By Katie Green, NAIA Manager of Athletic Communications and Media
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Golden State Athletic Conference will become the new host to the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship, announced the national office Wednesday. All contests will be held at the Orange County Great Park Soccer Complex in Irvine, Calif., for the fall 2018 and 2019 championship events.
“We are excited to start a new chapter with men’s soccer in Irvine, California,” said Jim Carr, NAIA President and CEO. “Our team is eager to work alongside the Golden State Athletic Conference to make this championship event memorable for our student-athletes.”
The Orange County Great Park Soccer Stadium sits in the heart of Orange County in the city of Irvine. The stadium opened on August 5, 2017 and has 2,500 permanent seats and room for an additional 1,500 in berm seating. The surface is natural grass. The Sports Park is just 16 miles from Disneyland Resort and eight miles from Southern California beaches. It is also home to the Orange County Soccer Club, which is a part of the 31-team professional United Soccer League.
“This winning bid is a true community effort; the support of the City of Irvine, its new Orange County Great Park Sports Complex and our hotel partners made it possible for our Destination Irvine sales team to secure the 2018 and 2019 NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championships for Irvine,” said Bryan Starr, President/CEO, Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce, Irvine Economic Development and Destination Irvine. “The new Sports Complex gives Irvine a new level of competitiveness that we can leverage to attract sporting events of this caliber.”
Although Irvine, Calif., has not played as host to a championship event before, the state of California has seen a total of 37 championships over the years. The men’s soccer championship has been to California four different times. It was in Pasadena in 1976 and in Fresno in 1984, 2008 and 2009.
“On behalf of the nine universities of the Golden State Athletic Conference, we are thrilled to bring this NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship to Orange County,” said Mike Daniels, Commissioner of the Golden State Athletic Conference. “The partnership with Destination Irvine, the city of Irvine and the Orange County Great Park will ensure the 16 teams traveling to Irvine will have a memorable experience as they compete for the national title.”
Tickets for the event will go on sale Monday, December 4, 2017.
The Golden State Athletic Conference was established in 1986 by like-minded institutions that are to be similar in enrollment, academics, athletics and student life. The GSAC uniquely links sport sponsorship to enrollment, adjusted athletic scholarships and financial aid to the cost of education at each institution, thereby maintaining a constant ratio for all members. Current members include: Arizona Christian, Hope International (Calif.), Menlo (Calif.), San Diego Christian (Calif.), The Master’s (Calif.), Vanguard (Calif.), Westmont (Calif.), and William Jessup (Calif.) with Life Pacific (Calif.) joining the conference this year.
The NAIA has sponsored men’s soccer since the 1959-60 academic year, with the inaugural championship taking place in Slippery Rock, Pa. Former member Pratt Institute (N.Y.) became the association’s first-ever men’s soccer national champion. Currently, there are 200 institutions that sponsor men’s soccer at this level. To learn more about NAIA men’s soccer, click here. For the complete list of participating schools, click here.
Since 1937, the NAIA has administered programs and championships in proper balance with the overall educational experience. In 2000, the NAIA reaffirmed its purpose to enhance the character-building aspects of sport. Through the Champions of Character program, the NAIA seeks to create an environment in which every student-athlete, coach, official and spectator is committed to the true spirit of competition through five core values: integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership.
Host: Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC)
Event: Men’s Soccer Championship
Dates: Fall 2018-2019
Facility: Orange County Great Park Soccer Complex
City: Irvine, Calif.
Duration: 2-year contract