Men's Soccer Preview

Charlotte's Preston Popp and others celebrate during their exhibition match against Winthrop on Aug. 21.  

The Charlotte men's soccer team is kicking off their season Thursday at 7:30 p.m. on Ludwig Field versus the Maryland Terps. Last year's Charlotte men's soccer team finished 6-3-2 overall 6-1 in Conference USA. The 49ers went on to make a post-season showing. However, they lost a tough match against the North Carolina Tarheels in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. 

This year's team is coming off a 2-0 preseason record versus #15 Virginia Tech and Winthrop University. 

Maryland's men's soccer team was 4-5-2 overall and 4-3-1 in the Big Ten conference last year. The Terps have gone 2-1 in their 2021 preseason. They lost their first exhibition game to Temple and then went onto earn two victories versus Lehigh, and #3 ranked Pittsburg. 

The Terps are not entering the season ranked, but according to the United Soccer Coaches poll, they have the highest number of votes of any team not included in the rankings. They are also predicted to finish fourth in the Big Ten by the conference's head coaches. 

Charlotte enters this first match ranked #18 in the country according to the NCAA rankings. The Niners are predicted to finish second in Conference USA behind Marshall again, just as they did in the 2020-2021 Spring season. The 49ers have three players who were named to Conference USA's Preseason Team. 

Players to Watch 

A player who made that list and one to watch tonight is redshirt senior Joe Brito, a seasoned midfielder. Brito earned third-team All-Conference USA in 2019 and first-team All-Conference in the 2020-2021 Spring season. 

Preston Popp was also one of the players named to the preseason team. Popp is a senior forward awarded the Co-Golden Boot Award after scoring five goals in Conference USA Play in the 2020-2021 Spring season. Popp also collected second-team All-Conference for his performance. 

The third player to earn a Conference USA's preseason accolade is Alex Willis. Willis is a senior forward that transferred from Northern Kentucky. After his showing during the Spring season, Willis was named to the First Team All-Conference USA. 

Malcolm Johnston, Brett St. Martin, and Ben Bender were all named Big Ten Players to Watch for Maryland. 

Martin earned second-team All-Big Ten selection last season. Bender earned a Big Ten All-Freshmen selection because of his performance last year. Additionally, Johnston was named on the Big Ten All-Freshman Team in 2019. 

Maryland has gone 2-0 versus Charlotte in their past meetings. This game may be a tough match for Charlotte, even though they are ranked higher. Maryland will be riding a high off their win versus Pitt, and Charlotte is expected to have a chip on their shoulder due to their loss to the Tarheels in post-season play last year. 

There are high hopes surrounding the program this season. A win versus a tough Maryland team who has already beaten a #3 ranked Pittsburg would be a great start to the season. 

The game can be viewed on BIG TEN NETWORK+.

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