Everything you could ask about USPORTs nationals

University nationals always make a crazy week. You go in trying to do a little coverage and you end up having liveblogged six games in 48 hours. It’s nuts. Welcome to the madness.

I’ll have liveblogs going throughout the weekend, and because time is in fact a commodity, this is less a preview and more a very quick overview of some topics that I’ll no doubt be talking about tomorrow–provided I  am capable of forming words at all by the end of game #4.

I am not doing the women’s tournament unless somebody finds me a time machine and I can’t cover all the consolation games because I have to ref during some of them.

How does this work and when does it start?

Technically, 3pm Atlantic / 11am Pacific. (I lived in Vancouver for a while–lovely city–and Pacific and Atlantic are the two time-zones I can do. Don’t ask me about the rest.)

If this is your first CI–USPORTs nationals, you’ll quickly learn that Thursday is the best day by a long way. Each of the four quarterfinals is essentially a knockout game–win and you’ll play in a medal game, lose and you’re condemned to the consolation round. That’s how, last year, the powerhouse York Lions ended up playing for the wooden spoon after losing on the Thursday to Thompson Rivers.

Upsets tend to be comoon. Best come prepared.

It’s also a long, crazy day full of crazy stuff happening. University soccer is like that.

Watch for that last game today, too–UBC and Carleton are both teams with medal-round calibre talent and only one of ’em is getting there.

Who’s the favourite?

Probably Cape Breton, by virtue of being defending champions and having just posted an undefeated season while never quite getting into fifth gear. They’re also ranked #1 nationlly.

The national rankings are better than they used to be–they use ELO now instead of a selection of coach’s horoscopes like in gridiron–but the system is still basically bunk because of the way the conferences stack up. AUS is the weakest, OUA probably the best.

It’s never a bad idea to put your stock behind Carmine Isacco and York, especially if you are, like me, a long-suffering TFC fan who can name all the guys who didn’t quite make it to the first team after all, many of whom now turn out fo rYork.

Montreal were the team Cape Breton arguably upset last year in the final–indeed, Montreal outplayed the Capers. You never quite know what’s coming from the Carabins, which is not something that always works to the Carabins’ advantage.

UBC are the dynasty of old and won Canada West despite having a bye to nationals as hosts. They’re not what they were a few years ago, but can still win it all on their day.

UNB have been underdogs all year, and they probably enjoy that, but their season was arguably better than Cape Breton’s–certainly, they hit more highs. Yeah, they needed some heroics to get here, but who didn’t? Like most AUS second seeds, they’re probably more of a banana peel for some contender to slip on than a real medal threat, but don’t tell them that, especially given last year’s results would back them up: a marginal extra-time loss to UBC in the quarters. Anything can happen.

Carleton are a good darkhorse pick. This isn’t their basketball team, which is incredible, but the Ravens are consistent soccer contenders, too, and lost both the past OUA finals to York. It’s a bit like UNB and Cape Breton, but Carleton are better than UNB.

I have absolutely no idea about UQAM. Is this a good time to admit I don’t follow RSEQ at all?

That’s OK, I’ll just check the website–aaargh! My eyes!

Yeah, me too.

The RSEQ is incomprehensible in a way you almost have to admire for its sheer old-timey university sports vibe. The new USPORTs site is an affront to civilization. Making it even worse is that the old CIS site used to be one fo the most useful, well-designed sites in sports.

There’s not much info on the national site. There is sometimes a more useful weekend event page separate from the main site. If I find that, I’ll post it.

I just came for the CanPL stuff. What’s this about a draft?

There will be a draft of USPORTs players on November 12th, after the tournament. Nobody is quite sure how it’s going to work, including possibly the league itself. Loosely, non-graduating players can be drafted to developmental contracts with CanPL clubs. Think of it more like a loan agreement between clubs than anything like the NCAA draft, except that apparently they have time-outs.

The quirks of CanPL mean that some of the top talent at this tournament may not be in the draft, either because they’re graduating players who would (theoretically) be free to attend any training camp next year (the draft allows player sharing between CanPL and USPORTs) or because they’re not Canadians (CanPL has fairly strict player quotas and I doubt many USPORTs players will be worth dropping an international slot on).

This will hit Cape Breton particularly hard, as they have a very international flair. Still, players will be playing to impress the CanPL coaches, draft or no draft–they will all be there, and this is a big opportunity for players to continue in the game.

If you want to pre-scout, look instead to York. A lot of their top talent is Canadian. Cristian Cavallini and Dylan Carreiro could both find their way onto CanPL teams.

How to watch

There’s a webcast, and the quality from UBC, when last I saw one (about five years ago, but still) is usually pretty good. Thunderbird Stadium’s a nice venue (especially if you like stained concrete) so there shouldn’t be too much difficulty with rain or wind, which often wreak havoc on this tournament.

EDIT: The streams cost $9.99/day and $14.99 for the whole tournament, which is mighty steep for what you’ll get.

Make sure you follow along here, too, or else I get very lonely on the liveblogs and you wouldn’t want that, would you?

About Dylan Matthias 244 Articles
Captain of this motley crew. Formerly editor-in-chief at The Dalhousie Gazette, covering university soccer and Halifax news from a student perspective. Once a Vancouverite, always a Haligonian.

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