NEW ORLEANS — Georgia Southern men’s soccer has a new home with the re-introduction of the Sun Belt Conference for men’s soccer. The Eagles will compete in the six-team league beginning in the fall of 2014 with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line.
"Since last spring when we announced the department's move to the Sun Belt, we've been working hard to find a conference home for our Men's Soccer team," GSU athletics director Tom Kleinlein said. "It took some out of the box thinking and conference partnerships, but we were able to come up with a great solution that gives our student-athletes a chance to compete in a league for an NCAA Tournament bid."
Full-time members Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, and Georgia State will play alongside affiliate members Hartwick, Howard, and the New Jersey Institute of Technology in a single round robin schedule.
“The reintroduction of men’s soccer to the Sun Belt Conference means that we will be able to provide valuable opportunities for student-athletes and deliver them a first-class championship experience,” Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson said. “Our new affiliate members provide us with a full field of competitive teams and we welcome them to the Sun Belt Conference.”
The Sun Belt will conduct a championship at one of the six institutions with the winner earning an automatic qualifying bid to the NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship.
The championship format will see the top two teams from the regular season earning a bye into the tournament semifinals. A date and site for the championship will be announced in May.
"I'm extremely excited about the opportunity to compete in the Sun Belt Conference in 2014 and beyond,” GSU coach Kevin Kennedy said. “I believe this is going to be a very competitive conference and I know that our student-athletes are looking forward to the challenge of this upcoming season. I would like to applaud the efforts and hard work of Tom Kleinlein and Brooks Keel.
Their leadership and vision in helping to create this league in such a very short time has been nothing less than extraordinary. I believe this is a real success story for college soccer and I'm proud that Georgia Southern is going to be a part of this league."
The Sun Belt previously sponsored men’s soccer from 1976 to 1995. In fact, the first ever Sun Belt Championship in any sport was the 1976 men’s soccer championship.
“We are looking forward to having an automatic qualifier in the sport to represent us in the NCAA postseason,” said Benson. “And we are optimistic at the possibility of sending multiple teams to the tournament field each year.”
With the addition of men’s soccer, the SBC will sponsor 18 sports. On the men’s side the conference now competes in basketball, baseball, cross country, the highest level of NCAA football, golf, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, soccer, and tennis. For women’s sports, the Sun Belt offers basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, tennis, and volleyball.