DURHAM, N.C.—The Duke men’s soccer team makes its return to the NCAA Tournament field as the nation’s No. 6 seed in the field of 48. The Blue Devils receive a bye and will play the winner between FIU and Omaha Sunday, Nov. 19 at 6 p.m., at Koskinen Stadium.
Duke, making its 26th appearance in the NCAA Championship, is a top 16 seed for the fifth time since the NCAA started seeding team and for the first time since it was the top seed in 2006. Sporting a 12-4-2 record and ranked third in the final RPI, the Blue Devils return to the NCAA Championship for the first time since 2011.
“It means a lot [to be selected to the NCAA Tournament],” said head coach John Kerr. “I want to thank the previous teams who have been one win away the past several years. They’ve helped us grow and become the team we are this year. I’m delighted for the seniors and delighted for the group that they’ve performed so well and they’ve earned the No. 6 seed in the tournament. The trick now is to take advantage of it.”
Ticket prices will be announced in the coming days on GoDuke.com. It will be a full weekend of NCAA soccer at Koskinen Stadium with the Duke women slated to host the second and third rounds.
The Blue Devils are 30-24-1 overall in NCAA action. Under head coach John Kerr, Duke is 4-4 in postseason play with two of the losses coming in overtime. The Blue Devils captured the 1986 title and have advanced to three championship games and five NCAA semifinals – the last being 2004.
Duke enters the NCAA Tournament with a 12-4-2 overall record and a 9-3-1 mark at home this season. Brian White is the top scorer for the Blue Devils with nine goals and two assists for 20 points. Sophomore Daniele Proch owns five goals and 12 points overall, while Daniel Wright has three tallies.
“This has always been a big goal, especially for the seniors who haven’t made the tournament” said senior Brian White. “It’s nice to have everyone here and finally make it into the big dance. We’ll either play FIU or Omaha and with those two teams in mind we’ll prepare and take it one game at a time.”
Defensively, the Blue Devils have been excellent and much improved from the 2016 campaign. Duke’s success in the back has been anchored the play of seniors Markus Fjørtoft and Carter Manley. They have been instrumental in mentoring and guiding rookie goalkeeper Will Pulisic and freshman outside back Matthias Frick. Pulisic has been outstanding in his own right, sporting a league-best 0.763 save percentage and a 0.973 goals against average. He has seven shutouts to his name, the most since Alex Long had seven in 2013. All three – Fjørtoft, Manley and Pulisic – were named to the All-ACC third team for their play in the back.
Omaha earned an automatic berth in the tournament by capturing the program’s first Summit League title after outlasting Denver in a penalty kick shootout. The Mavericks are 10-5-3 overall and share a common opponent in Virginia Tech, winning 5-1 in August.
FIU earned an at-large berth in the tournament with a 11-1-4 overall record. The Panthers, the regular season Conference USA champion, fell to Charlotte in the conference semifinals. FIU was ranked eighth in last week’s coaches’ poll as it headed into the Conference USA Tournament undefeated. Averaging 2.94 goals per game, FIU is the nation’s top-ranked scoring offense. The Panthers are led by the nation’s top scorer Santiago Patino. He is averaging 0.94 goals per game and has 35 points on the year.
The winner of Sunday's game advances to the third round to be played at the highest remaining seed. A Duke victory means the Blue Devils will host for one more weekend before having to hit the road.