PACIFIC 10 CONFERENCE
Head coach: Jorge Salcedo (seventh year, 71-33-22)
Home field: Drake Stadium (on campus)
Last year: 12-4-4 (5-1-4, first in Pac-10), NCAA quarterfinalists
NCAA Tournament: 37 appearances (1968, 1970-77, 1980, 1983-2009), championships in 1985, 1990, 1997 and 2002
Top players: F Victor Chavez (Fontana/A.B. Miller HS), fr.; F Chandler Hoffman (Birmingham, Ala.), soph.; M/D Andy Rose (Bristol, England), jr.; G Brian Rowe (Eugene, Ore.), jr.; D Matt Wiet (Columbus, Ohio), soph.
Outlook: The Bruins always are one of the country's most talented teams, so much so that so many of their best players head off to the pros before completing their eligibility. Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Amobi Okugo was the sixth overall pick in MLS's SuperDraft last winter (by Philadelphia), and four other UCLA all-conference players -- Galaxy midfielder Michael Stephens and backup goalkeeper Brian Perk, Philly midfielder Kyle Nakazawa and Seattle forward David Estrada, all seniors -- also headed into the pros. In all, Salcedo -- a worthy pro for several clubs, including the Galaxy -- lost seven starters from the Pac-10 champs, and although he's got great depth and talent, the experience is lacking. Rose has leadership qualities, Wiet is a valuable transfer from Indiana, and Hoffman is among a fine sophomore class. But the collection of freshmen UCLA has is tremendous. The nation's No. 1 class is headed by U-17 World Cup veteran Chavez, who turned down pro offers to come to Westwood, and four other All-Americans, including U-17 goalkeeper Earl Edwards and forward Reed Williams (Newport Beach/Corona del Mar HS).
BIG WEST CONFERENCE
CAL STATE FULLERTON TITANS
Head coach: Bobby Ammann (fifth year, 27-44-7)
Home field: Titan Stadium (on campus)
Last year: 8-9-2 (4-5-1, fifth in the Big West)
NCAA Tournament: Seven appearances (1975, 1986, 1993-94, 1996, 1998, 2000), semifinals in 1993
Top players: M Oscar Aguero (Anaheim/Katella HS), soph.; F Celso Alvarez (Los Angeles/Bell Gardens HS), sr.; D Jonathan Birt (Santa Ana/Calvary Chapel HS), soph.; D Mark Nelson (Temecula/Temecula Valley HS), sr.; G Trevor Whiddon (Carlsbad), jr.
Outlook: Former CSUF (and professional) goalkeeper Ammann enters his 16th year in the program with the desire, and perhaps mandate, to put the Titans back on the soccer map. They were a burgeoning power in the '90s, reaching one College Cup final four and churning out pro talent, and Ammann believes he has the foundation for something very good. Last year's team had its moments, and a turnaround in one-goal decisions -- Fullerton was 3-7 -- might have meant an NCAA berth. Nine players who started at least 11 games return, and Nelson, who redshirted with a knee injury after starting 20 matches in 2008, returns to bolster the backline. Alvarez has led the team in scoring the past two seasons, and Aguero's production ought to rise.
CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE MATADORS
Head coach: Terry Davila (12th year, 110-76-31)
Home field: Matador Soccer Field (on campus)
Last year: 10-8-2 (5-4-1, fourth in the Big West)
NCAA Tournament: 10 appearances, four in Division I (1984-89 in Division II, 2002-05 in Division I), Division II finalist in 1987-88, Division I third round in 2005
Top players: G Michael Abalos (San Juan Capistrano/Santa Margarita Catholic HS), soph.; M Rene Anguiano (Los Angeles/Los Angeles HS), soph.; D Joe Franco (Monrovia/St. Francis HS), soph.; M Rafael Garcia (Canoga Park/Canoga Park HS), soph.; F/M Daniel Yoon (Northridge/Granada Hills HS), soph.
Outlook: The Matadors made it to the Big West tournament and Davila was the conference's coach of the year, but the real return to the glories of a few years ago might be a season or two away. The veteran coach, who guided CSUN to Big West titles in 2003 and 2005, has a lot of young talent, and how quickly it can mature will determine when success arrives. Twenty-two of last season's 24 goals are gone, and replacing first-team All-BWC attackers Cameron Sims (7 goals) and Sunghyun Kim (4 goals-7 assists) will be difficult. Anguiano's presence will help -- he was the Matadors' top assist man, with five, and Abalos marshals a decent defense. A lot will be expected from a good incoming class, and if freshmen forwards Sam Ball (Westlake Village/Westlake HS) and Edwin Rivas (Los Angeles/Santee Educational Complex) -- from the Real So Cal juggernaut that reached the U.S. Development Academy finals -- can produce, good things can happen.
UC IRVINE ANTEATERS
Head coach: George Kuntz (16th year at UCI, 135-127-43; 22nd year overall, 269-189-56; 20th year overall men, 195-154-53)
Home field: Anteater Stadium (on campus)
Last year: 15-7-0 (6-4-0, third in the Big West), NCAA Tournament second round
NCAA Tournament: Two appearances (2008-09), third round in 2008
Top players: M/D Corey Attaway (Chino/Chino HS), sr.; D Joel Bagby (Huntington Beach/Edison HS), sr.; M/D Gray Bailey (Huntington Beach/Huntington Beach HS), sr.; F Spencer Thompson (Ahwatukee, Ariz.), sr.; F Amani Walker (San Diego), sr.
Outlook: If anyone can challenge national power UC Santa Barbara in the Big West -- a lot of people expect the Gauchos in the College Cup final four, which will be played in their stadium -- it's the Anteaters, which have won the past two conference tournaments and captured the regular-season title two years ago, when they went 15-2-6 and reached the Sweet 16. This year's group might be better, even after losing three All-BWC first-teamers, including magician Irving Garcia, who's toiling with MLS's New York Red Bulls. Thompson and Walker are a force up top, Bailey anchors a solid midfield, and Attaway is a two-way player with leadership capability. There's plenty of depth, and Kuntz has brought in a superb class that could take the program to the next level. Especially worth watching: diminutive attacker Miguel Ibarra (Lancaster/Lancaster HS), a JC All-American last year at Taft College, and versatile Marco Franco (Chino Hills/Chino Hills HS).
UC RIVERSIDE HIGHLANDERS
Head coach: Junior Gonzalez (seventh year, 24-76-13)
Home field: UC Riverside Soccer Stadium (on campus)
Last year: 1-16-1 (0-9-1, seventh in the Big West)
NCAA Tournament: None
Top players: FM Cesar Diaz (Chino/Ayala HS), jr.; /M Joel Garcia (Murrieta/Temecula Valley HS), jr.; D Normando Mariscal (Norwalk/Centennial HS in Corona and Cerritos College), sr.; D Chris Smith (Chula Vista), soph.; D/F Tyler Wilson (Chino Hills/Chino Hills HS and Mt. San Antonio College), sr.
Outlook: The Highlanders' goal is to compete, which they haven't done much of since moving to D1 (and the Big West) back in 2001. They've averaged four wins a year since, have finished last in the conference in six of nine seasons, and are coming off a horrid campaign season in which they scored 12 goals (only four in second halves) and were shut out 10 times in 18 games. Their top three scorers are back -- Garcia, with three goals, was No. 1 -- and the backline returns intact with goalkeeper Cody Suppe (Chino/Ayala HS). They'll be better this year, but the Big West is one of the country's better mid-major soccer conferences, and climbing out of the cellar is unlikely.
WEST COAST CONFERENCE
LOYOLA MARYMOUNT LIONS
Head coach: Paul Krumpe (13th year, 107-102-27)
Home field: Sullivan Field (on campus)
Last year: 10-9-2 (5-5-2, third in WCC), NCAA Tournament first round
NCAA Tournament: Five appearances (2001-04, 2009), second round in 2002-04
Top players: F Rafael Baca (Lawndale/Animo Leadership HS), sr.; Phil Da Silva (Moraga, Calif.), jr.; Tyler Krumpe (Torrance/West Torrance HS), jr.; M/F Logan McDonald (Palmdale/Quartz Hill HS), jr.; M Vincent Ocampo (San Diego), sr.
Outlook: Paul Krumpe was one of the best players of his generation, helping UCLA to its first national title and playing in the 1988 Seoul Olympics and 1990 World Cup, and he had a pretty nice stretch early in the decade, winning 15 games in 2002. This might be the best side he's had in Westchester -- the Lions topped the WCC coaches' poll, and with good reason. Eight players with at least 10 starts are back, led by Baca, a Hermann Trophy Watch List candidate who led LMU in scoring last season (9 goals-5 assists) en route to his third All-WCC first-team selection. McDaniel and Ocampo joined Baca on the all-conference team. It's an experienced side that features both of Krumpe's sons, All-WCC honorable mention Tyler and Cameron, a freshman.