AWK’s NCAA Soccer Prestige Pyramid v1.0

Ah, yes, the prestige pyramid. I came up with this monstrosity some time in the Spring when I was debating college soccer’s “North Carolina Problem” when it comes to measuring the prestige of the collection of programs. Namely that judging programs based on National Titles (or Hell, even conference titles in the ACC) is hard when one program’s one the vast majority of everything there is to win.

I also came up with this after reading a Spring match report where LSU, after playing Texas, called the Longhorns a national power. I mean, look, we love you guys in Baton Rouge, but really? Under what objective measure is Texas a national power in college soccer?

So I basically tried to come up with some mutant form of objective measurement to measure prestige. I think it turned out well, but there are obviously some flaws, caveats, etc.


-This is based on the last five years mostly and in the last ten on the top few levels. Why? Because besides the hideous kits and bodacious hair, the game’s changed a whole lot over the past decade. Go watch an average game from 2001. A good deal of it is just plain unwatchable beyond the very top level. And times change. George Mason won a national title way back when, but nobody is confusing them with a national power these days. That and the math was time consuming enough for five years. You think I’m going to calculate TEN years of data? Maybe when we get interns or PAs here at AWK World Headquarters.

-I’m going to guess that there may be some outrage among some parts that I’m including Notre Dame on the same level as North Carolina. I’ll be honest, Notre Dame really isn’t on the same level as North Carolina over the past five seasons, but they’re clearly number two over that time span. And I really, really didn’t want to have two levels with just one team on them. So consider North Carolina at the very top of the Pantheon, with Notre Dame just a little below them.

-National titles, as they should, matter. You win one, you’re on that second step (at worse) for five seasons.

-Getting to College Cups matters also, but realistically, if you don’t pull down the big prize you have to get to multiple ones to ascent to that second step in the pyramid. Think of it this way, is Ohio State on the same level as Florida State? Yeah, I don’t think so.

-The North Carolina Problem rears its ugly head beyond level two. The Heels have won just about everything in the ACC, but nobody’s going to argue programs like Virginia aren’t worthy of a spot relatively high up on the pyramid, because they’ve not been able to topple UNC, right? That’s why the other caveats for NCAA Tournament appearances (and progress) and % of points collected in league play are in place.

-Winning things matters at conference level also. Win a major trophy and you’re at the fourth step on the pyramid for five years at least. Winning multiple things matters also. And league titles are more valuable than conference titles, hence them counting more towards your Pyramid status.

-Beyond the top two levels, you can’t really compare prestige of teams between conferences. I mean, nobody’s going to realistically claim an ACC power is comparable with a SWAC power, right?

The Pantheon – National Level I (1 National Title Past Five Years, 2+ Past Ten Years)

-North Carolina
-Notre Dame

National Level II – (National Powers) (1 National Title Past Five Years or Multiple College Cups Past Five Years)

-Florida State

Conference Level I – (Conference Powers) (Multiple League Titles Past Five Years or Three+ Conference Tournament Titles Past Five Years or one league title PLUS two conference tournament titles or Five NCAA Tournament Appearances last Five Years AND Two Sweet Sixteens OR 81-100% possible points in conference past five years OR A College Cup appearance)

America East – Boston University
Atlantic 10 – Charlotte, Dayton
ACC – Boston College, Duke, Virginia
Atlantic Sun – Kennesaw State
Big XII – Oklahoma State, Texas A&M
Big East – West Virginia
Big Sky – Northern Arizona, Sacramento State
Big South – Coastal Carolina, High Point, Winthrop
Big Ten – Ohio State, Penn State
Big West – Cal State Fullerton, Long Beach State, UC Santa Barbara
Colonial – William & Mary
Conference USA – Memphis, UCF
Horizon – Loyola (Ill.), Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Ivy – Harvard, Penn
MAAC – Loyola (MD)
MAC – Ball State, Central Michigan, Toledo
Missouri Valley – Creighton, Illinois State
Mountain West – BYU
Northeast – Long Island, Monmouth
Ohio Valley – Morehead State, Southeast Missouri State
Patriot – Bucknell, Navy
SEC – Florida
Southern – UNC Greensboro
Southland – Southeastern Louisiana, Texas State
SWAC – Grambling, Jackson State
Summit – Oakland, South Dakota State
Sun Belt – Denver
WCC – Portland
WAC – Fresno State, San Jose State, Utah State

Conference Level II – (League Title/Tournament Title in Past Five Years or Three NCAA Tournament Appearances OR 61-80% possible points in conference past five years )

America East – Hartford, New Hampshire, Stony Brook
Atlantic 10 – Fordham, Saint Louis
ACC – Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Atlantic Sun – Belmont, Florida Gulf Coast, Jacksonville, Mercer
Big XII – Colorado, Missouri, Texas
Big East – Marquette, Rutgers, UConn
Big Sky – Idaho State, Portland State, Weber State
Big South – Charleston Southern, Liberty, Radford, UNC Asheville
Big Ten – Illinois, Minnesota, Purdue
Big West – Cal Poly, UC Irvine
Colonial – Hofstra, James Madison, Northeastern, Old Dominion, UNC Wilmington
Conference USA – East Carolina, SMU, UAB
Horizon – Butler, Wright State
Ivy – Princeton
MAAC – Canisius, Fairfield, Marist, Niagara, Siena
Missouri Valley – Drake, Evansville
Mountain West – New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV, Utah
Northeast – Central Connecticut State, St. Francis (PA)
Ohio Valley – Murray State, Tennessee-Martin
Pac-10 – Cal, Washington
Patriot – Army, Colgate, Lehigh
SEC – Auburn, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, South Carolina, Tennessee
Southern – College of Charleston, Davidson, Furman, Western Carolina
Southland – McNeese State, Stephen F. Austin, Texas-San Antonio
SWAC – Alabama A&M, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Mississippi Valley State
Summit – IUPUI, North Dakota State, Western Illinois
Sun Belt – Florida International, Middle Tennessee State, North Texas, Western Kentucky
WCC – San Diego, Santa Clara
WAC – Boise State, Hawaii, Nevada

Conference Level III – (41-60% possible points in conference past five years)

America East – Binghamton, Maine
Atlantic 10 – Duquesne, La Salle, UMass, Rhode Island, Richmond, St. Bonaventure
Atlantic Sun – East Tennessee State, North Florida, Stetson
Big XII – Kansas, Nebraska
Big East – Georgetown, Louisville, South Florida, St. John’s, Villanova
Big Sky – Montana
Big Ten – Northwestern, Wisconsin
Big West – Cal State Northridge, Pacific
Colonial – George Mason, VCU
Conference USA – Colorado College, Rice, UTEP
Horizon – Detroit
Ivy – Columbia, Dartmouth, Yale
MAAC – Manhattan
MAC – Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Miami (OH), Northern Illinois, Ohio
Missouri Valley – Missouri State
Mountain West – Wyoming
Northeast – Quinnipiac, Sacred Heart
Ohio Valley – Eastern Illinois, Eastern Kentucky
Pac-10 – Washington State
Patriot – American
SEC – Ole Miss, Vanderbilt
Southern – Elon, Samford
Southland – Northwestern State, Sam Houston State
SWAC – Prairie View A&M, Texas Southern
Summit – Oral Roberts
Sun Belt – Florida Atlantic, Louisiana-Lafayette
WCC – Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine

Conference Level IV – (21-40% possible points in conference past five years)

America East – Albany, Vermont
Atlantic 10 – George Washington, Saint Joseph’s, Xavier
ACC – Clemson, Maryland, Miami (FL)
Atlantic Sun – Campbell
Big XII – Baylor, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Texas Tech
Big East – Cincinnati, DePaul, Pittsburgh, Providence, Seton Hall, Syracuse
Big Sky – Eastern Washington, Northern Colorado
Big South – Gardner-Webb, VMI
Big Ten – Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State
Big West – UC Riverside
Colonial – Delaware, Drexel, Georgia State, Towson
Conference USA – Houston, Marshall, Tulsa
Horizon – Cleveland State, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Valparaiso
Ivy – Brown
MAAC – Iona, Rider
MAC – Akron, Buffalo, Western Michigan
Missouri Valley – Indiana State
Mountain West – TCU
Northeast – Fairleigh Dickinson, Mount St. Mary’s, Robert Morris, Wagner
Ohio Valley – Austin Peay, Jacksonville State, Tennessee Tech
Pac-10 – Arizona State, Oregon, Oregon State
Patriot – Holy Cross
SEC – Alabama, Arkansas
Southern – Appalachian State, Chattanooga, The Citadel, Georgia Southern, Wofford
Southland – Central Arkansas, Lamar
SWAC – Alabama State, Southern
Summit – IPFW, Southern Utah
Sun Belt – Arkansas-Little Rock, Arkansas State, South Alabama, Troy
WCC – Gonzaga
WAC – Idaho, Louisiana Tech

Conference Level V – (20% or lower possible points in conference past five years)

America East – UMBC
Atlantic 10 – Temple
ACC – NC State
Atlantic Sun – Lipscomb, USC Upstate
Big South – Presbyterian
Big West – UC Davis
Conference USA – Southern Miss
Horizon – Youngstown State
Ivy – Cornell
MAAC – St. Peter’s
Missouri Valley – Northern Iowa
Mountain West – Air Force
Northeast – Bryant
Patriot – Lafayette
SEC – Mississippi State
Southland – Nicholls State
SWAC – Alcorn State
Summit – UMKC
Sun Belt – Louisiana Monroe
WCC – San Francisco, St. Mary’s
WAC – New Mexico State

5 thoughts on “AWK’s NCAA Soccer Prestige Pyramid v1.0

  1. BackOthOnionBag

    Have you given thought to doing an NAIA Soccer Prestige Pyramid? Or is NAIA too obscure? Interested in your thoughts/analysis of top flight NAIA programs. Nice thing about NAIA is schools are unincumbered by NCAA regs/restrictions/claimed corruption, have high quality academics, are private and appear to play at high level among national tournament teams. Classic case of Groucho Marx not wanting to be a member of a club that would have him as a member. There’s NFL players from NAIA but is women’s soccer like ice skating…only those from the biggest D1 schools have a chance of playing on WNT & in pro leagues? NAIA can sure put more on the table than NCAA D2 or D3.

    1. Chris Henderson Post author

      It’s already a big ask with 300+ DI teams, and I just don’t know enough about NAIA/not enough info available. Totally agree about anyone not at a DI school getting frozen out of pro/int’l opportunities. Obviously some very good overlooked gems in the lower divisions.

      1. BackOthOnionBag

        @BackOthOnionBag REST MY CASE:
        @madisonroad Current problem: Title 9 academic institutions not set up to provide proficient technical/tactical development feeder system.

        @madisonroad That’s a no brainer! Then there could be bonafide developmental structure like TheFA academies/centres of excellence at pro clubs

        @madisonroad madisonroad Alexi Lalas: WPS should affiliate and associate with MLS. Interview. Retweeted by jenna_awk and 1 other

        For all the $$$ spent at grassroots, club, high school, college, pro and international levels of the game — There is no excuse for USWNT not dominating each and every international event. Japan has only 36,000 carded female players yet beats US in WWC?*%#@! Go figure! There is epidemic proportion lack of organization and structure from grassroots on up. Each organization has it’s own agenda. Each club has a board of too many chiefs and not enough indians. The practice of “the cream will rise to the top” by employing a “law of the jungle” approach where the most arrogant, egotistical & showoff players showcase and advance is symptomatic of US soccer NOT in tune with enculturation of the sport like the rest of the world. Pure commercialism: NIKE VS. ADIDAS – Elite/Academy club players not permitted to participate in ODP & ODP not living up to developmental standards of excellence struggling to maintain numbers.

        With all the best of intent, unless soccer in the USA comes under one single governing body for every level of the game to include non-league, the sport inevitably will continue to struggle at the highest level. There is such a perversion of the game in USA that is causing an even higher influx of foreign coaches hungry to work their way up from what we call in USA the club level which is not remotely defined the same as club level in the rest of the world associated with pro competitive clubs. Where’s MLS in all this? Not even present. And USL “frozen out.” Who isn’t “frozen out” in the state soccer is in in USA?

        1. Chris Henderson Post author

          MLS has zero interest in women’s soccer. I’m not sure why this is surprising to people.

          1. BackOthOnionBag

            MLS non-relegation/promotion structure does not surprise having no interest in women’s soccer. Across the pond, it is of concern that clubs like Manchester United and Tottenham only have small investment in girl’s development league teams. However, a glance across the Premier League, Champions League and Leagues 1 & 2 points to an orchestrated effort of clubs aspiring to be involved in TheFA Academy/Centres of Excellence developmental system feeder system for the women’s Premier League and new Super League. It was 2005 when TheFA successfully launched this successful organizational system. In six years the England women’s national team have become a threat coming in second in Euro2009 and beating Japan in the 2011 WWC. Look to England for the model USA should adopt and integrate Title 9 academic institutions within and under a single governing body. Maybe a pipe dream but organization from grassroots on up to national team should be structured.


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