In collegiate soccer, the United Soccer Coaches is most known for their Hermann trophy and their weekly rankings. The problem is that they are objectively horrendous at the latter.
At any point this season, do you think that Pitt women’s soccer would’ve beaten Louisville? Or that Florida could lose to South Carolina or Vanderbilt? Did you, for a single second, suspend your disbelief at the validity of Duke men’s soccer’s no. 2 ranking last fall?
If you answered “no” to all of those questions, congratulations: you’re officially more competent than the United Soccer Coaches!
Consider the United Soccer Coaches poll from just before the 2019 Women’s College Cup. Inexplicably, Memphis and South Florida are each top-20 teams despite being each other’s only quality win. BYU is ranked fourth! With just two quality wins all season, they were somehow ranked over South Carolina, Florida State, and UCLA, and got walloped by Stanford 1-5 in the tournament. The difference between the no. 1 and no. 4 teams should not be four goals.
I recognize that selecting and ordering the best 25 — or right now, the best 15 — schools in the entire nation is tough business. Soccer is a difficult sport to evaluate. A college football game will typically feature double-digit scoring opportunities and triple-digit discrete plays, whereas soccer has very few of either. There are soccer positions who never record a box score stat and can’t be evaluated without watching both them and all the players around them.
But I’m pretty sure that anyone should’ve been able to tell last year that Memphis wasn’t getting past Wazzu, and Brigham Young didn’t stand a chance against Stanford. And that a 2020 Panthers team whose only conference win was over the lowly Orange, and who had to schedule App State and The Citadel twice each, was not a top team!
The only explanation is that the Coaches are playing an elaborate prank. The only way to explain how nearly all of the top ten tend to stay the same from week one to week 12, but the rest are hilariously wrong, is that the United Soccer Coaches poll is a long ruse.
Or perhaps it’s even more sinister. This could be a coordinated campaign against the public. While we sit here wondering how a professional group can believe that Notre Dame is the 14th-best active team in the country, the Coaches could be manipulating public opinion to sinister ends, or accepting under-the-table payments to provide rankings, or far worse.
Regardless, collegiate soccer needs a much better poll system than this. A better world is possible. And it starts with each of us, signing petitions and calling our local representatives and asking them to divest from the United Soccer Coaches Poll.
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