The road to Philadelphia begins on Thursday for the 48 teams selected to play in the NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship.
The action starts on Thursday with 16 play-in games with the winners taking on the 16 seeded teams in the second round on Sunday.
The final four will be played December 8 and 10 at Talen Energy Stadium, the home of the Philadelphia Union.
Here’s a look at what to watch for over the next few weeks.
A 17-1-2 record in the regular season helped Wake Forest clinch the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The only loss on the Demon Deacons’ schedule came on September 5 at the hands of Georgia State.
Wake ran through the treacherous ACC schedule without a loss and it might have to slay a few more conference opponents on its way to the trophy. Clemson, Notre Dame and Louisville all reside on the same side of the bracket as the Demon Deacons.
They defeated eighth-seeded Clemson once in the regular season and again at the ACC Tournament, while they also have a win over Louisville.
Offensively, the Demon Deacons are led by Jon Bakero, who recorded 14 goals and 14 assists and 10-goal scorer Ema Twumasi. Brandon Servania is also one to watch after picking 11 assists this season.
The top 16 seeds are littered with ACC teams, but the Big Ten has a few sides that are seeded to, with No. 2 Indiana leading the charge.
The Hoosiers didn’t lose a game in the regular season, but they were held to five ties and fell to Wisconsin on penalties in the Big Ten Tournament final.
Most of their ties have come against ranked foes, including Michigan State, who sits on the other side of the Hoosiers’ bracket as the No. 7 seed.
Indiana may not have a collection of 10-goal scorers, but it has had 12 different players find the back of the net in 2017, led by Mason Toye’s nine strikes. The versatile attack should help the Hoosiers since opponents won’t be able to focus on a single player.
If you’re looking for a favorite from outside the power conferences, perennial power Akron is the team you’re looking to root for.
The Zips have wins over Michigan State, Notre Dame and four other ranked foes as well as a recent MAC Championship win over No. 10 Western Michigan.
Akron doesn’t face an easy road in the tournament as it could face a rematch against Washington in the second round before taking on Notre Dame in the Sweet 16, but the Zips have the talent and pedigree to get by anyone in the tournament.
The Tar Heels enter the tournament as the No. 3 seed after falling to Notre Dame in the ACC Championship. Two of Carolina’s three losses have come to seeded ACC teams Notre Dame and Wake Forest.
North Carolina is led by Cam Lindley, who has seven goals and 11 assists and Alan Winn, who netted 10 goals in 13 matches for the ACC power.
The path to the title will consist of ACC challenges for the Tar Heels, with Virginia or Duke looming in the Sweet 16. If form holds, the Tar Heels would square off with Indiana in the national semifinal.
Players to Watch
JON BAKERO, Wake Forest
Bakero, who is the son of former Barcelona player Jose Mari Bakero, is the only player to rank in the top 10 in goals and assists in the NCAA.
The senior forward from Spain has 14 goals and 14 assists for the Demon Deacons. If anyone plans on stopping Wake from claiming the title, they’ll have to silence one of the NCAA’s best playmakers.
CAM LINDLEY, North Carolina
Lindley, a Chicago Fire academy product, is one of the key players for the third-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels. He’s tied for fourth in the NCAA with 11 assists and he’s picked up a helper in three of his last four games.
The sophomore also has seven goals to his name in 2017, four of which came during a three-game spell in late September and early October.
NIKLAS BRODACKI, Central Arkansas
The nation’s leading scorer hails from a team with eight Scandinavian players on a roster chock full of internationals.
Niklas Brodacki has found the back of the net on 17 occasions for Central Arkansas, who opens play on Thursday against SMU with the chance to play No. 14 Georgetown on the line.
The Swedish forward has been on a tear recently, with eight goals in his last six games, including a four-goal performance on October 31 against Oral Roberts.
TOMAS HILLIARD-ARCE, Stanford
If you’re looking for a defensive player to keep an eye on throughout the tournament, there are few better than Tomas Hilliard-Arce, the two-time Pac-12 Defender of the Year.
The senior center back could be the next Stanford product in line to make it to MLS, and he’ll be crucial for the Cardinal as they look to make the College Cup from the No. 9 overall seed.
JON GALLAGHER, Notre Dame
Gallagher, an Irish forward, found the back of the net on 13 occasions in 2017 for 12th-seeded Notre Dame.
The senior forward has scored 27 times in his two seasons, making him an intriguing prospect at the next level. Notre Dame will need Gallagher to continue his scoring pace as it looks to get out of a difficult quadrant also occupied by No. 5 Akron.
TREY MUSE, Indiana
One of the reasons why Indiana sits at the No. 2 seed has been the play of goalkeeper Trey Muse, a Seattle Sounders academy product.
The freshman shotstopper leads the NCAA in shutouts with 16, and he’s only given up one goal in the four matches he didn’t record a clean sheet. Muse has only conceded two goals since September 17.
With Muse at the back of a stout defense, the Hoosiers have a fantastic chance of advancing deep in the tournament.