The back-to-back Pac-12 champion Stanford men's soccer team received the No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament when the bracket was announced on Monday morning. It's the Cardinal's third straight appearance in the postseason.
The 48-team field has 16 seeded squads, of which the Cardinal is one, that receive byes into the second round. Stanford will host the winner of Cal State Fullerton (13-7-1) and Santa Clara (10-7-1) at Cagan Stadium, where it has yet to lose this season, on Sunday, Nov. 22 at 5 p.m. This will be Stanford's 14th overall NCAA tournament appearance.
"We're excited to move into the tournament," Stanford head coach Jeremy Gunn said. "We've had a tremendous season so far and now it's knockout soccer. You're not really concerned with who the teams are in front of you because you have to do your best to prepare and make sure you're ready to play regardless. Every team in the tournament is there on merit and so every team is going to be posing different types of challenges. It's up to us to be ready come Sunday."
The Cardinal is 15-12-3 all-time in the NCAA tournament and 9-2-3 at home, advancing on penalty kicks in two out of those three draws. Stanford is ranked No. 6 in the latest NSCAA coaches' poll is No. 5 in the RPI, both released early last week. Its stretch of three consecutive postseason berths is the second longest in Stanford history behind a six-year run from 1997 to 2002.
"Keep doing all of the things we've been doing all season," Gunn said of his team's keys to postseason success. "We've played every different type of game against every different type of opponent and I think we've faced each and every challenge in incredible fashion. We should be excited to play against anybody in any condition on any day."
Stanford finished its regular season 14-2-2 overall and 7-1-2 in league action, setting a school record for Pac-12 wins. The Cardinal's seven-point cushion at the top of the Pac-12 standings is the third-largest margin in conference history, only surpassed by nine-point gaps for the champions in 2011 and 2003. Stanford's 14 wins are also tied for sixth in program history and are its most since 2002 (17).
Stanford is 8-0-2 at home this season and is 17-1-6 in its past 24 matches at Cagan Stadium. The Cardinal will enter postseason play with the nation's 11th-best defense in terms of goals against average (0.64). Goalkeeper Andrew Epstein's seven solo shutouts in 2015 are tied for ninth in program single-season history and Stanford's nine total clean sheets are its most since 2009. The team is also 10th in the country in assists per game (2.06) and is led by redshirt senior Eric Verso. His 11 assists are fourth in the NCAA and the most for a Cardinal player since 2002.
The Cardinal is led by a pair of MAC Hermann Trophy candidates in junior forward Jordan Morris and senior defender Brandon Vincent. Morris has a career-high eight goals in 13 appearances for Stanford in 2015. In his past nine games with the Cardinal, the junior has seven goals, two assists and 16 points. He is currently with the U.S. Men's National Team for its first two matches of the 2018 World Cup Qualifying campaign.
Vincent, the 2015 Pac-12 Men's Soccer Scholar-Athlete of the Year, has anchored Stanford's back line over the past four years, starting in each and every one of his 75 appearances. Widely regarded as one of the nation's best defenders, he was a NSCAA/Continental Tire First Team All-American and the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2014.