By Joel Delgado ’12, MS ’17
Nervous suspense gave way to uncontainable excitement as the FIU men’s soccer team learned its NCAA Tournament destination. It turns out they won’t be going far.
The Panthers (11-1-4) will host in the first round of the NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Championship tournament, taking on the Omaha Mavericks (10-5-3) at FIU Soccer Stadium Nov. 16. The game will begin at 7 p.m.
This will be the 11th NCAA Tournament appearance for the Panthers at the Division I level and their first appearance since 2015, when FIU lost in the first round at Tulsa after winning their first Conference USA championship.
Thursday’s match will be one of the biggest games the program has hosted in more than a decade. The last time the Panthers hosted an NCAA Tournament match was back in 2004.
“Playing at home is a big advantage,” Head Coach Kevin Nylen said. “You play in front of your crowd, on your field, and you don’t have to travel. We’re really excited, and it’s going to be a good game.”
The team, coaches and staff were huddled around television screens at the Ocean Bank Convocation Center to await their NCAA Tournament fate after falling in the Conference USA tournament semifinals on Friday.
They knew going into Monday they were getting in as an at-large bid after finishing the regular season with an unbeaten record and near the top of the national rankings, but it was unclear if they would be selected as a host team.
“This is why you get up and practice and work hard everyday for four years – to have the chance to play a home game in the NCAA Tournament,” defender Marvin Hezel said. “It’s a dream come true.”
The Mavericks come to FIU after winning the Summit League conference championship. This will be their first trip to the NCAA Tournament in program history.
The winner of Thursday’s game will take on No. 6 seed Duke in Durham, North Carolina, on Nov. 19.
The first 2,000 FIU students presenting a valid FIU One Card will receive free admission, courtesy of FIU’s Athletic Department. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for youth/seniors. All tickets will be held at will call the day of the game. To purchase tickets online, click here.