Are you ready for some fall sports NCAA championships happening in the spring?
On Monday, the NCAA released the brackets for the two NCAA Tournaments for soccer for the 2020 season even though we’re now well into 2021. COVID-19 messed with most of the fall sports seasons, leading to the postseasons for those sports being postponed to spring.
Considering the rich history of both soccer programs at North Carolina (especially the women), it should come as no surprise that both will play in the postseason this time around. Let’s see where they landed in the bracket in these weird NCAA Tournaments.
Following an undefeated spring season, on the back of a fall season where they lost only once, the UNC women’s team ended up getting the #2 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. The only team ahead of them is Florida State, who handed the Tar Heels that lone loss.
Led by Brianna Pinto, Carolina has been scoring both at will and not allowing any goals in the spring games. Across the four non-exhibition games, they outscored opponents 19-0.
As part of a reduced tournament field, UNC gets a first round bye in the 48-team bracket. Their opening game will come in the second round against either Denver or Loyola Chicago.
Denver went an impressive 16-2-1, albeit against less than stellar competition in the Summit League. The only NCAA Tournament competition they faced all season was Colorado, whom they lost to in extra time. As for Loyola, they went 8-1-1, facing off against no NCAAT bound opponents.
The other seeded teams in UNC’s potential path to the College Cup are #15 Saint Louis, #7 Texas A&M and #10 Oklahoma State. Because of the shortened seasons and lack of connectivity, it’s hard to get a truly clear read on what will happen. However, considering the part about the Heels having only lost to the #1 team, they stand a decent chance of at least being one of the final four standings. Not to mention, the whole tournament is being held in the state of North Carolina, so they’ll have a slight homefield advantage on the road to a possible 22nd NCAA championship.
As for the men’s team, they had a bit more of a close call on getting into the field, after going 7-4-3 between the fall and spring. However, a win and a tie over #1 overall seed Clemson likely helped out quite a bit.
In the first round on May 2nd, the Tar Heels will face off against a program they have some history against: Charlotte. Back in 2011, the Tar Heels beat the 49ers 1-0 to win the school’s second men’s College Cup championship.
Ten years later, the teams will face off again in a slightly earlier round. Charlotte went 6-3-1 in the regular season and were ranked #12 in the most recent top 25 poll (UNC was #15 for comparison). The teams had a common regular season opponent in Duke. While the Heels beat Duke three teams across the fall and spring, Charlotte battled them to only a scoreless tie back in February. (UNC also lost to a Liberty team that the 49ers drew with, although Charlotte’s game against them was an exhibition.)
If the Tar Heels get past Charlotte, their likely next opponent would be #4 overall seed Stanford. The Cardinal have to get past the Denver/UNC Greensboro winner, but went 9-2-1 and won a Pac-12 Championship in the process. The other team in UNC’s possible road to the College Cup include Coastal Carolina, Kentucky, New Hampshire, and #5 overall seed Wake Forest.
Like the women’s, all of the men’s tournament will be played in the state, so there’s a bit of a home field advantage there. The women will play their first game on April 30th, while the men will kick off on May 2nd. The time of these games has yet to be determined.
UNC has a good history in soccer, so hopefully both teams can continue that with good runs in this year’s very weird season.