NCAA Tournament field set: Louisville top seed, UC-Irvine left out | Soccer By Ives

By JOHN BOSCHINI

The map to Santa Barbara was drawn today when the NCAA announced the 48 teams that will compete in this years mens soccer NCAA tournament.

Louisville, Maryland, Akron and North Carolina were named seeds one through four, meaning that if all four advance to the final four on Dec. 10, Louisville will face off against North Carolina and Maryland will take on Akron.

More than a few teams had their bubbles burst on Monday. The biggest surprise was the exclusion of UC-Irvine, which was ranked in the top 10 going into the selection show. A lowly RPI ranking of 62, along with a Big West semifinal loss, seem to be the reasons behind the Anteaters demise.

Among the surprise inclusions was College of Charleston, whioch snuck into the field despite playing in a mid-major conference and falling out of the NSCAA rankings. South Florida was another surprise team that appeared set to miss the cut after bowing out of the Big East tournament to West Virginia. Also barely making it into the tournament were West Virginia and Michigan State.

Charlotte was ranked No. 15 heading into the Atlantic 10 conference tournament but a loss to Xavier, combined with an RPI ranking of 51, was enough for the committee to leave the 49ers out of the tournament altogether. Wisconsin-Green Bay had been hanging around the fringes of the NSCAA rankings all season and took undefeated Butler to a penalty shootout in the Horizon League title game, but it wasnt enough to earn the Phoenix an at-large bid.

The Big East has a large showing in this years field, with seven teams participating, the most of any conference. The ACC and Big 10 had five schools selected.

The 16 seeded teams will receive first-round byes and await the winner of the 16 play-in games to take place starting midweek. A strong conference tournament helped a previously unranked Michigan break into the top 16, landing at No. 10 after its Big 10 championship. The most surprising inclusion in the top 16 was Indiana, which was unranked heading into the conference tournament where the Hoosiers fell to Penn State in the semifinals. The Hoosiers secured a first-round bye with the No. 14 seed thanks to an RPI ranking of eight.

On the outside of the top 16 looking in is Creighton, which was upset in the MVC tournament final by Bradley. Joining the Blue Jays in the first round is Princeton, which was relegated to a Thursday matchup with UMBC despite a perfect Ivy League record and a 12-game winning streak to end the season.

Heres the bracket for the 2010 NCAA Tournament, an interactive bracket can be found here.

Louisvilles bracket

First round- East Tennessee State at College of CharlestonSecond round- winner at No. 1 Louisville

First round- St. Peters at ProvidenceSecond round- Winner at No. 16 Ohio State

First round- Dartmouth at MonmouthSecond round- Winner at No. 9 Notre Dame

First round- Santa Clara at Sacramento StateSecond round- Winner at No. 8 UCLA

North Carolinas bracket

First round- New Mexico at CreightonSecond round- Winner at No. 5 Southern Methodist

First round- UMBC at PrincetonSecond round- Winner at No. 12 William Mary

First round- Oakland at Michigan StateSecond round- Winner at No. 13 Butler

First round- UNC Greensboro at GeorgetownSecond round- Winner at No. 4 North Carolina

Akrons bracket

First round- Xavier at West VirginiaSecond round- Winner at No. 3 Akron

First round- Bradley at TulsaSecond round – Winner at No. 14 Indiana

First round – Boston College at BrownSecond round – Winner at No. 11 Connecticut

First round – Denver at UC Santa BarbaraSecond round – Winner at No. 6 California

Marylands Bracket

First round – Coastal Carolina at DukeSecond round – Winner at No. 7 South Carolina

First round – South Florida at UCFSecond round – Winner at No. 10 Michigan

First round – Old Dominion at VirginiaSecond round – Winner at No. 15 Penn State

First round – Bucknell at PennsylvaniaSecond round – Winner at No. 2 Maryland

What do you think of the bracket?DisappointedAkron and Maryland cant meet in the final? Which seeded team is most primed for an upset? Who do you think got robbed of an NCAA berth? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Crew ready to rebuild without Schelotto | Soccer By Ives

Photo by ISIPhotos.com

When the Columbus Crew won the 2008 MLS Cup Final, it had a deep and strong team that many believed could potentially become a dynasty.

Two years later, that MLS Cup remains the only championship won by the club, with two straight first-round playoff exits forcing the Crew to consider making major changes.

Those changes are set to be made now as the Columbus Dispatch reported on Monday that the Crew planned on not exercising the contract options of Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Frankie Hejduk, Gino Padula and Duncan Oughton.

Today the coach told me he wanted to make the team young, Schelotto told the Dispatch on Monday. They have made the decision.

By parting ways with Schelotto, the Crew is saying goodbye to arguably the most influential player in the clubs history, the player who led the Crew to that 2008 MLS Cup title. A player who once again led Columbus in goals and assists this season.

What is next for Schelotto? It is looking like a move to another team in MLS.

Schelotto is expected to be made available in the leagues new re-entry draft next month, meaning MLS clubs will have the option of signing him at his Designated Player-level option year. If all teams pass, Schelotto could be re-signed by MLS to a smaller deal, and go into another re-entry draft.

Long story short, Schelotto should be back in MLS and there should be several teams lining up for his services.

Who exactly? Here are some possibilities:

D.C. UNITED- With Jaime Moreno departing, the club could certainly use Schelottos skill and playmaking ability. Imagine a Schelotto-Juan Pablo Angel pairing in D.C.

HOUSTON DYNAMO- The club needs an attacking spark and Schelotto could fit right in. This is assuming the Dynamo dont already have a playmaker lined up, which some rumors suggest they do.

CHIVAS USA- The Goats need plenty, but a playmaker is at the top of that list. Would Chivas USA spend the money to make it happen, or if the teams new coach will want Schelotto.

NEW YORK RED BULLS- Its probably unlikely, but the idea of having Schelotto setting up Thierry Henry and Juan Agudelo and working with Rafa Marquez would be special.

As for Columbus, the Crew cant be blamed for wanting to turn to youth, but the team absolutely better have a replacement for Schelotto on the radar because a Columbus team without him in 2011 isnt going to come close to challenging for MLS Cup, or beating Real Salt Lake in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.

Here is what Columbus can look like minus the veterans it is cutting loose:

-MendozaLenhart-

RogersGaven

Carroll-Ekpo-

Francis-MarshallORourkeBrunner

Hesmer-

That isnt a bad squad, but one clearly in need of either a top striker or playmaker.

What do you think of the Crews decision? Where would you like to see Schelotto wind up?

Share your thoughts below.

Is new look for KC a good change? | Soccer By Ives

The Kansas City Wizards, at least the team formerly known as the Kansas City Wizards, are set to make a major announcement on Wednesday and it appears the news will be a name and brand change.

Kansas City will now be called Sporting KC, with the above logo making the rounds as the new look (though the logo has yet to be officially revealed). The real question is whether the change in team name needed to be made. Switching to the European-influenced name sure does seem like change for changes sake.

What do you think? Do you like the new name, or do you think Kansas City is making a mistake?

Cast your vote here:

poll by twiigs.com

How did you vote? What do you think of the new name and logo?

Share your thoughts below.

MLS names Best XI | Soccer By Ives

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MLS announced its Best XI on Tuesday and made one slightly surprising move in selecting the team.

Landon Donovan was listed as a forward on the ballot, but was listed as a midfielder on the Best XI announced by the league, a change which allowed for him, Edson Buddle and Chris Wondolowski to all make the team. It is also a change SBI made when selecting its own Best XI.

Here is the squad:

GK- Donovan Ricketts,D- Jamison Olave,D- Omar Gonzalez,D- Nat Borchers,M- David Ferreira,M- Dwayne DeRosario,M- Sebastien LeToux,M- Javier Morales,M- Landon Donovan,F- Edson Buddle,F- Chris Wondolowski

This Best XI had nine of the 11 players on the SBI Best XI, with Ricketts and Borchers edging out SBI selections Nick Rimando and Heath Pearce.

What do you think of the Best XI? Which player would you add to the list?

Share your thoughts below.

Garber discusses playoffs, expansion in State of MLS address | Soccer By Ives

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BY ADAM SERRANO

Don Garber outlined his visions for MLS in his annual state of the league addressed on Tuesday afternoon.

In a conference call with the media, commissioner Garber touched on a number of potential changes MLS today including expansion into New York City and the Southeast, the new Reserve League and much more.

The initial highlight of the State of MLS was thecommissionersslip that David Ferriera will be announced as the MLS MVP. During the call, Garber stated that the MLS Cup will contain a player who will be involved an upcoming announcement. The MLS MVP will be announced on Friday. The FC Dallas midfielder was announced as a finalist several weeks ago along with Edson Buddle and Chris Wondolowski.

Garber stated that, pending approval from the MLS Board of Governors, MLS rosters will expand to 30 in 2011, up from 24 this season. The roster spots will be available for players under the age of 24 and will not count against a teams salary cap.

2011 will also mark the return of MLS reserve division. According to the commissioner, teams will be able to place players from their academies, those on trial and players, who hold the latter six roster spots in the reserve league in hopes of developing their own prospects.

The commissioner also said teams will play 34 matches in 2011, but it was not yet known whether it will be a balanced schedule or an imbalanced one toenhancerivalries. Garber also announced that changes to the playoff format are expected.

Garber also addressed the playoffs, saying there may be changes to the number of teams that make the playoffs. Garber said that there is apossibilitythat the 2011 MLS Cup Final that will take place in the stadium of the higher-seeded finalist, while also dismissing any possibility of MLS ever eliminating the playoffs and crowning the team with the best record as league champion.

We will never do away with playoffs, Garber said. There is absolutely no reason to do that. I know that it exists in other soccer leagues, though not all. All have been around for hundreds of years, all that dont have the competition that we have. We will always have playoffs.

In terms of expansion, Garber announced that New York is on the top of the expansion list, with 2013 a potential season for the new teams arrival. The commissioner announced that there have been a number of conversations about a franchise in New York including conversations with the representativesof a prospective New York Cosmos franchise. Garber said there will be a focus on growing rivalries with more teams in a closervicinityto oneanother. The Red Bulls have stated that they areopen to the possibility of a second team in the New York market.

Regarding expansion into the South, Garber saidt it was highly unlikely that when MLS is finished with expansion that there will be no teams in the South. The league has not had a team south of D.C. United since the folding of the Miami Fusion and the Tampa Bay Mutiny in 2001. Garber outlined Atlanta and Miami as just a pair of cities that the league is interested in expanding in.

We are very focused on local rivalries being a key driver in growing our clubs relevance, and by growing local relevance, we believe that can translate into national relevance, said Garber. Rivalries really do matter. While we have been very focused on broadening our footprint. We do believe we need to have more rivalries and that a second team in New York will help us do that.

That being said, I cant imagine this will be a league, when all is said and done, that does not have teams in the South.

What are your thoughts on Commissioner Garbers comments? Like the idea of a second New York team? Relieved to hear that changes to the playoff format are being consdered?

Share your thoughts below.

NCAA Tournament Preview | Soccer By Ives

By JOHN BOSCHINI

Despite the controversy surrounding Mondays selection show, 48 teams begin their quest for the College Cup tonight as the 2010 NCAA Tournament kicks off around the country.

There is little argument as to who the favorites to reach the semifinals in Santa Barbara are. Louisville, Maryland, Akron and North Carolina have been the top four teams in the country by nearly every measuring stick since the middle of October. Louisville is one of only two undefeated teams in the country but the Cardinals were less than impressive in their Big East title run.

Maryland is arguably the hottest team in the country. During a 14-game winning streak, the Terrapins have outscored their opponents 36-4 while keeper Zac MacMath has kept 13 clean sheets this season.

Minus a blip on the radar called Cleveland State, Akron has shown over the course of the season that it is poised to take home a national title. Victories over then top-five opponenets Wake Forest, Tulsa, North Carolina are coupled with other quality wins against Michigan, Creighton, Michigan State and Penn State.

The Zips lineup is loaded with professional-calibar talent. The midfield is led by Darlington Nagbe while Jamaican freshman Darren Mattocks has banged in 15 goals this season.

North Carolina had its 13-game unbeaten streaksnappedunder controversial circumstances in the ACC title game but the return of Michael Farfan makes the Tar Heels legitimate contenders. If UNC is going to make a run its defense will have to be up to its regular-season form which had 10 shutouts. All four of the top seeds enjoy home field advantage until the semifinals.

Behind the frontrunners are more than a few dark horses looking to stake claim to the national title. Butler were hard done by dropping the 13th seed despite breaking into the NSCAA top 10 and finishing the season undefeated. Southern Methodist has quietly been hanging around in the top seven since Oct. 12 and should not be underestimated. Both teams could face each other in the round of 16, with the winner taking on North Carolina.

Michigan rocketed into a seed on the back of its conference title and the committees high regard for the Big 10. The Wolverines position might be elevated but an absolutely dominating conference tournament has forced the nation to take notice and if freshman Soony Saad can keep up his form Michigan can surprise some people.

Lurking in the first round are a few teams with more than enough talent to get past some of their seeded competition. Three ACC teams, Duke, Virginia and Boston College, have fallen out of form in the past few weeks but possess a ton of talent but their inconsistency could mean a first-round upset.

Ryan Kinne and Monmouth were in the top 5 early in the season but a few disapointing losses in the soft Northeast leave relegated the Hawks to a first-round matchup with Dartmouth. It will be interesting to see how Monmouth reacts to the pressure of the NCAA tournament. Also, be on the lookout for Princeton, who are riding a 12-game winning streak after a perfect Ivy League campaign.

Players to watch

Darlington Nagbe, M/F, Akron- Regarded by many experts as the top pro prospect in college soccer, Nagbe is a versatily and speedy attacking who can go at defenses from midfield or forward.

Will Bruin, F, Indiana- While the Hoosiers have been battling inconsistancy problems all season the junior forward has anything but inconsistant. Bruin has banged in 16 goals for an Indiana squad that rose from unranked in the NSCAA rankings to the eighth seed in the NCAA tournament. A dominating figure at 62 and 194 pounds, Bruin doesnt have the speed or finesse of a typical striker but will be a force for any undersized defender.

Zac MacMath, GK, Maryland- The USMNT youth keeper has been nothing short of dominant this season for the ACC powerhouse. The junior has recorded 13 shutouts and was named the ACC tournament most valuable player after shutting out Virginia, which included a penalty save, and North Carolina.

Darren Mattocks, F, Akron- The Jamaican forward has made a name for himself under Caleb Porter thanks to his quickness and a finishing touch almost unheard of at the college level. With one of the nations best midfields backing him up, expect Mattocks offensive output to continue.

Michael Farfan, M, North Carolina- One of the nations premier playmakers, Farfan will be key to UNCs chances of winning its region and reaching the Final Four. Farfan will be looking to make up for his ACC Final nightmare (he was issued a first-half red card in UNCs loss to Maryland), while also boosting his status a projected MLS first-round draft pick.

Soony Saad, F, Michigan-The 2009 National High School Player of the Year lived up to thehype this season, scoringa nation-leading 18 goals to help the Wolverines win the Big Ten championship. Look for him to continue his stellar run of form in postseason play.

Prediction: As boring as a selection as this is, it would be a huge surprise for anyone outside of the top four to make it to Santa Barbara. Once there, the matchup between Maryland and Akron is as much a national championship game as the one being played on Dec. 12.

Akron simply has too much talent and big-game experience to be ignored and should be crowned national champions. The Zips should beat Maryland in the semifinals and North Carolina in the final to win its first

USA vs. South Africa: The Pre-Game Tailgate | Soccer By Ives

The U.S. mens national team is ready to play its final game of 2010 today when it takes on South Africa in the Nelson Mandela Challenge Cup today (2pm, ESPN2).

Bob Bradley has brought a young squad to Cape Town for todays match, meaning American fans will be able to get their first glimpses of several top young prospects in the U.S. national team pool.

Juan Agudelo, Mikkel Diskerud, Teal Bunbury and Tim Ream are just some of the new faces who could make their USA debuts today, while more established players like Brad Guzan, Clarence Goodson and Alejandro Bedoya will lead the squad against a tough South African squad led by Steven Pienaar.

SBI will be providing commentary on todays match later today. For now, please feel free to share your pre-game thoughts here.

Which young player are you hoping to see start? What lineup would you like to see the USA trot out today? Who do you see scoring today for the United States?

Share your thoughts below.

Soccer Wednesday: Your Running Commentary | Soccer By Ives

Photo by ISIphotos.com

By TRAVIS CLARK

As 2010 nears an end, and the memories of the World Cup in South Africa grow more distant, international teams around the world are gathering together for one final run out this year. Forty-seven friendlies are on the schedule, including the U.S. national teams clash against South Africa (2pm, ESPN2).

Perhaps no other game has a higher profile than Brazil and Argentina, as the two sides meet in Doha, Qatar (12pm, ESPN2). Brazils side is light on players from the failed World Cup campaign, and features the likes of Ronaldinho, Coutinho and Neymar. Theyll go up against Argentine stars suchs as Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain and Diego Milito.

Two sets of European rivals will also clash, with England hosts France at Wembley. Fabio Capello is set to go with a very experimental lineup against Les Bleus. World Cup winner Spain travels to Lisbon to face Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal, while Sweden takes on Germany.

If you are watching todays action, please feel free to share your thoughts, opinions and some play-by-play in the comments section below (Todays TV Schedule is after the jump):

TODAYS SOCCER ON TV

11am- FoxSoccer.tv- Russia vs. Belgium

11am- FoxSoccer.tv- Slovakia vs. Bosnia

11:30am- ESPN3.com- Croatia vs. Malta

11:30am- FoxSoccer.tv- Finland vs. San Marino

12pm- FoxSoccer.tv- Bulgaria vs. Serbia

12pm- FoxSoccer.tv- Hungary vs. Lithuania

12pm- ESPN2/ESPN3.com- Brazil vs. Argentina

2pm- ESPN2/ESPN3.com- South Africa vs. USA

2:30pm- FoxSoccer.tv- Switzerland vs. Ukraine

2:30pm- FoxSoccer.tv- Luxembourg vs. Algeria

2:30pm- FoxSoccer.tv- Poland vs. Ivory Coast

2:30pm- FoxSoccer.tv- Romania vs. Italy

2:30pm- ESPN3.com- Sweden vs. Germany

2:30pm- ESPN3.com- Netherlands vs. Turkey

2:30pm- ESPN3.com- Austria vs. Greece

2:45pm- ESPN3.com- Ireland vs. Norway

2:45pm- FoxSoccer.tv- Northern Ireland vs. Morocco

2:45pm- FoxSoccer.tv- Slovenia vs. Georgia

3pm- Fox Soccer Channel- England vs. France

4pm- ESPN3.com- Portugal vs. Spain

8:30pm- GolTV- Panama vs. Honduras