Maddie Harrell | Mustang News, 2021

The matchup between Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara men’s soccer has long been coined the ‘Greatest Rivalry in College Soccer,’ as the Central Coast foes have squared off against one another 53 times dating back to 1994, playing each other twice a year for the majority of that stretch.

This first installment of this year’s men’s soccer rivalry matchup will take place on Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 6 p.m. at Alex G. Spanos Stadium. General admission is free for Cal Poly students with an ID.

This season, Cal Poly is off to a rough start in non-conference play, holding a record of 0-6 while being outscored by opponents 24-2. UCSB, on the other hand, is off to a strong 4-1-2 start that included an impressive 2-1 victory over No. 24 Loyola Marymount.

Despite the disparity in non-conference records thus far, Cal Poly head coach Steve Sampson said he is “excited for Wednesday’s game.”

“We are going to battle,” Sampson said. “They are going to try and embarrass us, quite frankly. We are not going to allow them to embarrass us. The bottom line is we want to play for our fans, we want to play for our community. Not one of these guys is going to fall short of giving 100% of their effort for that game on Wednesday.”

Due to the magnitude of these teams facing off, each home venue, Alex G. Spanos Stadium in San Luis Obispo and Harder Stadium in Santa Barbara, has the opportunity to host a game between the two squads. UCSB and Cal Poly play other opponents in the Big West only once.

The main reason behind both teams hosting a game every season is the fans. Current and former Mustangs and Gauchos attend these rivalry matchups in droves, as every game ends up toward the top of the NCAA men’s soccer attendance records for that season.

Last year’s rivalry game in Alex G. Spanos Stadium ended in a draw, but 10,899 filled the seats, which was the largest NCAA soccer crowd in two years and the largest for Cal Poly since their sellout of 11,075 against the Gauchos on Nov. 2, 2019.

In fact, 16 of the top 62 most-attended regular season matches in NCAA men’s soccer history have been at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.

While the Mustangs are expecting another large turnout, the Gauchos have had their way throughout history on the pitch to the tune of a 29-15-9 record against Cal Poly.

The same rings true for their recent matchups, as the Mustangs have not come out on top of the rivalry game since 2018, when they won by a score of 1-0.

Freshman goalkeeper Nicky McCune echoed a sentiment of excitement for his first time participating in the rivalry.

“We’re very excited for Wednesday,” McCune said. “It’s going to be a good fight, and we’re going to get a win.”

Cal Poly women’s soccer came out on top 4-0 in a game against UCSB women’s soccer on Thursday. Now, eyes are on Wednesday’s face-off.

“My belief is that we might be able to do something special on Wednesday night,” Sampson said.