KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The University of Rio Grande is bound for the “Show Me” state for its participation in the 2020-21 NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship Opening Round.
The RedStorm is part of the four-team pod which is scheduled to play Thursday and Saturday in Marshall, Mo.
Head coach Scott Morrissey’s is the No. 4 seed in the pod and will face top-seeded host Missouri Valley College in Thursday’s opener at 3 p.m. EDT. Second-seeded Spring Arbor (Mich.) and No. 3 seed Hastings (Neb.) will meet in the other semifinal contest at 6 p.m. EDT.
Thursday’s winners will square off in the bracket championship on Saturday, at 3 p.m. EDT, with the survivor moving on to the final site for the 62nd annual championship, May 4-10, at Blanchard Woods Park in Evans, Ga.
Rio Grande (14-4), which is making its 20th all-time national tournament appearance, punched its ticket to the event with a 2-1 win over Oakland City University in Saturday’s River States Conference Championship at Evan E. Davis Field.
This will mark the first time since the NAIA adopted its current tournament format that the RedStorm haven’t served as an opening round host. Rio was out of the NAIA Coaches’ Top 25 for the third straight time last week, resting in 26th place as the first school among those receiving votes.
The RedStorm are seeded 27th overall among the 40 schools in the tourney.
Missouri Valley (14-4-1) is the No. 6 seed overall and earned its spot in the field as the Heart of America Athletic Conference tournament runner-up. The Vikings dropped a 2-0 decision to top-ranked Central Methodist University on Saturday in the HAAC tourney title game.
Missouri Valley is making its 10th all-time national tournament appearance. Its previous trips include a 2-1 double-overtime victory against Rio Grande in the quarterfinal round of the 2018 tourney.
Live video of Thursday’s match is available on a pay-per-view basis ($8) at https://portal.stretchinternet.com/mvc/. Live audio and statistics can be found at https://www.valleywillroll.com/schedule/0/8.php.
This year’s opening round field includes 27 automatic qualifiers and 13 at-large selections. Automatic berths were given to teams that either won their respective conference tournament title, regular-season championship, finished runner-up at the conference tournament, or was selected by their conference in absence of a conference tournament.
The at-large bids were determined by the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Selection Committee, which consisted of one representative from each geographical area, a representative from the National Administrative Council, the president of the NAIA-Men’s Soccer Coaches Association, and four at-large representatives. The committee evaluated teams throughout the year on various criteria.
The NAIA Network – the association’s official video streaming home – will broadcast all 10 matches live at the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship final site. The video platform, powered by Stretch Internet, allows users access to live video, statistics, and social interaction on a number of devices, including mobile.
Single day passes can be purchased for $9.95, while an all-championship tournament package is available at $29.95.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.