PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The BIG EAST and Red Bull New York will join forces with a three-year partnership for the Conference’s men’s soccer championship to be held at the new state-of-the-art Red Bull Arena through the 2012 tournament, it was announced today. The soccer-specific facility in Harrison, N.J., is the new home of the New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer (MLS) and is scheduled to open on March 27, 2010.
The BIG EAST will hold its semifinal and championship games at the venue, along with team practices before each day of competition, beginning in 2010. The dates of the championships over the next three years are: 2010 – Nov. 12 & 14; 2011 – Nov. 11 & 13 and 2012 – Nov. 9 & 10.
“The BIG EAST is thrilled to announce the partnership with Red Bull New York and their new world-class facility,” said Jim Siedliski, BIG EAST Associate Commissioner for Olympic Sports. “We feel Red Bull Arena is the ideal location to hold our men’s soccer championship, and will allow our student-athletes to play in a professional atmosphere and in a major metropolitan market that embraces the sport of soccer.”
“The Red Bulls organization is excited to bring the BIG EAST Men’s Soccer Championship to Red Bull Arena,” said Erik Stover, Red Bull New York Managing Director. “One of our goals is to help elevate the sport of soccer in the United States and our partnership with the BIG EAST Conference is an important step in that process.”
The BIG EAST men’s soccer championship began in 1982, when it was a four-team tournament. There have been eight different tournament champions in the 28-year men’s soccer history.
Currently, the top 12 of the league’s 16 teams earn a berth to the championship. Selection and seeding are based on regular-season conference records. The top six teams in both the Blue and Red Divisions, seeded by conference point total, qualify for the league championship. The top two teams in each division earn first-round byes to the quarterfinals. The first-round and quarterfinal games are held on the campuses of the higher seeded teams. The winner of the BIG EAST championship earns the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Championship.
The BIG EAST jumped into the national scene when St. John’s captured the NCAA title in 1996. Connecticut resurrected its long-standing tradition of success by winning the national championship in 2000 – nearly 20 years after its 1981 title. In addition to the two banner years for the BIG EAST, Connecticut also advanced to the College Cup and national championship game in 1999, while St. John’s made similar runs to the College Cup in 2001, ’03 and ’08. Connecticut also played in the national semifinals in 1983 and ‘82.
Since the BIG EAST became the largest Division I conference with 16 teams in 2004, men’s soccer has averaged six teams in the NCAA championship field of 48 – one eighth of the entire field. In 2005, ’06 and ’07, the league advanced a record seven teams to NCAA postseason competition. The BIG EAST has also seen a team advance to the round of 16 every year since 1998. Since the last national championship season in 2000, the Conference holds a 58-48-9 (.543) record and is 80-80-9 (.500) all-time in NCAA Championship play.
Quotes around the BIG EAST…
“To have an opportunity to play in the best soccer venue in the USA, will only help to showcase our event. The Red Bull Arena will put the BIG EAST Championship at a different level than any other college conference tournament.” – Ray Reid, Connecticut men’s soccer head coach
“We are excited about the partnership with the Red Bulls and Red Bull Arena. It will provide BIG EAST men’s soccer the opportunity to showcase some of the countries best talent in one of the nation’s best venues.” – Ken Lolla, Louisville men’s soccer head coach
“This is a fantastic partnership between the BIG EAST and the Red Bulls, which gives our league a fantastic home in one of the best soccer venues in the US.” – Bobby Clark, Notre Dame men’s soccer head coach
“I think if I were competing in the BIG EAST Tournament and shooting towards the goal of competing in a great stadium like Red Bull Arena, I think my teammates and I would be really excited for that opportunity. It will bring the league the exposure it deserves because there are a lot of great players and teams that come out of the BIG EAST conference.” – Kevin Goldthwaite, former Notre Dame student-athlete and current New York Red Bulls player
“We will be playing our tournament in the best soccer stadium in the country, in an area that is passionate about soccer and accessible to fans from all over the northeast corridor. BIG EAST soccer and our fans are big winners under this new agreement.” – Dave Masur, St. John’s men’s soccer head coach
“This is good news for the area we are in. I hope that the partnership is beneficial to both the Red Bulls and the BIG EAST Conference. It will be a great facility and a fitting place for the BIG EAST finals.” – Manny Schellscheidt, Seton Hall men’s soccer head coach