For the West Virginia University men’s soccer team, it’ll be goodbye MAC, hello Conference USA.
And, for good measure, the move will also welcome a WVU-Marshall conference rivalry back to the fold.
On Monday, Conference USA announced the addition of WVU as an affiliate member for men’s soccer. The Mountaineers will begin play in C-USA for the fall 2022 season.
That’ll put the West Virginia and Marshall men’s soccer programs in the same conference while further strengthening C-USA’s national prominence within the sport.
It is a move Marshall head coach Chris Grassie is excited to see play out for his program, the state and the league.
“It’s great for our conference,” Grassie said. “We’re already one of the top conferences in the country, so adding another Power-5 team to our conference really helps us cement a place in the top three....
“Very, very positive move and then we get to have those big rivalry games every year and it’ll be meaningful, so I think it’s great for the fans, great for soccer and great for our conference.”
Last month, Marshall won the 2020 College Cup — its first in soccer — and was one of three C-USA teams to qualify for the NCAA tournament, joining Charlotte and Kentucky. Coastal Carolina, which will join C-USA soccer this fall, was also an NCAA qualifier.
WVU finished the 2021 spring season with a 6-3-1 overall record and a 4-3-1 record in the MAC. Although they didn’t get an NCAA tournament bid, the Mountaineers finished at No. 12 in the Division I men’s soccer Ratings Percentage Index.
The Mountaineers allowed just six goals and posted six shutouts during the season. WVU earned a pair of victories over future C-USA opponents with a 3-0 shutout at Charlotte and a 1-0 shutout of Marshall in Morgantown.
“As we continue to build upon this year’s national championship in men’s soccer and a very deep and talented lineup of teams, we are pleased to welcome another traditionally strong program in West Virginia to enhance one of our conference’s most successful sports,” said C-USA Commissioner Judy MacLeod.
The addition of West Virginia in 2022 will bring Conference USA to 10 men’s soccer members with Charlotte, FIU, Florida Atlantic, Marshall, Old Dominion and UAB and affiliate members Coastal Carolina (starting in fall 2021), Kentucky and South Carolina.
“Conference USA will be the new home for our men’s soccer program in 2022, and I think it’s a great and positive move for Dan Stratford as he builds our program,” said West Virginia Director of Athletics Shane Lyons. “Nine years ago, our men’s soccer program needed a new home and the Mid-American Conference served us well. We look forward to competing in the MAC for one more year and then turning our attention to a new challenge.”
WVU’s men’s soccer program has won five conference tournament championships and two conference regular-season titles. West Virginia has made 14 appearances in the NCAA Tournament all-time, with its last appearance coming in 2019 when the squad won the MAC Tournament to secure an automatic bid.
Head coach Dan Stratford, a WVU alum and former assistant coach, completed his first season at West Virginia after leading the University of Charleston to a pair of NCAA Division II national championships in 2017 and 2019.
“Strat is a great coach,” Grassie said. “Obviously, I know him very, very well from our time in the PDL and at UC, so I’m happy to have him in the conference. He’s going to provide a great challenge and raise the standard of Conference USA soccer.”
Sports editor Grant Traylor contributed to this report.