BIG EAST Men's Soccer Opens Conference Play Friday

BIG EAST men's soccer opens league competition tonight at 7 p.m. as Pittsburgh plays at Rutgers. On Saturday, two of the weekend's three top-25 matchups will take place when Louisville takes on Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. The No. 5/6 Cardinals, who reached the NCAA College Cup final last season, will play at the No. 17/15 Irish in a game televised on Fox Soccer Channel at 7 p.m. No. 2/2 Connecticut will host No. 12/12 St. John's at 7:30 p.m.

On Sunday, No. 19/16 West Virginia hosts No. 21/18 USF. All 16 BIG EAST teams are in action this weekend. Georgetown is at Villanova, Cincinnati is at Providence, Seton Hall will play at DePaul and Marquette is at Syracuse.

This season, the BIG EAST has four players on the M.A.C. Hermann Trophy Watch List: Carlos Alvarez and Tony Cascio from Connecticut, Austin Berry from Louisville and Raymon Gaddis from West Virginia. There were eight BIG EAST players listed as Soccer America Preseason All-Americans (Alvarez; Cascio; Christianson, Georgetown; Berry; Dylan Mares, Louisville; Colin Rolfe, Louisville; Aaron Maund, Notre Dame; Dillon Powers, Notre Dame).

Connecticut is leading the way with a 6-0-0 record this season, while Louisville is 5-1-0 and St. John's is 5-1-1. Dom Dwyer from USF leads the league with six goals, while Cascio and West Virginia's Shadow Sebele both have a league-high four assists. Connecticut's Andre Blake has a league-leading 0.29 goals against average and .926 save percentage.

Last season, Louisville won the Red Division, while Georgetown won the Blue Division. The BIG EAST Championship final featured the Cardinals against Providence, and UofL advanced on penalty kicks, earning the league's automatic berth to the NCAA Championship. Seven BIG EAST teams were picked to compete in the 2010 NCAAs and six of those seven teams hosted their first tournament games. There were 19 BIG EAST players who earned NSCAA All-Region honors.

The 2011 BIG EAST Men's Soccer Championship will feature the top 12 of the league's 16 teams. Selection and seeding are based on regular-season conference records. The top six teams in each division, seeded by conference point total, qualify for the league championship. The top two teams in each division earn first-round byes to the quarterfinals. The first-round and quarterfinal games will be held on the campuses of the higher-seeded teams. First-round games will be on Nov. 2, with the quarterfinals following on Nov. 5.The semifinals and final will be held, for the second-consecutive year, at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., on Nov. 11 and 13. The champion receives the league's automatic bid to the 48-team NCAA Division I Men's Soccer Championship. CBS Sports Network will air both semifinal games live. The championship game will be broadcast on select BIG EAST regional television outlets and CBS SN.