With Pitt men’s soccer having an incredible season and on the brink of earning a very high seed in the NCAA men’s soccer tournament, this seemed like an opportune time to bring many Pittsburgh soccer fans not familiar with the NCAA tournament, up to speed on how it works.
For starters, the usual format has been altered for the upcoming Spring 2021 edition to include a total of 36 teams (down from the usual 48).
This means that after the automatic bids go out from 22 conference champions (there would normally be 24 conferences, but the Big West and Ivy League each did not have seasons in 2020-21), that leaves a grand total of 14 remaining at-large bids.
Pitt’s men’s team, ranked first in the latest United Soccer Coaches poll, will be playing Clemson on Saturday night for the ACC Championship (7 p.m. kickoff) which will determine the league’s automatic qualifier. (We’ll provide the preview to that match on Saturday morning.)
This will be a rematch from the Fall, when they made it to the ACC Tournament Final, when Pitt lost to Clemson, 2-1.
It’s not like we owe them, or there’s payback,” Pitt’s Head Coach Jay Vidovich explained about the upcoming rematch with Clemson.
“The last time, we were happy to get into that match with Clemson (in the ACC Championship). We didn’t have two-and-a-half weeks to train for it either. We just beat Duke and Notre Dame. And we didn’t have anything in us. This time we’ll have a week or more to prepare. I look forward to that opportunity of us being fresher and them being fresher, and lets see what happens.”
Either way, the loser of that match should not have any issues with making the NCAA tournament field as both teams are currently ranked in the top four of the USC poll (Pitt No. 1, Clemson No. 4).
What is at stake could a number one overall seed in the tournament, potentially paving the way for the most comfortable path to the College Cup (Final Four).
After the traditional Fall tournament was cancelled, it was rescheduled to now take place from April 30 through May 17 and will be played in its entirety in Cary, North Carolina and surrounding area, due to COVID-19 protocols and concerns. This eliminates the possibility of Pitt hosting any NCAA tournament games at home at Ambrose Urbanic Field this year. In 2019, Pitt hosted its first-ever NCAA tournament match, defeating Lehigh, 2-0.
Off-campus sites for tournament matches include:
- Bryan Park (Greensboro, North Carolina).
- J. Burt Gillette Athletic Complex (Wilson, North Carolina).
- Sportsplex (Matthews, North Carolina).
- WakeMed Soccer Park (Cary, North Carolina).
The committees intend to provide some opportunity for family and friends to attend the championships. They will follow the NCAA Medical Advisory Group guidelines, and the maximum allowable capacity will be 25 percent.
While there are some leagues that have opted to award its regular season champions with the NCAA tournament automatic bid, there are many abbreviated conference tournaments (most had the top four teams qualify with semifinal and final rounds to be completed by Saturday. The Big Ten and Atlantic Sun Conferences did include eight teams each, holding quarterfinal rounds).
You can find the latest on all of the Division I College Tournament and automatic qualifying information for the NCAA Tournament here on SoccerAmerica.com.
One of those conference tournaments we’re watching closely will be the Big Ten, where No. 14 Penn State has made it to the championship game, where they’ll travel to Bloomington, IN, to take on the conference’s top seed, Indiana.
TFW you're headed to the Big Ten Tournament Championship for the first time since 2011 🦁⚽️
— Penn State Athletics (@GoPSUsports) April 15, 2021
Already in the field includes Loyola Marymount, the WCC champs, and Coastal Carolina, the Sun Belt fall champion.
By Saturday night, all of the automatic bids will be set. The NCAA tournament selection committee will then look at coming up with the additional 14 teams. The NCAA selection show will take place on Monday, April, 19.
Pitt, and most teams, won’t enter the tournament until the second round, starting May 2. With a 36-team bracket, there will be one first round 8-vs-9 seed ‘play-in’ game in each of the four regions to be played on April 29.
|First round||Thurs April 29|
|Second round||Sunday, May 2|
|Third round||Thurs, May 6|
|Quarterfinals||Monday, May 10|
|College Cup Semifinals||Friday, May 13|
|College Cup Final||Monday, May 17|
Pittsburgh Soccer Now plans to have on-site coverage of every tournament game along with post-match reaction as long as Pitt remains in contention for the National Championship.
Be sure to follow our coverage of the ACC Championship game on Saturday, including a game preview, live gameday blog and post-game reaction and the NCAA tournament selection announcements on Monday.
Pitt Men’s Soccer Coverage Highlights (Spring 2021)