Wide Open Men's Soccer Race Begins

UCLA is ranked No. 9 in the nation and coming off a trip to the NCAA College Cup, but Pac-12 Networks men's soccer analyst Cobi Jones doesn't necessarily think the Bruins are the slam-dunk favorite to win the conference title this season.

The frontrunner may be chaos.

The Pac-12 race commences Friday with a pair of games, including the opener between UCLA and Stanford on the Pac-12 Networks at 4 p.m., and Jones says the race is wide open right now.

"Even though we're starting conference games, there are a lot of teams still figuring out how to play," Jones said. "Chaos is still going on in the whole conference. I don't think anything is going to start panning out until at least a couple conference games are played. It's been sporadic and chaotic so far."

The Bruins are 5-1-2 with their only loss coming in their season-opener to then-No. 6 New Mexico. UCLA has played an extremely challenging schedule. The Bruins had a 2-2 tie against Maryland, which is the current No. 1 team in the country. UCLA also tied No. 3 UC Santa Barbara and defeated No. 11 UC Irvine.

Jones said UCLA had some questions early on but is starting to put it together.

"I thought once they got six or seven games into the season, they would start building up and getting better and better. It seems like they are doing that right now," Jones said. "But I could see some other teams doing the same thing. It's really about what coach can get his team to play at a steady level. That's what it's all about in the conference race."

UCLA is the only Pac-12 team currently ranked but Cal and Oregon State are off to solid starts, each with a 5-2-1 record. After Cal opens the conference race against San Diego State on Friday, the Bears host UCLA on Sunday in an early-season showdown. That match will air on the Pac-12 Networks at 4 p.m., as wil the Pac-12 opener between Oregon State and Washington at the same time.

"UCLA is the strongest within the group right now but there are a lot of quality teams in the Pac-12," Jones said. "It's all about consistently playing well."

 

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