The Loyola men’s soccer team will conclude its spring exhibition season in the fourth annual Chicago Cup Sunday, April 21 at Northwestern University.
The Chicago Cup brings all four of Chicago’s Division I men’s soccer programs, Loyola, Northwestern, DePaul and UIC, together for a day of tournament competition.
“It’s a great celebration of Chicago soccer; we’ve got four fantastic teams in the city,” said Loyola’s first-year men’s soccer Head Coach Neil Jones. “This is a great way to end the spring season to really see where we’re at.”
Loyola will begin the Chicago Cup against DePaul at 11:45 a.m. on Sunday, while Northwestern will face UIC earlier in the morning at 10:30 a.m.
There will be a consolation final between the two losing teams at 1 p.m., followed by the championship game, held between the two winning teams, at 2:15 p.m.
The Chicago Cup began in 2010, and Loyola lost in the finals last year to Northwestern in a penalty shootout. Although the Chicago Cup falls within the spring exhibition season, Jones assured players and spectators that there is an actual Cup given to the winning team.
“It’s nice to kind of keep the rivalries going and have it not too fierce of competition yet,” Jones explained. “Because when we do meet in the fall with these teams, it really steps up.”
Originally, Saturday’s games of the Chicago Cup were scheduled to take place at Loyola Soccer Park.
However, with all of the renovations that are currently underway at Hoyne Field, the Chicago Cup was relocated to Northwestern’s Lakeside Field earlier this month.
“It’s a small bump in the road, but it’s not a negative reason whatsoever,” Jones said. “We’re very excited for the new facilities and very thankful to the administration and university to put the funds in to make that happen.”
Despite the change of the Chicago Cup location, Loyola will still host an alumni game at Hoyne Field at 7 p.m. Saturday evening.
The alumni game offers former Loyola players the opportunity to meet and interact with the current Rambler team and, according to Jones, “To get out there and kick the ball around for a little bit and reminisce about the good old days.”
Aside from Jones, the Ramblers hired new Assistant Coaches Nate Boyden and Brian Plotkin after last season’s disappointing “Runner-up” finish in the Horizon League Championship, bringing even more significance to this year’s spring exhibition season.
“The spring is hugely important because this is our first time together as a coaching staff with the team,” Jones explained. “It’s a development phase and everyone has to get better. We lost a lot of players from last year.”
To fill the void of lost starters, Loyola will welcome back 21 players from last season and has already signed five new recruits.
The time to prepare for the fall starts now, according to Jones, who explained, “I tell the guys all the time, August 30, we’re playing Michigan, on the road, so this is part of pre-season.”
After this weekend’s Chicago Cup, the Ramblers will not reconvene as a team until August 13, when fall preseason practices begin. Coach Jones encourages the Loyola student body to make the trip to Evanston this Sunday to help support the team’s final spring effort.
“We’ve been training hard, and I think it’s going to be a great yardstick to see where this team can be going into the fall,” Jones said. “It’s a hungry group for sure.”
The Rambler men’s soccer team will have a busy summer as well and will host five youth camps as well as two high school camps between June and August.
The Ramblers also participated in the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s “Cycle for Survival” in February and helped raise over $4,200 for rare cancer research.
The importance of serving the community is a concept that Jones says he will continue to develop.
by Sean Keenehan