[MEN'S TOP 25 PREVIEWS: 21-25] North Carolina lost seven starters -- including MLS Rookie of the Year candidate Michael Harrington -- and then red-shirt freshman Eric Lichaj signed with Aston Villa of the English Premier League late in the summer. Those losses would sidetrack most programs, but UNC has one of the deepest squads in the country.
21. NORTH CAROLINA. The Heels were picked to finish fourth in the
ACC and must replace seven starters, including MLS Rookie of the Year candidate Michael Harrington, but they will very competitive.
captain Andre Sherard, who has started 63 of a possible 65 games since 2004 and has helped UNC to 29 shutouts over this stretch, leads the backline, where he is
the lone returnee.
Sophomore Bill Dworsky, who Coach Elmar Bolowich says is much improved from his ACC
All-freshman season of 2006, returns as the Tar Heels' top target at the center forward position. Bolowich also expects big things from junior Scott Campbell
The late loss of Eric Lichaj, who signed with Aston Villa of the English Premier League, forced Bolowich to rethink his plans for the UNC
Preseason Notebook: Dworsky scored twice in a 4-1 in over Davidson, while Ryan Johnson, Michael Callahan and Campbell were on target in a 3-1 victory over UNC Asheville. Freshman Tyler Deric saw the bulk of
the duty in goal.
22. RHODE ISLAND. Rhody, picked to finish first in the Atlantic 10 Conference,
returns 10 starters from last year's squad that won its second straight A-10 championship and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The one loss is a big one: Jeffrey Gonsalves finished second in the nation in goals (18) and points (41)
In 2007, a pair of Poles -- Dawid
Badecki and Lukasz Tumicz -- will lead URI along with South African Danleigh Borman, the 2006 A-10 Tournament
Most Outstanding Player, and Geoffrey Cameron. All were preseason all-conference picks.
URI has been working a lot on free kicks and corner kicks. Coach John O'Connor feels the Rams have the size to capitalize on their set pieces.
23. SAINT LOUIS. In 2006, SLU qualified for the NCAA Tournament for a record 43rd time in the 48-year history
of the tournament, but last postseason was a major disappointment.
Billiken fans had high hopes SLU would advance to the Men's College Cup on the its campus -- especially after the other
three seeds in its portion of the bracket fell in the second round -- but Northwestern upset the Billikens, 1-0, in a second-round game delayed 24 hours because of bad weather.
Dan Donigan, the 2006 Atlantic-10 Coach of the Year, returns for his seventh year as head coach, while assistant coach Mike
Sorber now is working in a volunteer capacity since he has been named assistant coach of the U.S. national team.
Junior midfielder Eric Sweetin
is SLU's All-American candidate.
The defense looks solid in 2007 with senior keeper Pat Disbennett healthy again after missing all of last season
and a backline that features Englishman Calum Angus and Brandon Gasparovic.
Junior Brandon Barklage returns to his hometown after spending his first two seasons at New Mexico.
Notebook: Angus scored SLU's goal in its 1-1 draw with Northwestern in a rematch of their 2006 NCAA Tournament game.
24. SAN DIEGO STATE.
The Aztecs finished second in the Pac-10 and advanced the NCAA tournament in back-to-back years for the first time since 1988-89.
With seven starters returning and a solid recruiting
class joining then, SDSU could make it three in a row.
Two-time All-American goalie Tally Hall was lost to graduation, but the defense is otherwise
At 6-foot-5, Nick Cardenas emerged as one of the nation's most imposing defenders during a standout freshman campaign. He tied for the
team lead with six goals. Also returning on the backline are all-Pac-10 honorable mention picks Dennis Sanchez and Danny
Coach Lev Kirshner thinks the 2007 midfield corps could be the best of his tenure. It features Kraig
Chiles, who has led the team in scoring each of the past two seasons.
Improved production out of three-year starter Freddy McDonald and
sophomore Daniel Ortega up front will be critical to the Aztecs' chances.
Preseason Notebook: The big
concern going into preseason was to find a replacement for Hall in goal. None of the four contenders -- junior Ryan Bowie, JC transfer Jorge Rosales, red-shirt freshman Brad Byrns or freshman Morgan Maestas -- had played a single minute at
25. UIC. The Flames burst on the national scene in 2006, enjoying their most successful season in school history by
winning the Horizon
League regular-season title and earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament, where they fell at Notre Dame, 1-0, in the second round.
Among the seniors lost was striker Tonci Skroce, the 2006 Horizon League Player of the Year who had seven goals in his senior campaign. With Skroce gone, Pavle Dundjer and Cesar Zambrano, both seniors with superb footwork and breakaway speed, will lead John Trask's team.
Back after an
unprecedented freshman season is Horizon Goalkeeper of the Year Jovan Bubonja, who started all 21 games and recorded 10 shutouts last season.
Preseason Notebook: Senior Pawel Ligas led UIC with two goals in a 5-0 victory over IUPUI as part of the National
Soccer Festival at the Fort Wayne Sport Club to close out preseason play. The Flames had earlier lost to Michigan State, 2-1.