USF set to begin NCAA tournament

Under coach George Kiefer, the USF men’s soccer team has become a fixture in the NCAA tournament. This year is no different, as the Bulls host a second-round match against the winner of tonight’s Florida Gulf Coast-Central Florida game.

With a No. 7 national seed, the Bulls could host another game Nov. 27, before being forced onto the road for any remaining games.

In an effort to increase attendance, entrance to the game is free for the general public. Even though tickets were not free for the Bulls’ Big East quarterfinal game against Villanova, the stadium was nearly at capacity with 1,589 fans, the second-largest home crowd of the season.

“It’s exciting,” said senior defender and co-captain Aubrey Perry. “We love playing in front of this crowd. That’s what the No. 7 seed did for us. It got us another home game.”

While USF has only played one of its two potential opponents this year, both have played each other. Florida Gulf Coast beat UCF 2-1 on Sept. 24 in Orlando, where tonight’s game will be held.

The Eagles have also visited Corbett Soccer Stadium, where they lost to then-No. 5 UC-Irvine 2-1 and beat St. Louis 1-0 in the USF Tournament in September.

Playing the same teams in that tournament, the Bulls had the opposite results, losing to the Billikens, but beating the Anteaters.

Should FGCU advance, it will set up a rematch of a game played Oct. 4 in Fort Myers, which USF won with goals from Leston Paul and Dom Dwyer.

Kiefer said he credits the natural talent in the state of Florida for putting three teams into the tournament.

“Both teams are very good,” he said. “Gulf Coast, at their place, was a difficult game. … Florida is a state where you have a lot of good soccer players, so I think you’re going to see a very exciting game Sunday.”

Kickoff at Corbett Soccer Stadium is scheduled for 6 p.m.