The Charlotte 49ers men's soccer team will face the Georgia State Panthers in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The 49ers received an at-large bid selection as they hope to make a deep run in the tournament.
"Very proud and excited for the players to make the tournament selection," said Head Coach Kevin Langan. "The best 48 division one teams in the country are selected, and it is well deserved for us. It shows what a great regular season the men have had. We are excited to get back out and perform on our field in front of our fans."
About the teams:
The 49ers finished the season with a 10-5-1 overall and 5-3 in conference play. Florida Atlantic eliminated Charlotte in the first round of the Conference USA (C-USA) tournament in penalty kicks. The teams performance throughout the season led to the team being selected for the NCAA tournament for the 16th time.
Georgia State boasts a record of 12-6 overall and 3-3 in the MAC conference. The Panthers fell in the MAC final to the North Illinois Huskies in extra time. This is the fourth meeting for both teams.
Players to Watch For:
Daniel Kuzemka, Charlotte:
The 49ers redshirt senior goalie Kuzemka will be essential for the team in the contest. He has 55 saves on the season and doesn't let many shots get past him. Kuzemka will have to step up if Charlotte wants to make a push to the second round,
"We are pushing each other," said Kuzemka. "We are going back to our identity, training hard and want to play our style of soccer on the biggest stage of division one college soccer, the NCAA soccer tournament."
Preston Popp, Charlotte:
The senior forward has led the team in big moments throughout his tenure with the 49ers. Popp has a team-high eight goals and the season and has combined for 19 points this season. So keep an eye on him in the contest.
Ethan Sassine, Georgia State:
In his first season with the squad, Sassine has made an immediate impact with a team-leading six goals and 13 points. However, the 49ers will have to contain him if they want to come out on top.
Key to a Charlotte victory:
The first key for a 49er victory is to put pressure on the Panthers' defense early on. If the team does this, it will lead to more scoring chances in the game.
Charlotte needs to come out firing on all cylinders and keep the energy throughout the contest. The 49ers need to control the pace and gain an advantage early on.
"I think soccer is a sport where playing at home is an advantage," said Langan. "We have to take advantage of the occasion and force our identity on the match and make it go our way."
Charlotte will face Georgia State in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday, Nov. 18. The match at Transamerica Field will get underway at 7 p.m. and will also be available to stream on ESPN+. If the 49ers win, they will advance to the second round and travel away for the match at Georgetown on Sunday, Nov. 21, at 11 a.m.