EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – First-year SIUE men's soccer Head Coach Cale Wassermann has unveiled the schedule for his inaugural season at the helm of the Cougars.
Including exhibition games, SIUE's 2019 slate features six teams that were part of last year's NCAA Tournament and nine home games at Korte Stadium.
"I am extremely excited about the fall and can't wait to get going with the group again in August," Wassermann said. "We are thrilled about our schedule and have a great balance of home and away matches. Our preseason and non-conference schedules are not only extremely competitive, but we also play a great balance of opponents in regards to style of play which will help prepare us for a very tough Mid-American Conference."
The Cougars open the season with a pair of exhibition contests. Tulsa will travel to Edwardsville for a preseason contest Aug. 16. The game is a central feature in SIUE's Freshman Experience for incoming students. SIUE will then play at Kentucky Aug. 24 to conclude the preseason. Kentucky earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament as the Conference USA Champion and advanced to the Regional Final in 2018.
The regular season opens with a pair of teams that represented the Big Ten in the NCAA Tournament. Wassermann will take his Cougars to Michigan State, where he was an assistant for the last four seasons, Aug. 30 in the regular season opener. The Spartans advanced to the Final Four in last season's College Cup. SIUE will then take on Michigan Sept. 2. Michigan earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, advancing to the second round.
"Going back to Michigan will be fun," Wassermann added. "We will open the season with two very familiar opponents and two of the top teams in the country. I am very thankful for the time and the relations I built in East Lansing, and it will be a very exciting game to open up the year."
Other nonconference road stops include Oral Roberts Sept. 21, UMKC Sept. 24 and Wisconsin Oct. 15.
A three-game home stand opens the home portion of the regular season. It begins with Evansville Sept. 6 before SIUE welcomes Saint Louis to Korte Stadium Sept. 13. It is the Billikens' first regular season trip to Edwardsville since the 1994 season. It marks the second game in the return of the Bronze Boot series, which resumed last season at Saint Louis.
While the series between the Billikens and Cougars began in the 1960s, the teams began playing for the Bronze Boot in 1971. In 1972, the series shifted to Busch Stadium II in downtown St. Louis, where it was played annually before moving back to campus sites in 1986.
Soccer fans came out in droves for the Bronze Boot matchups. In fact, the largest crowd in NCAA history was a Bronze Boot affair, when 22,512 saw the Billikens and Cougars play at Busch Stadium on Oct. 30, 1980. The series lasted until the late 1990s before NCAA scheduling regulations brought an end to the regular-season competition.
The Cougars round out the home stand with Butler Sept. 17.
SIUE will play host to Missouri Valley Conference champion and NCAA participant Central Arkansas Sept. 28 in the annual Homecoming game. The Cougars also will welcome Western Illinois Oct. 1 and Valparaiso Oct. 5.
"We cannot wait to play in front of our fans and alumni at home," Wassermann said. "We have always had great support here and can't wait to get out to Korte."
The Cougars will begin their third season in the Mid-American Conference with a road contest at Northern Illinois Oct. 12. SIUE also will face national runner-up Akron on the road Oct. 25 and Western Michigan on the road Nov. 9.
Bowling Green will play at Korte Stadium Oct. 19 and West Virginia, who also was an NCAA Tournament participant, comes to Edwardsville Nov. 2.
"The MAC has become one of the top soccer conferences in the country," Wasserman said. "There are no easy games in this conference and with a small conference schedule there is no margin for error. I know many of the coaches personally and have experience playing almost every MAC team the last few years. I know how difficult the competition in this conference is."
The MAC Tournament begins Nov. 12 with the quarterfinals on campus sites. The semifinals and Championship, hosted by the No. 1 seed, are Nov. 15 and 17.
"We have a strong group of returners coming back and also will have a group of incoming guys who are eager to contribute right away adding competition and depth into our roster," Wassermann said. "I believe we can continue to make strides and compete for championships as is the standard here in Edwardsville. It will be a challenging fall but one we are excited about."