The University of Wisconsin-Madison mens soccer team kicks off regular-season play with two games this weekend at the Big Toe Soccer Invitational at McClimon Soccer Complex. Wisconsin games are set for Friday, Sept. 3 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 5 at 2:30 p.m.
The tournament, now in its 16th year, is sponsored by Big Toe Soccer, a Madison-based direct marketer of soccer apparel, equipment and footwear. Founded in 1994, the company focuses on soccer players, coaches and teams and is locally owned and operated.
Making their tournament debut are the Dayton Flyers and Evansville Purple Aces. They are joined by tournament veteran, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, who is making their ninth appearance at Madisons invitational. UW-Milwaukee has captured the tournament title three times, in 1995, 1999 and most recently in 2003.
The Badgers hope to re-claim the championship and win their ninth title in the 16-year history of the tournament; however they will not have the opportunity to play Milwaukee head-to-head this weekend. UW-Milwaukee, who went 16-5-1 in 2003, opens tournament play against the Dayton Flyers at 5 p.m., Friday at McClimon.
Following the 5 p.m. game, the Badgers will open their season against Evansville at 7:30 p.m. Although Evansville is new to the tournament, the Badgers have faced them 20 times in their 26-year history, but not since 1999. The Badgers look to improve their series record against the Purple Aces, which is currently 7-12.
Evansville finished the 2003 season with a winning record at 9-7-3, however, failed to win a non-conference away game. Wisconsins defensive line must contain preseason All-American Marc Burch and six other returning starters in order to win the match.
The Badgers also play the Dayton Flyers (12-5-2 in 2003) on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. to close out tournament play after UW-Milwaukee faces Evansville at noon at McClimon. Unlike Evansville, the Badgers have only faced Dayton three times since 1985 and are currently leading the series 2-1.
The Flyers only victory against Wisconsin came last fall in their tournament, The Flyer Classic. Dayton junior forward Chris Rolfe scored two goals in the 2-3 Badger loss, and returns his senior year as a Preseason All-Atlantic 10 selection for 2004 with fellow senior Tye Stebbins. Two freshmen, Aaron Swanson and Chad Tetirick were named to the classics all-rookie team. Look for Wisconsin to shut down these players and avenge their 2003 loss.
Following tournament action, Badger fans have the opportunity to meet the UW squad when players, coaches and 2004 posters will be on hand for Autograph Day. Stay tuned to uwbadgers.com for tournament updates.