This is the prelude, if you will. The week marks the last full week of practice and inter-squad scrimmages before the IHSA permits teams to schedule soccer games.
The 2014 boys season starts next week. As part of our ongoing preliminary exploration of what to look out for, this was the end of year Sun-Times rankings, with final records and preseason rank in the parenthetical last November.
Again, patterns and motifs are part of all sports, and variations naturally happen, but in soccer, because of tradition, talent pool and access to resources, the best teams tend to dominate year to year. When that does not happen, you have a magnificent story, like last year's Wheeling team, which as we noted last week had nearly twice as many losses the year before.
With that in mind, Final boys soccer rankings. (The NR, by the way, means not ranked in that respective preseason.)
1. Wheeling 23-2-2 (NR)
2. Naperville Central 19-3-2 (6)
3. Lake Park 21-4-3 (NR)
4. Morton 25-3 (5)
5. Hinsdale Central 20-1-2 (2)
6. Lyons 17-3-3 (3)
7. Barrington 19-5-4 (14)
8. St. Charles East (7)
9. Washington 15-1-8 (NR)
10. St. Ignatius 20-6-2 (NR)
Others: Wheaton Academy, Evanston, Benet, Lane, Sandburg, Hersey, Batavia, Burlington Central, Herscher, Parker.
The other standard narrative is that the best teams tend to come out of the top conferences: in no particular order those conferences are the two divisions of the Upstate Eight, the two sections of the Mid-Suburban League, the two parts of West Suburban Conference and the two parts of the Central Suburban League. The DuPage Valley is another standout league.
One of the most interesting parts of the boys' campaign is a lot of great tournaments are staged right off the bat, unlike the girls, where the PepsiCo Showdown and the Naperville Invitational, the two most important in-season tournaments, happen roughly midway to halfway part of the season.
Wouldn't you know, right off the bat, on the first day games are permitted, on Monday, Aug. 25th, two of these standout conferences, the Mid-Suburban and the Central Suburban, are staging a conference showcase. These games are:
Deerfield at Conant
Evanston at Wheeling
Glenbrook South at Hersey
Glenbrook North at Buffalo Grove
Highland Park at Elk Grove
Maine East at Hoffman Estates
Maine South at Fremd
Maine West at Rolling Meadows
New Trier at Schaumburg
Niles North at Barrington
Niles West at Prospect
Waukegan at Palatine
Niles West at Prospect (on Tuesday, Aug. 26th)
Additionally, Barrington, Lake Park and Leyden have important early season tournaments. The PepsiCo Showdown starts on Saturday, Sept. 13, and features many of the top programs in the Sun-Times area.
The Best of the West Tournament, the boys' equivalent of the Naperville Invitational, also starts the day after Labor Day and goes a long way to helping clarify the early teams and players to watch.
Soccer fans, this is your last week of quiet, to finish that book you are reading. Next week, it gets serious. The Sun-Times' soccer preview is going to appear between now and the start of the season.
It is on.