DURHAM, N.C.—The Duke men’s soccer team will start the 2018 campaign as the nation’s 10th-ranked squad in the United Soccer Coaches preseason national poll. The Blue Devils finished the 2017 season ranked 13th after advancing to the third round of the NCAA Championship.
The No. 10 mark is the highest preseason ranking for the Blue Devils since coming in at No. 4 in 2007. Duke was tabbed as preseason No. 11 in 2010, the previous highest under head coach John Kerr. The Blue Devils are one of seven ACC programs ranked in the top 17.
The Blue Devils are coming off of an outstanding 13-4-3 campaign in 2017, advancing to the NCAA third round. Duke, ranked for eight straight weeks to end the 2017 regular season, was among the top 25 for multiple consecutive weeks for the first time since it was in the top 25 for seven straight weeks during the 2010 season.
After missing the NCAA Tournament for the previous five seasons, the Blue Devils returned to the field of 48 in 2017 as the No. 6 seed. It was the first time Duke had been seeded since 2006. Duke’s six-game improvement from 2016 matched the best one-year turnaround in Duke history, while the 13 wins were the second-most under Kerr.
Kerr welcomes back seven starters from last year’s squad, including three of the top four scorers from a year ago. Duke’s group of 19 returning players is buoyed by the addition of nine newcomers. The incoming class is ranked sixth by Top Drawer Soccer and consists of a group of seven freshmen and two graduate student transfers.
Senior Daniele Proch is the top returning scorer with five goals and two assists, while sophomore Daniel Wright aims to build on a solid rookie campaign of three goals and two assists. Max Moser and Brandon Williamson are expected to be mainstays in the midfield. Williamson led all field players in minutes played in 2017, while Moser was tied for the team lead in assists with five.
Senior Ciaran McKenna and sophomore Matthias Frick will help to anchor the defensive unit. McKenna missed a good portion of last season to injury, but is prepared for a breakout season after an outstanding spring season for the Blue Devils. Frick started all 14 games at left back and tallied two goals and an assist in his rookie campaign.
In goal, Will Pulisic is back after playing every minute of his freshman season. The All-ACC third team pick posted a 1.01 goals against average and a .761 save percentage and made 67 saves in 20 outings.
Duke opens the season Aug. 24-26 with the John Rennie Nike Invitational. The Blue Devils host FIU Aug. 24 at 7:30 p.m., and play Vermont Aug. 26 at 2:30 p.m.
Overall, Duke is schedule to play against eight preseason top 25 teams in 2017, including three in the top 10.