By: Sam Knehans, Communications & Sports Information Intern
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — (Bracket) (Video Announcement) The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) has officially released the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship Opening Round pairings. The National Championship Opening Round will kick off the 32-team tournament at 16 campus sites on Nov. 23, with the 16 winners advancing to the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship final site in Montgomery, Ala. The 15 final-site contests will take place Dec. 2-7 at the Emory Folmar YMCA Soccer Complex and will be video-streamed live on NAIA.org.
For the most up-to-date scores and information during the National Championship Opening Round, click here.
The 32 teams are comprised of 23 automatic qualifiers—which earned berths by winning conference, independent and unaffiliated grouping tournament or regular-season titles—and nine at-large teams—selected by the final Modified Ratings Percentage Index (MRPI), announced Nov. 17.
No. 1 seed Grand View (Iowa) is making its fourth-straight national championship appearance and will host Bellevue (Neb.), winners of the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference (MCAC) Tournament. The Vikings, who have been to the national championship on eight prior occasions, are searching for their first national title.
Defending national champion Belhaven (Miss.) will host Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) Tournament champion St. Thomas (Texas) after receiving an at-large berth. The Blazers are one of 19 teams making back-to-back national championship appearances.
The other opening round hosts are: Ashford (Iowa), Auburn Montgomery (Ala.), Baker (Kan.), Benedictine (Kan.), Concordia (Calif.), Embry-Riddle (Fla.), Hastings (Neb.), Indiana Wesleyan, Lindsey Wilson (Ky.), Martin Methodist (Tenn.), MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.), Missouri Valley, Oklahoma Wesleyan and Rio Grande (Ohio).
There are nine repeat hosts from the 2012 Men’s Soccer National Championship Opening Round. Last year, Opening Round hosts enjoyed success to the tune of a 9-4-3 record.
Lindsey Wilson leads all qualifiers with 21 championship appearances and 48 championship wins. The Blue Raiders’ 21 championship appearances are second-most all-time behind former-member Simon Fraser (B.C.) (23), while their 48 championship victories lead the NAIA.
The 32-team field accounts for 13 of the 54 all-time men’s soccer national championships: Lindsey Wilson (9), Belhaven (2), Hastings (1) and Rio Grande (1).
Four teams will be competing in their first national championship: Corban (Ore.), Georgia Gwinnett, Indiana Wesleyan and Thomas (Ga.). Georgia Gwinnett, which earned an automatic berth by winning the Association of Independent Institutions (A.I.I.) Tournament, will be making its first national championship appearance in any sport in just its second year of intercollegiate athletic competition.
The Heart of America Athletic Conference boasts the most qualifiers of any conference, independent or unaffiliated grouping with four: Baker, Benedictine, MidAmerica Nazarene and Missouri Valley.
NeuLion, the NAIA’s official video-streaming company of select NAIA national championship events, will be broadcasting all 15 matches of the 2013 Men’s Soccer National Championship in Montgomery, Ala. Don't miss any of the action that runs from Dec. 2 - 7. Single day packages can be purchased for $9.95, while an all-tournament pass is available for $29.95. For more information and to pre-register, click here.