With a Big East championship and an NCAA Elite Eight appearance behind it, the USF men’s soccer team unveiled its 2009 schedule Thursday with high expectations to make its third consecutive postseason appearance.
The Bulls, seeking their 14th berth in the NCAA tournament, will face five opponents from last year’s tournament in their schedule: St. John’s, Louisville, Notre Dame, Dartmouth and Akron (exhibition).
“My goal is always to schedule top teams from around the country,” said USF coach George Kiefer. “We were able to do that once again this year.”
The Big East got five teams in the NCAA tournament last season and Kiefer said the conference will be just as tough in the fall.
“Competing in the Big East automatically gives us one of the better schedules in the country, but we work really hard to get a strong schedule from the six games outside of the conference,” he said.
USF will begin the Big East conference portion of the schedule at home against Marquette on Sept. 18 and Notre Dame on Sept. 20. The Fighting Irish advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2008.
The Bulls will host their first exhibition against the University of Tampa on Aug. 18, the fourth consecutive season the programs have met for the Rowdies Cup.
“We are really excited to play Tampa because it’s not only a great game for our team, but for the community as well,” Kiefer said.
The Spartans turned in an impressive 18-4-1 record last season and advanced to the NCAA Division II Final Four for the first time since 2001.
“Head coach Adrian Bush over at Tampa has done a great job with their team and we are really excited for the matchup to open up the season,” Kiefer said.
The Bulls will then head to Lee Jackson Field on Aug. 21 for the first time since edging out the Zips in a 1-0 overtime decision in the postseason of 2007.
“We like to get a lot of questions answered in the pre-season,” Kiefer said. “I think we will be able to do this playing Akron on their field.”
One of the questions facing the Bulls is who will fill the gaps left by five starters not returning in 2009, including forward Jordan Seabrook, who was drafted by the Colorado Rapids in Major League Soccer, and Yohance Marshall, who plays for the Los Angeles Galaxy.
“We have five guys leaving us that have started with us for the last four years, so there are a lot of guys competing for spots as we head into the season.”