The Big Ten is not a power conference in NCAA Division I men's soccer. For starters, only 7 of the 12 Big Ten schools even have programs (Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin). Northwestern (No. 12) and Indiana (No. 17) were the only teams that finished the 2012 regular season ranked in the top 25.
Meanwhile, the Big East had 7 schools finish in the top 25 and 4 schools finish in the top 8. The ACC had 4 schools in the top 25 and 2 schools finish in the top 3. The tiny Atlantic 10's top ranked team, Xavier at No. 13, might have been ranked behind the Big Ten's top school but they managed to get 3 schools in the top 25.
This follows a historic pattern. Indiana has the second highest amount of National Championships (7) in NCAA Division I Men's Soccer history but Wisconsin in 1995 is the only other Big Ten team to solely win the National Championship. Outside of Indiana and Michigan State a couple of times in the 1960's, Ohio State's appearance in the 2007 Final is the conference's only national runner-up.
I'm not making a very good case for checking out the 2012 Big Ten Men's Soccer Tournament this week in Evanston between November 7-11. I do want to set some realistic expectations for what Chicago soccer fans can expect to watch. There won't be a bumper crop of 2013 MLS first rounders. Fans should come out to the games to check out some Fire academy graduates. A new wave of Big Ten talent might even be turning the conference's tide for the better.
Link to the Bracket - Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for youth, senior citizens, and students.
Wednesday, November 7
Indiana vs. Michigan State @ 1:00 PM (Game 1)
Michigan vs. Wisconsin @ 3:30 PM (Game 2)
Northwestern vs. Ohio State @ 6:00 PM (Game 3)
Friday, November 9
Penn State vs. Winner Game 1 @ 12:00 PM
Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 3 @ 2:30 PM
Sunday, November 11
Semifinal Winner vs. Semifinal Winner @ 12:00 PM
All games take place at Lakeside Field on Northwestern's Evanston Campus.
#1 Penn State
Best Player - Julian Cardona, 5-10, 170 lbs, Senior, F/M - ranked by TopDrawerSoccer.com as the 79th top Upperclassman in the nation, 7th in the conference
Lead Goalscorer(s) - Julian Cardona & Minh Vu, 5-10, 155 lbs, Senior, M/F - both have 4 goals
Most Consistent - Matt Smallwood, Jacob Barron, Matt Fetrow, and Justin Lee all started in all 22 games this year.
Chicago Fire Connection - None
Best Player - Tyler Miller, 6-4, 195 lbs, Sophomore, GK - ranked 37th top Upperclassman in the nation, ranked 3rd
Lead Goalscorer(s) - Joey Calistri, 5-10, 150 lbs, Forward, Freshman, 7 goals
Most Consistent - Joey Calistri, Chris Ritter, Eric Weberman, Grant Wilson, Nick Gendron, Cole Missimo, Jarrett Baughman, and Scott Lakin all played in all 18 of Northwestern's games.
Chicago Fire Connection - Calistri hails from Deerfield, IL and graduated from the Chicago Fire academy just this last year. He is ranked the 25th best Freshman in the country. Chris Ritter is a 6-2, 170 lbs, Senior forward from Winnetka, IL. He has played with the Chicago Fire academy and PDL program. Ritter has 5 goals and 5 assists on the season. Scott Lakin is a 6-1, 160 lbs, Junior defender from Deerfield, IL. Lakin hasn't scored or assisted this year but he has started all 18 games. He graduated from the Chicago Fire academy in 2010. Peter Beasley is a 6'0, 155 lbs, Sophomore defender from Naperville, IL. Beasley graduated from the Chicago Fire academy in 2011. He has played in 6 games this year. Connor Holloway is a 6-1, 165 lbs, Junior midfielder/defender who has played with the Chicago Fire academy. Zak Allen is a 6-0, 160 lbs, Freshman goalkeeper from Chicago, IL. Both Holloway and Allen have yet to see action this year.
Best Player -Fabio Villas Boas Pereira, 6-0, 165 lbs, Junior, M, ranked 12th in the conference
Lead Goalscorer(s) - Tyler Arnone, 5-10, 160 lbs, RS Sophomore, 4 goals
Most Consistent - Tyler Arnone, Latif Alashe, Ezekiel Harris, Nick Lewin, and Adam Grinwis all played in all 17 of Michigan's games.
Chicago Fire Connection - None
Best Player -Eriq Zavaleta, 6-1, 185 lbs, Sophomore, Forward, ranked 8th top Upperclassman in the nation, ranked 1st in the conference
Lead Goalscorer(s) - Eriq Zavaleta, 16 goals
Most Consistent - Eriq Zavaleta, A.J. Corrado, Caleb Konstanski, Harrison Petts, Matt McKain, and Luis Soffner have all started all 18 of Indiana's games.
Chicago Fire Connection - Freshman forward Andrew Oliver graduated from the Chicago Fire academy just last year. Oliver is ranked as the 14th best freshman in the country and has 2 goals on the season. He's one to watch but he may not see a lot of time. Oliver is 5-8, 160 lbs and hails from Indianapolis, IN. Sophomore Patrick Doody is a defensive winger who played with the Chicago Fire academy between 2009-2010. Doody is 6'0, 160 lbs and from Naperville, IL. He has 16 appearances in 18 games. Junior Midfielder Petts and Junior Midfielder Jacob Bushue have played with the Chicago Fire's academy and PDL program. Bushue is ranked the 43rd Upperclassman in the country and the 4th best in the Big Ten Conference. Bushue is 5-11, 155 lbs and hails from Champaign, IL. Petts is ranked 99th Upperclassman in the country and 11th best in the conference. Petts is a 5-11, 160 lbs, midfielder from Zionsville, IN.
#5 Michigan State
Best Player - Adam Montague, 6-3, Sophomore, F/M, ranked 96th top Upperclassman in the nation, 10th best in the conference
Lead Goalscorer(s) - Adam Montague, 4 goals
Most Consistent - Adam Montague, Ryan Thelen, Ryan Keener, and Kevin Cope have all played in all of Michigan State's 18 games. Thelen had 0 goals but led the team with 7 assists in the regular season.
Chicago Fire Connection - Redshirt Freshman Quinn McAnaney has played in the Chicago Fire youth system so for this tournament there is essentially none.
Best Player - AJ Cochran, 6-3, 195 lbs, Sophomore, D, ranked 17th top Upperclassman in the country, 2nd best in the conference
Lead Goalscorer(s) - Nick Janus, 6-2, 190 lbs, M/F, ranked 19th best in the conference, 4 goals
Most Consistent - Chris Prince, AJ Cochran, Blake Succa, and Paul Yonga have all played in all of Wisconsin's 18 games.
Chicago Fire Connection - Sophomore Jacob Brindle graduated from the Fire academy in 2011. The 6-1, 165 lbs Sophomore from Naperville, IL has only played in 8 games but has scored 3 goals. Freshman midfielder Drew Conner graduated from the Chicago Fire academy this past summer. Conner is ranked the 33rd ranked Freshman in the nation and has started 17 games. The 6-0, 165 lbs player from Cary, IL has 2 goals and 1 assist this year. Sophomore defender/midfielder David Caban graduated from the academy in 2011. Caban is the 48th ranked Upperclassman in the nation and the 5th ranked in the conference. The 5-7, 145 lbs player from Kenosha, WI scored 1 goal this year and played in 16 games. Chris Prince graduated from the academy in 2010. The 5-11, 175 lbs player from Naperville, IL leads Wisconsin in goals+assists with 3 goals and 5 assists. Kyle McCrudden graduated from the academy in 2009. The 6'2, 175 lbs Senior from Wilmette, IL has played in 12 games and has 1 assist. Trevor Wheeler graduated from the academy in 2010. The 5'8, 150 lbs Junior midfielder from Arlington Heights, IL has 1 assist in 17 games. Senior Jerry Maddi and Sophomore Cochran have played for the Chicago Fire PDL team.
#7 Ohio State
Best Player -Brady Wahl, 5-11, 170 lbs, Sophomore, Midfielder, 86th top Upperclassman in the country, 8th best player in the conference
Lead Goalscorer(s) - Austin McAnena, 5-9, 155 lbs, Senior, Midfielder, 4 goals
Most Consistent - Austin McAnena, Chris Hegngi, Sebastian Rivas, Sage Gardner, and Chris Gomez have all played in all 18 of Ohio State's games.
Chicago Fire Connection - Brady Wahl is the only player with Chicago Fire ties. The aforementioned Wahl hails from Geneva, IL and graduated from the Chicago Fire academy in 2011. He has 3 assists on the season.
The top teams for Chicago Fire fans to watch are Indiana, Wisconsin, and Northwestern. Those three teams are clearly the ones with the most Fire connections. Hopefully young players like Indiana's Andrew Oliver, Northwestern's Joey Calistri, and Wisconsin's Drew Conner are a sign of what's to come for both the Chicago Fire Academy graduates and the overall success of the Big Ten. Chicago soccer fans would be so lucky to have the Fire continue to have 3 top freshmen in the Big Ten every year.
There are bound to be a couple of players with Chicago Fire connections I missed. The Fire PDL team continues to have some of the very best college players in the area play for the team. These random connections will disappear as the Fire continue their recent switch to stock the PDL team with primarily academy graduates.