Let’s take a look at how the WCC is shaping up in men’s soccer so far with conference play officially underway. Not the strongest year for the sport especially compared to women’s soccer, but it should make for a close race in the standings.
It’s an open race early as two of the favorites are off to less than stellar starts. Loyola Marymount won the conference a year ago and was followed closely behind by Santa Clara. They both looked strong enough going into this season to again be near the top. The Lions dropped a tough one to contenders Saint Mary’s already, and the Broncos suffered a bad upset loss to bottom feeder Gonzaga. Both teams currently sit at 1-1-0 in WCC play.
They are already playing from behind as San Francisco and San Diego have jumped out to fast 2-0-0 starts. San Diego is clearly full reloaded after a rebuilding year, and the Dons are showing their hot start was no fluke. Both teams are probably very motivated after not doing much last season, and they’re taking advantage of slow starts by the other teams.
In fact just a couple matches into conference play, the Toreros and Dons are the only two undefeated teams left. Besides Santa Clara and Loyola Marymout, fellow contender Saint Mary’s is also at 1-1-0 suffering a convincing 2-0 loss to San Diego. Gonzaga is also 1-1-0 after their upset win, but at 3-10-0 overall that is probably not going to hold up.
It’s still early though, so right now the RPI is our best indicator. But it doesn’t solve much as most of the teams are bunched together. LMU currently has the highest RPI at #47 in the country. But they’re followed very closely behind by Saint Mary’s (#55), San Francisco (#56), and San Diego (#60). All of them are on the fringes of being in the NCAA Tournament field, and as they beat up on each other some of those teams will fade out of the picture.
Santa Clara is the only other team in the top 100 of the RPI at #90, so they and everyone else will probably need a WCC Championship if they want to make the postseason. Unfortunately unless some teams get really hot, it may be another one bid year for the WCC in the NCAA Tournament. And with mainly conference games left to help their case, any win by a contender could come at the cost of hurting the chances of someone else. Winning the automatic bid carries a lot of extra weight as a result.
San Diego and San Francisco did a great job putting themselves in the driver’s seat, and they have the talent to carry their leads all the way to the end. It will be a big match on November 9th when the Toreros travel to San Francisco, and similar to the head-to-head match with LMU and Santa Clara last year it could decide the conference title.
Santa Clara, LMU, and Saint Mary’s all need to get hot now to have a chance. Can’t expect both San Francisco and San Diego to stumble at this point, so those other teams will need to get going to have a shot.