By: Sam Knehans, Communications & Sports Information Intern
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — (Bracket | Live Stats | Schedule) The 55th Annual NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship kicks off Saturday with 16 National Championship Opening Round matches at campus sites. The 16 Opening Round winners will advance to the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship final site in Montgomery, Ala., where 15 final-site contests will take place Dec. 2-7 at the Emory Folmar YMCA Soccer Complex.
Since the initiation of the Opening Round format in 2008, host schools have a combined record of 48-20-8 (.684). The 2012 hosts went 9-4-3, with 11 home teams advancing to the final site via wins or penalty kicks. There are nine repeat hosts from the 2012 Men’s Soccer National Championship Opening Round, including three of the four teams to lose on their home field: MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.), Missouri Valley and Oklahoma Wesleyan.
No. 2-seed Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) and No. 5-seed Rio Grande (Ohio), both from the Mid-South Conference (MSC), are the only men’s soccer programs to have hosted an Opening Round match in every year since its inception. Lindsey Wilson is 4-1-0 in the Opening Round, while Rio Grande boasts the most Opening Round victories with a perfect 5-0-0 record. This year, Lindsey Wilson will host American Midwest Conference (AMC) Tournament Champion Park (Mo.), while Rio Grande will face off against Point Park (Pa.), the winner of the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC)/Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC) Unaffiliated Grouping Tournament.
The Blue Raiders (9) and Red Storm (1) also account for 10 of the 13 national championships that have been won by this year’s field. Defending national champion Belhaven (Miss.) (2) and Hastings (Neb.) (1) are the only other qualifiers to have won a men’s soccer title.
Four teams will be competing in their first national championship: Corban (Ore.), Georgia Gwinnett, Indiana Wesleyan and Thomas (Ga.). Georgia Gwinnett will be making its first national championship appearance in any sport in just its second year of intercollegiate athletic competition.
Nineteen teams are making back-to-back National Championship appearances, while Park is snapping the longest drought of any repeat qualifier, making its first National Championship since 2008.
Belhaven, which is trying to become the sixth program in the 54-year history of NAIA men’s soccer to win back-to-back national championships, will host St. Thomas (Texas) at 7:30 p.m. CST. The Blazers enter the contest with a 14-6-1 record, having lost their last game—the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) Championship—1-0 in double overtime. The Celts, who are 13-3-2 on the season, are riding a two-game win streak after taking the Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) title.
No. 1-seed Grand View (Iowa) will host Bellevue (Neb.), which won the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference (MCAC) Championship to earn an automatic bid to the Opening Round, at 5:00 p.m. CST. The 18-2-0 Vikings are riding a 10-match win streak heading into the contest, while the 9-8-0 Bruins have won their last two games. Since 2000, the top seed has won three national titles: Lindsey Wilson (2001, 2009) and former-member Azusa Pacific (Calif.) (2007).
Lindsey Wilson, which is participating in its 20th-straight National Championship, 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. Rio Grande, with 13-consecutive National Championships, and Hastings, with six-straight appearances, trail Lindsey Wilson.
Six teams are making at least their 10th National Championship appearance: Lindsey Wilson (21), Rio Grande (13), Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) (12), Belhaven (10), Hastings (10) and Park (10).
The Heart of America Athletic Conference (HAAC) boasts the most qualifiers of any conference, independent or unaffiliated grouping with four: Baker (Kan.), Benedictine (Kan.), MidAmerica Nazarene and Missouri Valley. All four HAAC teams are hosting an Opening Round match.
The other opening round hosts are: Ashford (Iowa), Auburn Montgomery, Belhaven, Concordia (Calif.), Embry-Riddle (Fla.), Grand View, Hastings, Indiana Wesleyan, Lindsey Wilson, Martin Methodist (Tenn.), Oklahoma Wesleyan and Rio Grande.
The 32 Opening Round 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.
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.
For the most up-to-date scores and information during the Men’s Soccer National Championship Opening Round, click here.
2013 NAIA Men’s Soccer Opening Round Pairings | All Times Local
-Bellevue (Neb.) (9-8-0) at No. 1 Grand View (Iowa) (18-2-0), 5:00 p.m.
-Bryan (Tenn.) (15-3-0) at No. 16 Martin Methodist (Tenn.) (14-3-1), 2:30 p.m.
-Kansas Wesleyan (13-4-2) at No. 9 MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) (14-4-2), 1:00 p.m.
-St. Thomas (Texas) (13-3-2) at No. 8 Belhaven (Miss.) (14-6-1), 7:30 p.m.
-Point Park (Pa.) (12-6-1) at No. 5 Rio Grande (Ohio) (15-2-2), 1:00 p.m.
-Georgia Gwinnett (15-4-0) at No. 12 Embry-Riddle (Fla.) (13-3-0), 7:30 p.m.
-Midland (Neb.) (18-1-2) at No. 13 Baker (Kan.) (14-5-2), 7:00 p.m.
-Cardinal Stritch (Wis.) (12-5-2) at No. 4 Ashford (Iowa) (13-4-1), 1:00 p.m.
-Embry-Riddle (Ariz.) (14-4-1) at No. 3 Oklahoma Wesleyan (17-3-0), 1:00 p.m.
-Corban (Ore.) (16-1-2) at No. 14 Concordia (Calif.) (14-4-0), 10:00 a.m.
-Thomas (Ga.) (15-3-2) at No. 11 Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) (13-6-0), 1:00 p.m.
-Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) (15-5-1) at No. 6 Benedictine (Kan.) (11-4-1), 7:00 p.m.
-Rocky Mountain (Mont.) (14-3-1) at No. 7 Hastings (Neb.) (18-3-0), 5:00 p.m.
-Science & Arts (Okla.) (15-4-0) at No. 10 Missouri Valley (12-4-4), 4:00 p.m.
-No. 15 Davenport (Mich.) (19-2-0) at Indiana Wesleyan (14-3-3), 7:00 p.m.
-Park (Mo.) (11-5-1) at No. 2 Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) (14-3-2), 3:00 p.m.