EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – A total of 10 home games, four games against 2017 NCAA Tournament participants, the second Mid-American Conference season and the first regular-season match with Saint Louis since 1995 highlight SIUE's 2018 men's soccer schedule released today by Head Coach Mario Sanchez.
"We continue to try to move our program forward with our scheduling," Sanchez said. "To be the program that we want to be we have to schedule this way."
The Cougars open the season with a pair of exhibition contests, beginning with a road contest at Tulsa (Aug. 11). Cincinnati then comes to Korte Stadium for an exhibition match (Aug. 17).
The regular season opens on the road at Memphis (Aug. 24) before SIUE embarks on a season-long five-game home stand. The regular season home opener features UMKC (Aug. 28) coached by SIUE Hall of Famer Rick Benben. The home stand also includes Ivy League foe Princeton (Aug. 31), Wisconsin (Sep. 7), which advanced to the sweet 16 of last year's NCAA Tournament, Grand Canyon (Sep. 9) and Loyola (Sep. 15).
"The hope is to be able to build some momentum there," Sanchez said. "I can't stress enough how important becoming part of the MAC was to our process. The RPI of the MAC is high enough that teams are more willing to come here to play us. Teams also are aware of the support we get here and everyone wants to play in front of big crowds."
SIUE will travel to play at Valparaiso (Sep. 18) before the much anticipated resumption of the series with Saint Louis (Sep. 22). It will be the first regular-season meeting between the two sides since SIUE returned to NCAA Division I status, though the teams have met twice in exhibition play. Not counting exhibition play, SIUE and Saint Louis have faced off 35 times.
"The tipping point of the schedule is that game at Saint Louis," Sanchez said. "Just as a soccer fan, I couldn't be more excited to have that game back on the schedule."
Billikens' first-year Head Coach Kevin Kalish spent six seasons as the Cougars' head coach from 2008-2013.
"With Kevin (Kalish) back there it is going to be fun for everyone," Sanchez added. "It will be fun for fans and alumni of both schools. I am excited to be a part of something like that."
The Cougars will wrap September with a nonconference match with Belmont (Sep. 29).
October features seven matches including four Mid-American Conference contests. After a road meeting with IUPUI (Oct. 2), SIUE will begin its second season in the MAC with a home game against Northern Illinois (Oct. 6).
"There are no more surprises now," Sanchez said of playing in the MAC. "We know we've got to pick up the tempo of our play and we will address that. We're a little more comfortable (in the MAC) and with comfort comes confidence."
The Cougars also will welcome the MAC's two 2017 College Cup participants, Western Michigan (Oct. 13) and Akron (Oct. 27), at home.
"Having Akron here at home is huge," Sanchez said. "You have a top-four team in the country coming here to Korte Stadium. To have a team like that here is great for the fans and great for the whole school."
Western Michigan is the defending MAC regular season champion. The Broncos advanced to the round of 16 in last season's NCAA Tournament. Akron won the MAC Tournament and made a run to the NCAA Tournament's semifinals before falling to eventual National Champion Stanford.
Road contests in October include Butler (Oct. 9), Evansville (Oct. 16) and West Virginia (Oct. 20). The Cougars will conclude the regular season on the road at Bowling Green (Nov. 3).
The top four finishers in the MAC will meet for the MAC Tournament November 9 and 11. The No. 1 seed will host.