CHICAGO - Looking to build off of a record-setting season, head coach Neil Jones released the 2017 schedule for the Loyola University Chicago men's soccer team on Wednesday afternoon. The Ramblers' regular-season slate is highlighted by eight home games and a pair of meetings with 2016 NCAA Tournament participants.
"Both the coaching staff and our student-athletes are extremely excited about our upcoming schedule for the Fall," Jones said. "We'll be tested early on during non-conference play by traditional powers like Xavier and Wisconsin before hosting a pair of NCAA Tournament participants from a year ago in SIUE and UIC. We're also looking forward to taking on local rivals DePaul and Northwestern."
Before opening the season, the Maroon & Gold will see action in three exhibition contests. The Ramblers will take on Milwaukee (Aug. 12) and Marquette (Aug. 19) in Rogers Park, with a road tilt at Northern Illinois (Aug. 15) also on the preseason docket.
Loyola will officially lift the lid on the 2017 campaign when it travels to Cincinnati, Ohio on Aug. 25 for a clash with Xavier. The Ramblers return home the following weekend to co-host the 2017 DoubleTree by Hilton North Shore Chicago Classic. Loyola begins its defense of its Missouri Valley Conference title on Sept. 1 when league newcomer Valparaiso provides the opposition in the home opener before a matinee with La Salle wraps up the event two days later (Sept. 3).
For a third consecutive season, the Ramblers will make the short trip west to DeKalb, Ill. for the NIU Adidas Invitational, where they will take on Texas Rio Grande Valley (Sept. 8) and Stetson (Sept. 10), respectively. Loyola plays its first of four MVC road contests on Sept. 13 when it clashes with Bradley ahead of a stern road test against Big Ten foe Wisconsin (Sept. 16).
Meetings with fellow 2016 NCAA Tournament participants SIUE (Sept. 23) and UIC (Oct. 3) bookend a matchup against Central Arkansas (Sept. 30) as part of a three-game homestand that sees the calendar turn to October. Following back-to-back road games at Drake (Oct. 7) and Evansville (Oct. 14), Loyola will return to Rogers Park to host city-rival DePaul in the latest installment of the Red Line Rivalry on Oct. 17 before wrapping up its season series with Bradley four days later (Oct. 21). The Ramblers close their road schedule the following week with visits to Northwestern (Oct. 24) and Missouri State (Oct. 28) before returning home for a Senior Night tilt with Evansville on Nov. 4.
The 2017 Missouri Valley Conference Men's Soccer Championship will be hosted by Bradley University at Shea Stadium in Peoria, Ill., Nov. 7-12. For a second straight season, all seven Valley members will have the opportunity to battle for the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
"As always, the goal of non-conference play is to prepare us for another challenging season in Missouri Valley Conference," Jones added. "League games always have an extra edge to them and we expect this upcoming season to be no different."
Jones and the Ramblers are coming off banner 2016 season that saw the Maroon & Gold take home the Missouri Valley Conference's regular-season title en route to recording the program's first-ever NCAA Tournament victory. An impressive group of returning letterwinners, highlighted by five All-MVC honorees from a year ago, will be joined by a highly acclaimed recruiting class when Loyola begins competition in August.