By Chad Waller
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — (Live Video) (Live Stats) (Press Book – PDF) The 52nd annual NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship final site event will begin on Nov. 29 with four matches from Orange Beach, Ala. Sixteen teams will compete in the single-elimination tournament from the Orange Beach Sportsplex. The second round concludes on Nov. 30, followed by quarterfinal matches on Dec. 1, the semifinal round on Dec. 3 and the National Championship final on Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. CST.
No. 1-seed Rio Grande (Ohio) and Bethel (Tenn.) get the event kicked-off with a Noon match on Nov. 29. One of four undefeated teams in the National Championship field, Rio Grande has been ranked No. 1 in the final four Coaches’ Top 25 polls. The RedStorm (22-0) will face a Bethel (13-5-1) program that won the title back in 2008 and has not yielded a goal in six of its last seven matches this season.
Three at-large teams have qualified for the event, which include No. 7 William Jewell (Mo.), No. 8 Belhaven (Miss.) and No. 15 Science & Arts (Okla.). Science and Arts is one of three teams to be making its first trip to the National Championship, joining Great Falls (Mont.) and Vanguard (Calif.). Great Falls and Science & Arts meet each other on Nov. 29 at 2:30 p.m. Vanguard squares off against No. 4 Notre Dame (Ohio) at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 29.
No. 9 Mobile (Ala.) leads the current field with 19 National Championship victories in 14 appearances. Close behind is Rio Grande with 17 wins in 10 straight trips. These two programs are the only teams this year that hold more than 10 National Championship wins. Mobile takes on fellow conference member No. 8 Belhaven (Miss.) on Nov. 30 at 7:30 p.m.
Last year’s national champion, Lindsey Wilson (Ky.), was bounced out in the National Championship Opening Round on Nov. 20. The Blue Raiders fell to Southern Poly State (Ga.), 2-1. There are four teams competing in Orange Beach who have won the National Championship, Bethel (2008), Rio Grande (2003), Mobile (2002) and Belhaven (1992).
The Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Sports Commission, the University of Mobile and the City of Orange Beach serve as hosts for the first time. The state of Alabama has hosted seven previous National Championships, which includes the cities of Birmingham, Huntsville and Mobile.
NeuLion is the NAIA’s Digital Media Partner and official video-streaming company of nine select NAIA National Championship events. All 15 matches from Orange Beach will be available via live video stream for $24.95 and any single day can be purchased for $9.95. Refer to the Championship schedule, which can be found by clicking here.
For more information on the National Championship, click here.