The Sun Belt Conference will bring back men’s soccer beginning in fall 2022, the league announced on Wednesday, and it will include the WVU program.
The Mountaineers competed in the Mid-American Conference since 2012, and were originally supposed to join Conference USA, announced in January 2021.
“Previously, we had planned to have our men’s soccer team compete in Conference USA, but realignment has changed those plans,” WVU athletic director Shane Lyons said. “Moving our men’s soccer program to the Sun Belt Conference gives us the best chance to compete nationally in a strong soccer conference.
“I want to thank Conference USA Commissioner Judy MacLeod for inviting us to be a part of the league’s men’s soccer lineup, but circumstances change constantly, and competing in the Sun Belt Conference is now the best option going forward for our soccer program at this time.”
Nine teams will comprise Sun Belt Conference men’s soccer; three of the new Sun Belt members (as of July 1) James Madison, Marshall, and Old Dominion will join Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, and Georgia State. In addition, Kentucky and South Carolina will compete as affiliate members for men’s soccer only. The Sun Belt previously sponsored men’s soccer from 1976-95 and 2014-20.
“These elite programs will lend instant credibility and help establish the Sun Belt as one of the nation’s premier men’s collegiate soccer conferences,” commissioner Keith Gill said. “They each bring their unique traditions and histories of excellence. We welcome them and look forward to a bright future on the pitch.”
The Sun Belt men’s soccer membership will boast some of the sport’s most accomplished programs. The nine teams have combined for more than 100 all-time NCAA tournament appearances.
Marshall claimed the 2020 NCAA Championship, becoming the first unseeded team to accomplish the feat in nearly 15 years. South Carolina is one of just 24 programs all-time to make 20 or more NCAA Tournament appearances, finishing as national runners-up in 1993. West Virginia has appeared in 15 NCAA tournaments and advanced to the national quarterfinal last fall.
“We’re very excited to be a part of a new era of Sun Belt Conference men’s soccer,” WVU coach Dan Stratford said. “With the changing landscape of college athletics, this move took some time, but we couldn’t be more thrilled with our outcome. This is a great move for our program, and we are proud to be among what we believe will become a premier conference in men’s soccer.”
The Mountaineers are coming off a 12-3-6 season where they lost in the third round of the NCAA tournament to Georgetown, on penalty kicks.
Saturday, September 17 — vs. Coastal Carolina
Saturday, September 24 — at Marshall
Saturday, October 1 — vs. South Carolina
Saturday, October 8 — at Old Dominion
Saturday, October 15 — vs. Kentucky
Wednesday, October 19 — at James Madison
Sunday, October 23 — vs. Georgia State
Friday, October 28 — at Georgia Southern