SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The Sacramento State men's soccer team is now officially an associate member of the Big West Conference, joining seven other California universities in one of the strongest soccer leagues in the country.
The league announced the Hornets' acceptance to the Big West on May 24, 2011 and the move took place on July 1, 2012.
"We are very excited to make this move," said Dr. Terry Wanless, Sacramento State director of athletics. "The Big West is a strong men's soccer league and allows us to renew rivalries against regional competition."
The Hornets, coached by Michael Linenberger in his 24th season, will be grouped with UC Santa Barbara, Cal Poly and rival UC Davis in the North Division while Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Northridge, UC Irvine and UC Riverside form the South Division.
Sacramento State will play each of its North Division foes twice, both home and away, but will play South Division teams just once, with two road games and two home games. The Hornets will play a total of 10 conference games in the Big West with games scheduled on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
"This move makes a ton of sense for us," Linenberger said. "We have had a lot of success in recent seasons and look forward to the challenge of playing in the Big West."
The top two teams from each league will advance to the Big West Tournament, with the winner claiming the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Last year No. 1 seed UC Irvine knocked off No. 2 seed UC Santa Barbara in the conference tournament final, 3-2, in double overtime. UC Davis was the No. 3 seed while UC Riverside was the No. 4 seed.
The Big West reinstated men's soccer in 2001 after a nine-year hiatus and since that season, UC Santa Barbara has won the regular season a league-best six times while UC Irvine has won it three times, but all in the last four years. Cal State Northridge claimed the regular season crown twice.
The Big West Tournament was started in 2008 and UC Irvine won that season and also in 2009 and 2011. UCSB took the tournament title in 2010.
While UC Irvine has been the strongest team in the Big West over the last four seasons, the Hornets join the conference after a similarly dominant run in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
The Hornets, who played in the MPSF for 20 seasons, won back-to-back MPSF Tournament titles in 2009 and 2010, advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in each of those seasons as well. Last year Sacramento State finished second in the four-team Pacific Division and third overall. The Hornets lost to San Jose State in the first round of the MSPF Tournament.
Last year the Hornets played three Big West teams in non-conference action, winning at UC Davis but losing at UC Riverside and UCSB.