[UPDATED at 4:05 p.m. Eastern to reflect BGSU, NIU and WMU joining new affiliate conferences, and to release Akron’s statement regarding the MAC’s move to suspend men’s soccer.]
After a long stretch of success in its heyday, the Mid-American Conference announced on Friday afternoon the conference will no longer sponsor men’s soccer at the conclusion of the 2022 season.
The news comes on the heels of the conference’s title game on Saturday afternoon, as the Akron Zips, ranked #12 in the country, are set to host the Western Michigan Broncos in to conclude the 2022 postseason tournament.
The MAC has long been considered one of the tougher men’s soccer conferences in the NCAA, with MAC commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher describing the sport as having a a “enviable and proud” soccer tradition.
MAC men’s soccer members enjoyed a lot of spoils in the three decades, with several programs earning national rankings and making deep runs in the national tournament scene; no team was more successful in this regard than the Akron Zips, with 24 NCAA tournament appearances, four national title game appearances and a national title in 2010.
Akron won the postseason MAC tournament 15 times, with Bowling Green and Northern Illinois tied for three wins each. Miami won a postseason tournament in 1994 before suspending their program, and Western Michigan has won once, in 2003.
Two former MAC soccer stars are set to represent their respective countries in the Qatar 2022 World Cup this month, with DeAndre Yedlin set to represent the U.S. men’s national team and Richie Lareya set to represent Canadian men’s national team.
In recent years, however, MAC men’s soccer had faced an uphill road for relevancy, as four different affiliate members left the conference over the last two seasons, including SIU-Edwardsville, Georgia State, Georgia Southern and West Virginia, who had been a member of the conference dating back to 2013.
“... [T]he challenges of maintaining sufficient membership, given the small number of full members sponsoring the sport, finally caught up to us,” Steinbrecher said via press release on Friday. “If in the future the conference membership includes more institutions sponsoring men’s soccer, this decision will be re-examined.”
Fielding sufficient membership had always been difficult, with the conference having to rely on affiliate members to make up numbers for decades as less than half of their full members typically did not sponsor the sport. Since 1995, eight different institutions from outside the MAC have come and gone from the sport, with four of those leaving the conference within a season or two.
At present, just four full-time MAC members sponsor men’s soccer, including Akron, Bowling Green, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan, with Chicago State joining as the fifth affiliate member this offseason.
The conference stated they are helping their current full-time members find affiliate conferences to join, with Bowling Green, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan announcing their exodus to the Missouri Valley Conference this afternoon.
Akron is the only MAC member who currently is without an affiliation past 2022, stating they are “in the process” of finding membership in “an elite conference.”
“We understand the extremely difficult decision announced today by the Mid-American Conference to suspend sponsorship of men’s soccer following the close of the 2022 NCAA Division I men’s soccer championship,” athletic director Charles Guthrie said via press release on Friday afternoon. “We commend the conference and its leadership for the tremendous support they’ve provided to UA Men’s Soccer over the last several decades.”
Chicago State is expected to revert to being an independent program starting in 2023.
This is a developing story and will be updated as news breaks.