Since the boys state soccer tournament started in 1977, Pinellas County has had at least one team make a final 23 of those years. The county also has won 20 state titles, including nine by Clearwater Central Catholic, the most by any program in the state.
Last season, two teams — Palm Harbor University (6A) and Seminole (5A) — made it to the finals and lost.
What are the chances of a Pinellas team making it to a final again?
With district tournaments starting this week, the St. Petersburg Times answers three pressing questions:
1. Is this the season Countryside makes a run?
With a veteran squad, the Cougars were expected to be the county's most dominant team, and they have lived up to the hype, with just one loss going into the district tournament. The Cougars are ranked No. 33 in the nation in the latest ESPN Rise Fab 50 poll. Countryside also has the No. 1 seed in Class 6A-7 and is undefeated against its district counterparts. The Cougars are led by three players who have already committed to colleges: Nikolai Hammer (Furman), Hunter Maricle (Virginia Tech) and Jagger Martinez (Northwestern). Hammer leads the team in scoring with 18 goals. Though things have aligned nicely for Countryside to make a run at its first state title since 2006, it has to get past its recent poor performances in the postseason. The Cougars have made the playoffs just twice in the past four seasons and have advanced to the region final just once in that span.
2. Can Palm Harbor University and Seminole get back to the state tournament?
Both teams had senior-laden lineups last season, and that experience helped each get to the state championship games in their respective classifications. But graduation took its toll on the Hurricanes and Warhawks. Both teams were young when this season began, and it showed. Palm Harbor University has the No. 3 seed in 6A-7 and will have to get past some tough Sarasota teams just to make it to the final. Seminole, which had a losing record most of the season, came on in the second half and clinched the No. 2 seed in 5A-11. But the Warhawks will still likely face top-seeded East Lake in the final and possibly the region semifinals if they get that far.
3. What other teams have a chance of making a strong playoff run?
East Lake, the top seed in 5A-11, was ranked among the top three teams in the county all year and handed Countryside its only loss. Though it has had some uneven seasons recently, Clearwater Central Catholic was solid with a 15-5 record and clinched the No. 2 seed in 3A-10.
Tuesday: Sarasota (5) at St. Petersburg (4), 7 p.m.; North Port (6) at Palm Harbor University (3), 7; Wednesday: Sarasota/St. Petersburg winner at Countryside (1), 7; North Port/PHU winner at Sarasota Riverview (2), 7; Friday: final, 7 (highest seeded Pinellas team hosts unless two Sarasota teams are in the final, in which case highest seeded Manatee team hosts)
5A-12 at Boca Ciega
Tuesday: Boca Ciega (4) vs. Gibbs (5), 7; Wednesday: Pinellas Park (1) vs. Boca Ciega/Gibbs winner vs. Pinellas Park (1), 6; Northeast (2) vs. Largo (3), 8; Friday: final, 7
5A-11 at East Lake
Tuesday: Dunedin (4) vs. Tarpon Springs (5), 6:30; Wednesday: East Lake (1) vs. Dunedin/Tarpon Springs winner, 6:30; Seminole (2) vs. Clearwater (3), 8; Friday: final, 7
Tuesday: Bayshore (5) at Lakewood (4), 7; Palmetto (7) at Osceola (2), 7; Dixie Hollins (6) at Braden River (3), 7; Wednesday: Bayshore/Lakewood winner at Lakewood Ranch (1), 7; Palmetto/Osceola winner vs. Dixie Hollins/Braden River winner, 7 (highest seed hosts); Friday: final, 7 (highest seed hosts)
3A-10 at Berkeley Prep
Wednesday: Clearwater Central Catholic (2) vs. Tampa Catholic (3), 5; Berkeley Prep (1) vs. St. Petersburg Catholic (4), 7; Friday: final, 7
2A-10 at Shorecrest
Monday: Sarasota Out of Door (2) vs. Keswick Christian (7), 5; Bradenton St. Stephen's (1) vs. Cambridge Christian (8), 7; Tuesday: Bradenton Christian (4) vs. Northside Christian (5), 5; Shorecrest (3) vs. Admiral Farragut (6), 7; Wednesday: Shorecrest/Admiral Farragut winner vs. Out of Door/Keswick winner, 5; St. Stephen's/Cambridge winner vs. Bradenton Chr./Northside winner, 7; Friday: final, 7
Monday: Carrollwood Day (6) at Indian Rocks Christian (3), 6; Hernando Chr. (7) at Bishop McLaughlin (2), 6; Calvary Chr. (5) at Academy at the Lakes (4), 6; Tuesday: Carrollwood/IRC winner vs. Hernando Chr./Bishop McLaughlin winner, at Tampa Prep, 5; Calvary Chr./AATL winner at Tampa Prep (1), 7; Friday: final, at Tampa Prep, 7