As of last night, a 1-1 draw to #20 (coaches)/#13 (College Soccer News) Wake Forest, the Charlotte 49ers (unranked in coaches poll, receiving votes in CSN poll) had faced three nationally ranked opponents–Coastal Carolina, a win, and UAB, a draw.
Starting Friday, that all changes. Five of the next six Niner opponents are either ranked in one or both of the major national polls or receiving votes–three of them play in Conference USA.
It starts with a trip out west to Conference USA foe New Mexico, who dropped out of the coaches’ poll after a loss to UC Davis at home but is 24th in the writers’ poll. Then it’s back home on Wednesday the 9th to host Old Dominion, who is receiving votes in the coaches’ poll after tying Maryland and beating Tulsa, both ranked opponents. After that, it’s off to visit the aforementioned #23/#15 Tulsa on Sunday the 13th. After a “break” against struggling Kentucky at home on the 19th, the stretch concludes with #13/#17 Clemson at Transamerica Field on the 23rd.
This is arguably one of the more treacherous stretches the Niners have played in a while. They’re getting into the heart of competition in Conference USA, one of the top men’s soccer conferences in the country, so it’s important for them to show well if they are to build a strong resume for November and the NCAA Tournament. Even the game against a sub-150 RPI team like Kentucky is important–a loss could do some damage to their NCAA hopes.
But if Kevin Langan and his team approach things the way they have in the past, they should be able to not only compete, but win.