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NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament: A pretty wide-open field expected again as Pitt awaits bracket release Monday

Pitt men’s soccer team had an outstanding regular season, earning its second consecutive ACC Coastal Division regular season title. However, in the ACC tournament, the Panthers came up short in the semifinal on Wednesday, snapping a 19-game home unbeaten streak, in a 2-0 loss to Notre Dame.

The Panthers will now await Monday’s NCAA Selection Show to find out its fate in the NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament, as they will need to receive one of 25 at-large selections in the field.

Link to NCAA Tournament Official Bracket (will be revealed at 1 p.m. on Monday)  

The 2021 championship field will return to its more traditional format (after a slightly limited field for the 2020-21 tournament played in May entirely in Cary, NC) consist of 23 automatic qualifiers and 25 at-large selections, which will be revealed on Monday, November 15 at 1 p.m. on The top 16 teams will be seeded and receive first round byes before hosting second round games.

The 2020-21 season featured a wide-open field with numerous upsets, including Marshall defeating ACC powerhouse teams like Clemson and North Carolina and the Big Ten’s Indiana to capture the title.

Pitt made it to the College Cup. only to lose to Indiana, 1-0, in the National Semifinal.

Pitt, which has been ranked in the top 10 for large portions of this season, is projected to be one of the top 16 seeds in the tournament.  This will likely have them receiving a first-round bye, and hosting a second round match on Sunday, November 21.

Where they will be seeded is anyone’s guess.

Despite returning 10 of 11 starters from last season’s program first-ever run to the NCAA College Cup which concluded in May, when the field was a bit abbreviated from its traditional 48-team format (only taking 36 teams), however, they’ve had their share of ups and downs this Fall campaign.

Unlike in the spring, when Pitt remained in the top four of the rankings for much of the season and earned a No. 2 overall seed, the Panthers, ranked 5th in the United Soccer Coaches poll heading into ACC tournament, now head into the NCAA tournament with an 11-5-1 record, and holding an RPI ranking of 4th, but losing five games will likely put them in the ballpark of an overall seeding somewhere as high as 4th or 5th overall to as low as 12th or 13th, depending on how the results from the Conference tournament championship games being played this weekend.

In the case of the ACC, the top teams all beat each other up a bit.

If Duke wins the ACC tournament championship by defeating Notre Dame on Sunday, with just three losses, they’ll likely earn a top four overall seed in the NCAA tournament and be the ACC’s remaining highest seed. That will leave Pitt, Clemson (13-5-0 overall and lost in semifinal to Duke) and Notre Dame (11-5-3) as the top four teams from the ACC who could all be put in separate regions.  If Notre Dame wins, the committee will have some work cut out to figure out where the top ACC teams will be placed.

NCAA Division I RPI Rankings 

The Panthers resume includes solid wins against Top 25 RPI teams (beat Duke, Clemson, North Carolina, Virginia Tech twice).  All of those wins except vs Clemson were at home.  Pitt’s five losses came against Notre Dame (twice, 14th RPI), West Virginia (13th RPI), Akron (24th RPI) and Wake Forest (34th RPI).

Pitt will now prepare for the NCAA tournament, with national championship aspirations, but are left feeling some disappointment after a home loss that tarnished a fantastic run of play at Ambrose Urbanic Field, having its 19-game win streak halted after getting shut out by a very well-organized Notre Dame unit in the ACC tournament.

“The young men have to finish. We have to put in the training time, have to work on this to finish in those situations,” Vidovich said. “We didn’t make the hard runs we need to, to get into the box. That’s the sport. If you don’t do those things, you don’t get the win.”

Looking ahead to the NCAA tournament, Vidovich, who won the title in 2007 with Wake Forest, doesn’t feel there’s much to add, as he has a highly motivated group that wants badly to return to the College Cup and this time with an even better result.

“They came here to lift trophies,” Vidovich added.

“They’re devastated (after losing in the ACC semifinal), but looking at our last performance, they didn’t put in their chances, but if you look at the whatever, thousand people who stuck around until the very last second, was because we fought to the very end.  Our guys are ambitious. We hope to get a couple people healthier, to be able to come back and help out. To experience the taste of a loss, to have blood in the mouth, with the sting of a loss, they’re looking forward to the next step.”

More on the NCAA Tournament

The tournament opens on Thursday, November 18 as the championship will take place at campus sites through the quarterfinals as teams look to earn a trip to the Men’s College Cup.

In late October, the NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Committee announced its top 16 ranking during a reveal at halftime of the game between Notre Dame vs. North Carolina on ESPNU.

Here’s a link to the NCAA’s AutoBid tracker, but most Conference Championships are being played Sunday, so this should be updated later in the evening. 

Automatic Bid Qualfiers includes conference tournaments: 

ACC Cary, North Carolina Nov. 7-14 Notre Dame
America East Highest seed hosts Nov. 6-13/14 Vermont
American Athletic Home site of No. 1 seed Nov. 10-14 Tulsa
Atlantic 10 Highest seed hosts Nov. 6-14 Saint Louis
Atlantic Sun Highest seed hosts Nov. 5-13 Lipscomb
Big East Campus sites, then No. 1 seed Nov. 6-14 Georgetown
Big South Highest seed hosts Nov. 7-14 Campbell
Big Ten Highest seed hosts Nov. 7-14 Penn State
Big West Campus sites Nov. 4-13 UC Santa Barbara
Colonial Harrisonburg, Virginia Nov. 11-14 Hofstra
Conference USA Charlotte, NC  Nov. 10-14 Kentucky
Horizon Chicago, Illinois Nov. 7-13 Oakland
Ivy N/A N/A Princeton
MAAC Highest seed hosts Nov. 7-14 Marist
Mid-American Highest seed hosts Nov. 10-14 Northern Illinois
Missouri Valley Highest seed hosts Nov. 9-14 Missouri State
Northeast Highest seed hosts Nov. 12-14 LIU
Pac-12 N/A N/A Oregon State
Patriot Highest seed hosts Nov. 9-13 Loyola (MD)
Southern Highest seed hosts Nov. 1-14 Mercer
Summit Macomb, Illinois Nov. 11-13 Denver
WCC N/A N/A Santa Clara
WAC Phoenix, Arizona Nov. 12-14 Seattle

The top four teams in the RPI heading into the weekend were: Washington, Oregon St., Georgetown and Pitt.

The top 16 correspond to the number of teams that are seeded in the 48-team NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Championship bracket.

“Everyone in college soccer is so glad to return to some normalcy this fall after everything teams and programs had to endure during the abbreviated season in the spring,” said Kimya Massey, chair of the committee and senior associate athletic director at Oregon State. “As the season has progressed it’s been very encouraging to see so many teams take advantage of being able to play more robust out-of-conference schedules again and those results are invaluable evaluation points for our committee.”

“The differences between teams are extremely narrow and the end of the regular season and conference tournaments will go a long way into how the final field and seeding comes together,” Massey said. “There were many teams in the discussion for the last few spots in this ranking and still opportunities for teams to improve their résumé and play themselves into a top-16 seed. It should be an exciting couple of weeks ahead.”

2021 men’s soccer tournament: Schedule, dates for the College Cup

Selection Show Monday, Nov. 15 1 p.m. ET
First round Thursday, Nov. 18 TBD
Second round Sunday, Nov. 21 TBD
Third round Saturday, Nov. 27 and Sunday, Nov. 28 TBD
Quarterfinals Friday, Dec. 3 and Saturday, Dec. 4 TBD
College Cup: Semifinal 1 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10 WakeMed Soccer Park (Cary)
College Cup: Semifinal 2 8:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10 WakeMed Soccer Park (Cary)
College Cup: Championship 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12 WakeMed Soccer Park (Cary)

How does the selection process work?

The men’s College Cup is comprised of the two semifinal games and championship game of the Division I men’s soccer championship tournament.

There are 206 men’s soccer teams in Division I.

Of those 206, 48 will make the championship’s tournament field and will compete in a single elimination tournament. Twenty-four conference champions automatically qualify; the rest of the field is selected at-large by the NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Committee. The teams will be seeded so that 16 of the 48 teams will receive a First Round bye and automatically advance to the Second Round.

The tournament field and bracket will be announced on Monday, Nov. 15 during the selection show at 1 p.m. ET.

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

Riverhounds MF Danny Griffin

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