College men's soccer: Five storylines for 2017

You have to go all the way back to the Bruce Arena era at Virginia to find a team -- the only one -- to win at least three NCAA Division I men's championships in a row. Stanford has a chance to accomplish that in 2017. That's one of the key storylines for the college men's soccer season that kicks off on Friday.

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1. Stanford looks to three-peat. Stanford looks to win its third NCAA Division I men's championship in a row, something only one team has done before. Arena's Virginia team won four in a year, beginning in 1991 when it beat Santa Clara in a shootout.

Stanford, No. 1 in Soccer America's Men's Preseason Top 25, certainly has a good shot. A trio of seniors -- 2016 co-Pac-12 Player of the Year Foster Langsdorf and All-Americans Tomas Hilliard-Arce and Drew Skundrich -- will lead the Cardinal.

2. Maryland gets another chance. Maryland has had a lot of great teams and players, but its 2016 team was one of the best. The No. 1 seeds entering the NCAA Tournament, the Terrapins unbelievably fell to Providence, 5-4, in their opening game after blowing a 4-1 lead and conceding four goals in 14 minutes. "Blow" is the operative word as strong winds at Ludwig Field were a big factor in the game's outcome.

Sasho Cirovski, who begins his 25th season at the helm of the Terrapins, will have some issues to resolve with his defense, but there is no team in the country that can match the Terrapins with its front six that includes German Gordon Wild, the 2016 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, U.S. U-20 midfielder Eryk Williamson and All-Big Ten midfielder Amar Sejdic.

Soccer America Men's Preseason Top 25: Rankings

3. ACC will once again be deep. Maryland left the ACC after the 2013 season, and it has produced three different conference champions since then: Clemson, Syracuse and Wake Forest. That's only the tip of the iceberg in a conference where three other teams have won national championships in the last six years: Virginia, Notre Dame and North Carolina.

For 2017, six ACC teams rank in SA's Top 10 and eight in the Top 25. The coaches' preseason favorite is North Carolina, which features one of the top MLS prospects in sophomore midfielder Cam Lindley (Chicago Fire HG).

4. Foreign influence grows. One only has to look at MLS to see how the influence of foreign players in college soccer has grown. The top pick in the 2017 SuperDraft was a Ghanaian (Abu Danladi) and the top candidates for 2017 Rookie of the Year are a German (Julian Gressel) and Englishman (Jack Elliott).

Virginia was during its heyday under Arena an all-American team with his recruiting footprint extending from Northern Virginia to New York -- all within a day's drive -- with an occasional excursion out of the region for a star like Jeff Agoos (Texas) or Mike Fisher (Illinois). Now the Cavs are the "U.N. of Football" with players from 17 countries represented on their 2017 team.

Eleven foreigners to watch:
Marcelo Acuna, Virginia Tech (Costa Rica)
Mo Adams
, Syracuse (England)
Francis Atuahene, Michigan (Ghana)
Jon Bakero, Wake Forest (Spain)
Cory Brown, Xavier (New Zealand)
Sam Gainford, Akron (England)
Jon Gallagher, Notre Dame (Ireland)
Paul Hoffmeister, Utah Valley (Germany)
Tim Kubel, Louisville (Germany)
Albert Ruiz, FGCU (Spain)
Gordon Wild, Maryland (Germany)

5. Coaching carousel. Men's soccer's biggest coaching moves involved three 2016 NCAA Tournament teams. George Kiefer left USF after 15 years to take over at N.C. State. Bob Butehorn moved over from FGCU, which he took to the NCAA Tournament four times in its six years of eligibility, to take charge of the Bulls in Tampa. Jesse Cormier then left Vermont after 13 seasons in charge of the Catamounts, who made the NCA Tournament in both 2015 and 2016, to become the FGCU head coach.
2 comments about "College men's soccer: Five storylines for 2017".
  1. Goal Goal, August 25, 2017 at 2:44 p.m.

    Will be a fine accomplishment if they do and wish them the best. How about St. Louis University with 5 NCAA championships in 8 seasons-1959-1966 or St. Louis University with 5 NCAA championships in 7 seasons. 1967-1962.

    Not bad I would say.

  2. James Madison, August 25, 2017 at 6:24 p.m.

    Fear the Tree!!!

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