Around the American: UConn, UCF, SMU battle for regular season title

The Men's Soccer team defeats Temple University in a close game 2-1 in one of their final home games this season. They improve their record to 9-2-2.Soccer team defeats Temple University in a close game 2-1 on one of their final home games this season. They improve their record to 9-2-2. Photo by Charlotte Lao, Photo Editor/The Daily Campus

Nonconference play has drawn to a close in men’s soccer, and now each team in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) has just two games remaining on its regular season schedule, both against conference opponents. With six possible points remaining, here’s a look at how the conference stands heading into the home stretch, as the regular season champion is determined by the end next week.

It was a perfect week for UConn (10-2-2, 3-0-2 The American), winning both of its matches and picking up all three conference points to remain at the top of the American standings with 11 points. Ranked No. 15 in the United Soccer Coaches national poll, the Huskies are up five spots from a week ago.

UConn took care of business with two home wins, first against conference foe Temple on Saturday and then Vermont on Tuesday, remaining undefeated at Morrone Stadium. Both games required comebacks and late-game heroics to pull out a win, but with University of Central Florida (UCF) and Southern Methodist University (SMU) hot on their heels, the Huskies will take the points however they can get them.

Just one point behind UConn in a tie for second place are UCF and SMU, each with 10 conference points. No. 13 UCF (10-2-2, 3-1-1) has the tiebreaker if needed, as they defeated the Mustangs 2-0 back on Sept. 28. Like the Huskies, the Knights picked up all three possible points this week, defeating Florida Gulf Coast in their last nonconference matchup before picking up a much-needed victory over University of Southern Florida (USF) on Saturday.

SMU (7-4-2, 3-1-1) played only one match this week but took full advantage, taking down AAC cellar-dweller Cincinnati 3-1 at home. That victory, the 600th in program history, not only kept pace with UConn and UCF, but also officially qualifies the Mustangs for the conference tournament—now it’s just a question of which of the six seeds they’ll secure.

If the regular season ended today, the other three postseason seeds would be secured by USF (eight conference points), Memphis (seven points) and Temple (four points). But with Tulsa and Cincinnati just one point out of the playoff picture, and six points on the table remaining, every team is still very much alive.

With that said, teams can’t afford to slow down with the postseason in sight, but that’s what USF (5-7-2, 2-1-2) has done as of late. The Bulls, currently in fourth place in the conference, followed up a loss to UCF with a loss to Florida International. The latter result won’t hurt their conference positioning, but with just one win in their last four games, USF has hit a rough patch. However, with two winnable games against Cincy and Memphis remaining, the Bulls have plenty of room to gain some ground.

In the only other in-conference matchup of the week, Memphis (7-4-4, 2-2-1) picked up a crucial victory over Tulsa on Saturday, leapfrogging Temple in the standings and settling just one point behind struggling USF for fourth place.

In the week ahead, easily the biggest game of the slate is Saturday’s matchup between UConn and SMU, which may very well decide who wins the regular season title and gets to host the tournament. Depending on how UCF fares against Memphis on Saturday, the winner of the UConn-SMU match will likely seize first place, while the loser will likely fall out of the top three.

UConn’s head coach Ray Reid said on Tuesday that it will be the most important game that the Huskies have played in four years. The farewell game at Morrone Stadium should be a good one.


Andrew Morrison is the associate sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at andrew.morrison@uconn.edu. He tweets at @asmor24