Dallas Jesuit takes top spot in preseason poll
Truth be told, assembling the preseason soccer rankings is as much about team schedules and playoff possibilities as it is about talent.
The bottom line? A team with Division I-caliber players, competing in at least one major regular-season tournament and with the potential to face other top-ranked schools in the regular season and playoffs is fair game for a high ranking.
This year, there was no clear-cut favorite as FAB 50 winter boys' soccer preseason No. 1, but nonetheless, the honor goes to Dallas Jesuit.
Oddly, Jesuit -- despite splitting matches with last season's Texas 5A state champ Marcus and posting a 24-2-0 record -- is not ranked in the state coaches' top 10 to start the season. Jesuit finished No. 6 in the FAB 50 last winter.
Jesuit gets the nod over Santa Margarita (Calif.), Plano (Texas), Brophy (Ariz.) and Millikan (Calif.).
Here are Jesuit's credentials:
• Seven returning starters from a 24-2-0 team that finished as the region runner-up to eventual state champion Marcus. Jesuit defeated Marcus during the regular season.
• Two players have committed to NCAA Division I programs (Nate Dombrowski and Sewell Strifler), and the team's top prospect remains uncommitted (Alexei Reyes).
• Six players compete in the Academy League; the other 13 are on Classic I clubs in Dallas. Club powers FC Dallas Academy team, national US Youth Soccer club champ Andromeda and perennial state cup challenger Dallas Texans are all represented on the Jesuit roster.
• 10 new players join the varsity squad: nine from an undefeated junior varsity squad and one -- Division I commit Strifler -- returns from a year away from high school soccer.
• Jesuit will host the Jesuit Meinster Cup early in the season before traveling to the Duncanville Tournament in mid-January.
• If preseason expectations hold through the first five weeks of play, FAB 50 No. 1 Jesuit will face No. 3 Plano for the first of two meetings Feb. 17.
A quick scan around the country reveal other national-title challengers:
Florida: Looks likely that the southern part of the state will produce this season's Class 6A state champ. Last season it was Miami's Varela, which finished No. 1 in the FAB 50. This season, the front-runners are Cypress Bay, Wellington and Boca Raton. Those teams will go head-to-head long before the playoffs, and will sort out the rankings on the field.
Southern California: The preseason SoCal polls largely reflect last season's results; however, Santa Margarita -- despite a coaching change -- and Millikan remain the favorites. One team noticeably missing from the preseason FAB 50 is Santa Monica, which finished No. 2 last winter. The team graduated four all-section performers.
Northern California: Archbishop Mitty gets the nod over fellow league power Bellarmine Prep. These programs will meet twice during the regular season, and likely once in the league playoffs. De La Salle has been a consistent CIF-North Coast title challenger, and could be in the mix for a high FAB 50 ranking depending on its non-league showings.
Arizona: Brophy College Prep could feature as many as seven Division I signees. Brophy tied Santa Margarita last season at a tournament in San Diego. Brophy has three club players returning to this season's roster who sat out last season. A tournament title in San Diego and a second straight state title might be enough to give this program the FAB 50 No. 1 ranking this winter.
Sheldon Shealer covers high school sports for ESPN RISE.
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