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How the Division I Men’s college lacrosse champion would be decided, FIFA World Cup style

Forget the traditional NCAA Tournament, this is the way to go!

Final Draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

With the 2018 FIFA World Cup kicking off tomorrow morning in Russia (and the United States, Canada, and Mexico getting to host the greatest tournament in 2026 in the first ever 48-team tournament), we’re all in the soccer mood here at College Crosse. You might see us turn into a Nigerian soccer site for the next couple of weeks. Have you seen their jerseys?!

So with the World Cup in mind, what if the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse champion was decided by a World Cup-style tournament? That’s where we come in.

The Teams

Just like the World Cup, there’ll be 32 teams competing. We’ll start with the 10 conference tournament winners. In case you forgot, here they are, along with their RPIs:

That leaves us with 22 spots. To decide that, we’ll take the teams with the best RPIs that aren’t already in, regardless of record. With that criteria, here’s who we have, along with their RPIs:

  1. Maryland Terrapins (1)
  2. Duke Blue Devils (5)
  3. Yale Bulldogs (6)
  4. Denver Pioneers (8)
  5. Syracuse Orange (10)
  6. Virginia Cavaliers (11)
  7. Villanova Wildcats (12)
  8. Penn Quakers (14)
  9. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (15)
  10. Bucknell Bison (16)
  11. Navy Midshipmen (17)
  12. Ohio State Buckeyes (18)
  13. Vermont Catamounts (20)
  14. Penn State Nittany Lions (22)
  15. North Carolina Tar Heels (23)
  16. Marquette Golden Eagles (24)
  17. Michigan Wolverines (25)
  18. Towson Tigers (26)
  19. Princeton Tigers (27)
  20. Lehigh Mountain Hawks (28)
  21. Harvard Crimson (30)
  22. Saint Joseph’s Hawks (31)

Just missing out: Boston University (32), Brown (33), Stony Brook (34), Bryant (35), and Drexel (36).

Overall, here’s how many teams are in from each conference:

  • Big Ten: 6
  • ACC: 5
  • Ivy League: 5
  • Big East: 4
  • Patriot League: 4
  • America East: 2
  • CAA: 2
  • NEC: 2
  • MAAC: 1
  • SoCon: 1

The Pots

There are four pots with eight teams inside each pot when drawing for the FIFA World Cup. The host city is automatically in the first pot and is also automatically drawn as the A1 team, as they would open up the tournament. For this exercise, we’ll use Harvard, the host of Championship Weekend, as our A1 team. It’s weird, but so is Russia in the top pot.

Everyone else would be placed in order of RPI ranking. The pots:

NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Tournament Pots

Pot 1 Pot 2 Pot 3 Pot 4
Pot 1 Pot 2 Pot 3 Pot 4
Harvard (30) [hosts] Denver (8) Bucknell (16) Marquette (24)
Maryland (1) Cornell (9) Navy (17) Michigan (25)
Albany (2) Syracuse (10) Ohio State (18) Towson (26)
Johns Hopkins (3) Virginia (11) Robert Morris (19) Princeton (27)
Notre Dame (4) Villanova (12) Vermont (20) Lehigh (28)
Duke (5) Georgetown (13) UMass (21) Richmond (29)
Yale (6) Penn (14) Penn State (22) Saint Joseph's (31)
Loyola (7) Rutgers (15) North Carolina (23) Canisius (49)

The Draw

For the FIFA World Cup, a group can’t have more than one team from the same confederation, with the exception of UEFA. They have 14 teams participating.

In our case, we’ll slightly alter it. A group cannot have more than two teams from the same conference.

Here’s the results from the random draw:

NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Tournament Groups

Group Team 1 Team 2 Team 3 Team 4 Average RPI
Group Team 1 Team 2 Team 3 Team 4 Average RPI
Group A Harvard (hosts) Rutgers Navy Marquette 21.5
Group B Duke Cornell Robert Morris Canisius 20.5
Group C Albany Denver Vermont Michigan 13.75
Group D Loyola Syracuse UMass Princeton 16.25
Group E Yale Villanova Bucknell Richmond 15.75
Group F Maryland Penn Penn State Towson 15.75
Group G Johns Hopkins Georgetown North Carolina Saint Joseph's 17.5
Group H Notre Dame Virginia Ohio State Lehigh 15.25

According to the average RPI of the teams in each group, Group C is the toughest group, followed by Group H, and a tie between Groups E and F. I honestly think Group H is the real group of death. It might be the most balanced group in the entire tournament.

In terms of interesting matchups, we’d see a rematch between Trevor Baptiste and TD Ierlan in Group C, and the return of Syracuse-Princeton in Group D. Group F features just Pennsylvania and Maryland schools, and Group H would feature the third Notre Dame-Virginia matchup of the season. Honestly, let’s just do this for now on.

Once group play ends, the top two teams from each group would move on to the knockout stage. If you want to predict your own winner with the field we have, we have a blank bracket for you!

To have some fun, here’s who I would have as my winner. It’s bland:

See? I hope your bracket has a lot more flavor than this.

Other than that, go Poland!