Kentucky’s men’s soccer program continues to make history in the 2022 season, this time with an eye on playoff success.
The Wildcats – the only undefeated team left in Division I men’s college football — were awarded the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament on Monday, setting up to three NCAA Tournament games in Lexington in the coming weeks.
As the first seed, Kentucky – which won both the Sun Belt Conference regular season and tournament championships – is positioned to host Round of 16, Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matches at the Wendell and Vickie Bell Soccer Complex.
The College Cup, which includes the national semi-finals and the national championship game, will take place in early December at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina.
Kentucky has compiled a 14-0-5 record (WLD) this season, including his three-game run to the Sun Belt Tournament title last week.
Kentucky previously played in C-USA, before moving to the Sun Belt Conference during the offseason.
Great Britain will start the NCAA tournament in the Round of 16 at 6 p.m. Sunday at the Bell Soccer Complex against South Florida (8-6-4) or Hofstra (14-3-3), who meet on Thursday.
Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament best performance came 2018, when the Cats reached the Elite Eight for the first and only time before losing at home to Maryland.
Kentucky will face South Florida or Hofstra in the Round of 16
Kentucky’s path to the College Cup will pass through Lexington, but it won’t be without challenges for head coach Johan Cedergren’s team.
For starters, the UK will host South Florida or Hofstra on Sunday.
South Florida reached the American Athletic Conference Tournament title game and scored a breakthrough regular season win over Tulsa, a team that held the United Kingdom to a tie.
The Bulls aren’t scoring much, registering just 24 goals in 18 appearances this season. But South Florida also allowed just 24 goals, with senior redshirt goaltender Jackson Weyman playing all 18 games and recording four shutouts.
Hofstra won the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament Championship to earn an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament field.
Pride boasts a pair of double-digit scorers in junior forward Ryan Carmichael (10 goals) and sophomore midfielder Eliot Goldthorp (15 goals). In total, Hofstra has scored 42 goals this season (an average of 2.1 goals per game).
Looking further into the future, a potential matchup with Louisville could await Kentucky in the Elite Eight.
UK beat the U of L, 3-2, in a thrilling September game in Lexington.
The other seeded teams in the British quadrant of the NCAA Tournament bracket are Oregon State’s No. 8, Lipscomb’s No. 9 and Akron’s No. 16.
Kentucky defeated Lipscomb, 3-2, in September at Lexington.
The top four seeds in the field are No. 1 Kentucky, No. 2 Washington, No. 3 Syracuse and No. 4 Virginia.
UK will enter NCAA Tournament without top scorer
Kentucky will be without its top scorer for its Round of 16 game against South Florida or Hofstra.
Senior Striker Eythor Bjorgolfsson (10 goals) received a red card for violent conduct in the Sun Belt Tournament UK Championship win over James Madison on Sunday. Bjorgolfsson will serve a one-game suspension at the opener of the NCAA Tournament in the UK.
Attacking versatility, however, has been England’s calling card this season.
Excluding Bjorgolfsson, four Wildcats have scored five or more goals this season. Senior midfielder Nick Gutmann is the NCAA Division I men’s soccer leader in assists (16), and Kentucky’s 2.53 goals per game average is one of the top six nationally.
Additionally, the Cats rank ninth nationally in shots on goal per game with 7.37.
UK Set to Host Throughout NCAA Tournament
Last season, Kentucky received the No. 9 seed for the NCAA Tournament.
Because the UK was the No. 9 seed, the Cats had to travel to the Tigers (the No. 8 seed overall) for this game.
Playing a real road game in the NCAA Tournament won’t be something the UK will have to worry about this season.
The last time a No. 1 seed overall won the NCAA Tournament was in 2011, when North Carolina accomplished the feat.
The 2022 NCAA Tournament will mark Kentucky’s 12th National Playoff appearance. Nine of those appearances (including this season) have come under Cedergren.
This story was originally published November 14, 2022 2:42 p.m.