As the 22nd-ranked Louisville men's soccer team (3-2-0) prepares for its first trip to UCF (2-2-2) in program history, they're also preparing for the beginning of their only season in the new American Athletic Conference.
Coincidentally, Louisville hasn't met Central Florida on the pitch since September 21, 2003, exactly 10 years prior to this year's encounter. Louisville was the 1-0 victor in the neutral-field game in 2003.
Saturday night's match in Orlando is only the beginning of an eight-game conference slate in which they will face four new in-conference opponents. This week on the Scoop de Ville, we're taking a look at those teams, how they've fared this season and how the Cardinals have done against them all-time.
The Temple Owls will be the next AAC foe for Louisville when they travel to Cardinal Park on Saturday, Sept. 28. That match will be the first time the two programs have played each other. The Owls are currently 4-2.
Next on the conference schedule will be the SMU Mustangs, a program that has spent its fair share of time in the national rankings in recent years. They're currently 1-5 on the season, and will welcome the Cardinals to Dallas on Sunday, Oct. 6. The only previous match between Louisville and SMU came in 2000 when the Cards fell to the Mustangs 2-1 on a neutral field.
Upon their return from the Lone Star State, Louisville will turn its attention to a familiar opponent from the former Big East Conference, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Rutgers is 3-2-1 this season, and the Cards hold a 4-2-2 advantage in the all-time series. Louisville will be looking to avenge last season's 2-1 loss in Piscataway when the two teams play this season at Cardinal Park.
Perhaps the marquee match of the AAC schedule will arrive at Cardinal Park on Saturday, Oct. 19 when the Connecticut Huskies come to town. Connecticut is the only other ranked team in the AAC (#12 in the NSCAA Coaches' Poll), and they have beaten Louisville in four of the five all-time matches between the two. The Huskies are 2-2-1 this season.
The Cardinals will make the short drive up I-71 to play the Cincinnati Bearcats on Wednesday, Oct. 23. Louisville's most familiar opponent, the Bearcats are 2-3-1 on the year. The October match will be the 39th time the two sides have met, and Cincinnati holds the all-time series lead with a record of 21-16-1 against the Cards.
Louisville's penultimate regular season AAC match will be their second straight on the road when they go to Memphis to face the Tigers on Saturday, Oct. 26. Memphis is 4-1-1 this year, and like Cincinnati, the Tigers hold an all-time series lead over the Cards at 13-6-1. The two teams last met in 2007, with the Cardinals falling 1-0 in Memphis.
In their final regular season match in the AAC, the Cardinals will meet the USF Bulls, who are 14-7-2 all-time against Louisville. The Cards won the last match between the two in a 2-1 victory in Tampa last season. South Florida is 1-1-2 so far this year.
While the Cardinals' stay in the American Athletic Conference will be short, they hope to leave their mark as the first men's soccer champion in conference history. The Cards have quite the road ahead before the AAC meets for that first championship in Frisco, Texas in November.
Be sure to stay tuned to the Scoop de Ville and GoCards.com for updates along the way as the Cardinals commence their pursuit of a conference championship on Saturday night. Kickoff against the UCF Knights in Orlando is scheduled for 7 p.m., ET and subscribers of CardsTV can watch the match online here.