Coverage of the upcoming realignment in the ACC has largely been basketball- centric, but the addition of Syracuse, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Louisville will not only expand the ACCs’ horizons on the hardwood, but it will augment the conference in soccer as well. Unfortunately, we’ll be gaining these four at the expense of Maryland, the reigning ACC champs and a major power in soccer.
The main additions for ACC soccer will be the Louisville and Notre Dame programs. Both are major programs and were top teams this year. Notre Dame was the number 1 overall seed in this year’s College Cup Tournament, and Louisville was the national runner up in 2010. Neither team has ever won the national title, but they could very easily be contenders in the near future and could push the established powers in the ACC upon entrance. Both teams are consistently good and are occasionally elite, and they’ll make even league hardliners proud in the next few years. At the very least they’ll give the Tar Heels some great competition and should provide two more NCAA Tourney representatives for the league.
In Syracuse, the ACC could be gaining one of the up and coming programs in college soccer. There’s no way to sugarcoat the fact that the past decade has not been good to Syracuse, often having more losses than wins and by a large margin. But a coaching change in 2010 to bring in Ian McIntyre has started to bear fruit. After winning only 3 games in 2011, the Orange have won 14 games in 2012 and made the NCAA tournament. If they can continue their development in the next few years they could be valuable members of the ACC. I’m no fan of Clemson, and I have a feeling that Syracuse will be the better of the orange- clad teams in the league next year.
Pittsburgh could stand to take a lesson from the ‘Cuse. They have set team records for losses in a season several times in the last few years and may end up at best as spoilers for ACC bubble teams and at worst as cannon fodder.
But the ACC loses Maryland. They are the ’05 and ’08 national champions and spent a large part of this season at #1. They were one of the favorites to win the national championship and will likely gain another one in the next 5 years. Coach Sasho Cirovsky has created a title machine in Maryland and while their pitch may not be level at the corner (I took offense to this in the regular season) they will be an elite program for years to come.
They’ll remain in the ACC for the next year and will likely be contenders if not winners of the ACC championship. One can only hope for the unlikelihood that they’ll end up sticking around, as while they are the Tar Heels’ biggest competitors, they benefit the conference and they better the Tar Heels through competition.
In terms of a challenge to the Tar Heels, we’ll lose our main competition in Maryland, but Louisville could be a surprise for us and Notre Dame is on the up, so they may also give the Heels a stern examination. Syracuse will likely be a rather certain win for the next few seasons. Pitt will be a good game for our goals scored vs. goals allowed ratio.