins include four in the top 30 -- Tulsa (12), St. John's (20), Michigan (27) and SMU (28) -- with losses to Akron (2) and Louisville (13). We'll have a full interview with Kiefer up in the morning ...