The Sun Belt Announces Plan for Soccer


Justin Zimmer, Reporter

The Sun Belt Conference announced Wednesday that it plans to bring back men’s soccer for the 2022 season.  

The nine-member league in the Sun Belt includes James Madison, Marshall and Old Dominion, Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern and Georgia State. In addition, West Virginia, Kentucky, and South Carolina affiliate members of Conference USA will join the Sun Belt Conference.  

The Sun Belt commissioner Keith Gil said that with its members for soccer, the Sun Belt establishes a national powerhouse in the game.  

“These elite programs will lend instant credibility and help establish Sunbelt as one of the nation’s premier bids collegiate soccer conferences,” Gil said. “The DI programs have combined for more than 100 All-Time NCAA Tournament appearances.”  

Marshall head coach Chris Grassie talked about how the Sun Belt Conference allows the program and its other members to be in one of the best conferences for soccer. “I think, you know, as coaches we kind of saw an opportunity that to kind of create a really top conference that was always in the Power Five in terms of men’s soccer—that is always trying to produce national champions in every as getting, you know, five, six teams in the tournament, and that being the goal of the of the conference and I’ve been really proud to be a new member of the Sunbelt.” 

One of the biggest additions to the Sun Belt is Marshall’s biggest rival, the West Virginia University Mountaineers.  

West Virginia head coach Chris Stratford talked about how now the rivalry has more at stake than simple bragging rights.  

“I think it was always going to be a long-standing rivalry between ourselves and Marshall regardless, given the nature of my relationship with Chris,” Stratford said, “but to now to have it in conference and again, just have potentially more bragging rights either way on potential conference tournaments and conference titles will go a long way to continue to promote those as well.”  

Grassie also talked about how now there is more at stake than the Mountain State Derby can be a large-scale event.  

“To have three points on the line is just makes it that much more meaningful of a game that is already such a simple rivalry and such a super draw,” Grassie said, “but we’re happy to basically put the event on and we’re both going to try and have great teams and have a great spectacle of soccer out there.” 

Additionally, on Wednesday, The Sun Belt announced the 2022 Conference Schedule for men’s soccer. For Marshall League, play begins Sept. 17 at Kentucky. On Saturday, Sept. 24, Marshall’s soccer will have its home conference debut versus in-state rival West Virginia. On Oct. 1, Marshall men’s soccer will travel to Coastal Carolina and then on the following week on Oct. 8, South Carolina. On Oct. 15, Marshall will return home to take on the Old Dominion Monarchs. On Oct. 19, the Thundering Herd will travel to Atlanta to take on Georgia State. On Oct. 23, Marshall will play Georgia Southern and then round out conference by playing on Nov. 1 against James Madison.