Cal Poly men’s soccer takes on UC Santa Barbara in their home half of the blue/green rivalry on Saturday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium. 

The highly anticipated rivalry game is the pinnacle match for collegiate men’s soccer and one that holds more significance this year than years past.

“I think this is one of the best teams I’ve had in the seven years that I’ve been here,” head coach Steve Sampson said. “This is a very good team that I think can beat anybody in the West [region] and can compete with anybody in the country.”

The Mustangs found their groove in Big West play after a tough non-conference schedule, as they faced four teams that were either ranked or received votes in the United Coaches Top 25 poll in their seven opening matches. 

After surviving their non-conference gauntlet with a 2-4-1 record, the Mustangs have gone 3-1-1 in the Big West, placing them in second place with 10 points. They trail first-place UCSB by only three points. 

Cal Poly and the Gauchos faced off on Sept. 25 in a non-conference match at Harder Stadium in Santa Barbara. UCSB prevailed 2-0, thanks to two second-half goals from Finn Ballard McBride.

“We know what we’re going up against now, so there won’t be any surprises,” freshman defender Jacob Glass said. “We’re more than ready to do what we need to do.”

Although he is leading the defensive line for the Mustangs, Glass is producing offensively as well. He currently leads the team with four goals and eight points this season.

“We knew when we were recruiting Jacob Glass that he was a talent,” Sampson said. “I have no problem putting a guy like him in the starting lineup.”

As for Saturday, both the Mustangs and the Gauchos will be tasked to deal with an off-the-field obstacle: the crowd.

In the Sept. 25 face-off, a crowd of 8,000 filled Harder Stadium, a facility with a capacity 17,000. The hefty attendance was the largest the Mustangs have played in front of all season, as no other match exceeded 1,000 spectators. 

On the opposite sideline, the Gauchos have played a handful of games that have boasted crowds of 1,000-plus, but nothing compared to the 8,000 on hand for the Blue/Green game in late September.

Cal Poly is expecting a sell-out crowd on hand for the long-awaited home match inside Spanos Stadium. For the past nine home matches, Spanos Stadium has filled all 11,075 seats for the Blue/Green rivalry match. 

“When you step on the field and you hear the crowd next to you, supporting you, you know that you can do anything,” junior goalkeeper Carlos Arce-Hurtado said. 

The Mustangs and the Gauchos have faced each other 17 times over the past nine seasons. All 17 of those matches are amongst the 19 highest attended collegiate soccer games over that span. 

Attendance for the Blue/Green rivalry match in Santa Barbara earlier this season was the largest regular season NCAA crowd since UCSB visited the Mustangs on Nov. 2, 2019.

“There will be a big difference when they’re shouting for you, rather than against you,” Glass said. 

The Gauchos lead the conference with 13 points, while Cal Poly trails in second with 10, one point ahead of CSU Bakersfield and UC Riverside. The third through seventh place teams are all separated by just four points, making it imperative that the Mustangs pick up any point they can get.

“We want to go and win the conference, and Santa Barbara, they’re the team to beat,” Glass said. “If we want to win this conference, we got to beat the best.”

This Saturday’s match has the ability to help solidify the standings for the Big West Tournament, which the top six programs in the 10-team conference will compete in.

“I really believe that this team has the ability to get better than what they’re even showing now,” Sampson said. “I think this team has every capability to win a Big West Championship this year.”

Cal Poly’s push towards a championship starts with their match against UCSB on Saturday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium. Tickets are available, but are distributed on a first come, first serve basis.