The preeminent US men’s college soccer tournament kicks off this week with 48 teams and 1100 players vying for the prestigious distinction of being crowned the National Champion. It is easy to argue that this is the most competitive amateur soccer tournament in the world. Although it consists only of US-based collegiate teams, the teams include players from 55 different countries, so the tournament is truly international in play.
The 48 teams all come from the top tier of collegiate soccer, the National College Athletic Association 1st Division, or NCAA D1 for short. Other divisions in the NCAA, NAIA, NCCAA, and NJCAA have separate national championship tournaments. In D1, 205 total teams compete in 24 separate conferences, with most teams playing between 17-20 games in an intense and exhausting 10-11 week season. How the players are also able to complete full collegiate academic schedules is a remarkable feat of persistence. Side note: if any NCAA officials ever read this, please note my vote as a professor to switch to a 10-month season!
Each of the 24 conferences receives 1 automatic bid to the tournament, with 21 of the conferences awarding the bid to the end-of-season conference tournament winners and 3 conferences awarding the bid to the regular season conference champion. A tournament committee chosen by the NCAA selects the remaining 24 teams via “at-large” bids based mostly on the criteria of win-loss-tie records and strength of schedule (as determined by a Rating Percentage Index).
The tournament is single-elimination format. The top-16 seeds in the tournament receive a bye for the first round. The remaining 32 teams compete in geographically-based games, meaning matches are assigned based on proximity of the country whenever possible.
The official site is http://www.ncaa.com/championships/soccer-men/d1
Geography of teams
Here is a map of the tournament teams:
States with multiple teams in the tournament. (Note: tables are screenshots. Didn’t have time to format for web…)
Below are the tournament teams ranked by the proportion of players identifying international hometowns in their rosters. Processing note: the rosters used in this analysis consist of those players with record statistics on the NCAA web-site, and not the often-larger rosters listed on school websites. For example, redshirt players are not included in this analysis.
Here is a map of the number of players with international hometowns. In general, the East Coast schools have more international hometowns. (Note: a much-more extensive analysis of these patterns across all college levels is one of the key objectives of one of my manuscripts in progress).
Geography of the format
The tournament selection committee weights by geographic region, with the intent to assign first round matches in relative proximity. Here is a map of the first round match-ups.
Here are road travel distances for the teams. Some of the teams will likely fly – FIU & Utah Valley, looking at you!
Geography of players
Each player self-identifies their hometowns on their team rosters. These hometowns do not necessarily indicate the players’ nationalities, but there is likely a high correlation. Of the 1100 players with recorded statistics on the NCAA website that are listed on the 48 rosters, 806 (73%) identify hometowns in the US and 294 (27%) identify international hometowns. The NCAA reports that 24% of D1 men’s players are international student-athletes, so international players are slightly more represented in the tournament than across D1 soccer as a whole.
Players with US hometowns:
Players in the tournament with domestic hometowns ranked as a proportion of state population:
International map of hometowns:
Top 20 foreign countries providing players for the tournament:
Although international players are 27% of the total player pool, they scored 38% of the goals and recorded 36% of the assists. They also were more efficient on target, with an overall average shot:goal ratio of 7.6 vs 8.4 for domestic players.
Here are general performance statistics for the top 20 foreign countries. The top value for each category is highlighted in yellow.
Same statistics for tourney players by state. The maximum for each category is highlighted in yellow. This first table is for states with at least 10 players:
And for states with less than 10 players:
Best wishes to all the teams and players for an excellent tournament! And as a professor, I also wish the players the best of luck completing your school work during this rush 😉