CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson men’s soccer is back. The third-ranked Clemson Tigers will open the 2020 season on the road on Oct. 1 with a 7 p.m. match against the South Carolina Gamecocks (1-1) in Columbia, S.C. Thursday night’s match will begin the 61st season of Clemson’s men’s soccer and will be Head Coach Mike Noonan’s 11th season at the helm of the program. Noonan has amassed a record of 110-64-30 while at Clemson and is the reigning ACC Coach of the Year.
Thursday night’s matchup between the Tigers and Gamecocks will be the 49th all-time meeting between the two sides. Clemson holds the overall series lead, 30-17-1, and enters Thursday’s meeting having won the past six matches between the two teams. Noonan holds a career record of 9-3 against the Gamecocks and is 8-3 against the in-state rival while at Clemson. Last year’s 4-1 victory over South Carolina was Clemson’s greatest margin of victory in a season opener in Noonan’s ten seasons at the helm.
Thursday night’s match will also be the final time that Mark Berson, South Carolina’s Head Coach, will lead the Gamecocks against the Tigers. After 43 seasons leading the team, Berson will retire following the 2020 season. Berson has been South Carolina’s only head coach in program history.
In Clemson’s 61 seasons of soccer, this will only be Clemson’s 17th season opener played on the road. The last time Clemson opened its season in October was in 1969 when Clemson traveled to Maryland on Oct. 3. Thursday’s match is the ninth time that Clemson has opened its season against South Carolina.
South Carolina, a member of Conference USA for men’s soccer, will contest a total of five matches during the 2020 season. The Gamecocks will host four of the five matches at home under the lights of Stone Stadium. South Carolina holds a 1-1 record through their opening two home matches of the season. The Gamecocks opened the season with a 2-0 victory over Georgia Southern (Sept. 19) before falling to Georgia State (Sept. 24) by a final score of 3-1.
Three different players have scored for the Gamecocks, while Brian Banahan has contributed the Gamecocks’ lone assist on the year.
South Carolina has played three goalkeepers through their first two games, with Ryan Bilichuk being the only goalie to see action in both matches. Bilichuk has made five saves while allowing two goals this season.
Despite losing Robbie Robinson, the 2019 MAC Hermann Trophy Winner and 2020 ACC Male Athlete of the Year, after last season, Clemson will return 41 of its 70 goals and 50 of its 74 assists in 2020. Kimarni Smith and Grayson Barber will lead the Tigers’ offensive charge this season, as Smith enters the season with 44 career points and Barber holds 33 of his own. Clemson will return 13 of its 18 starters from last year’s squad.
In the midfield, sophomore maestro Philip Mayaka will orchestrate the Tigers’ effort through the center of the field after an excellent 2019 campaign. Last year, Mayaka was the lone freshman or sophomore named a MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist along with earning a long list of other postseason accolades.
Justin Malou, Oskar Agren and Charlie Asensio will anchor Clemson’s backline, with the three returning to the squad after making appearances in all 22 of the Tigers’ matches last season. Agren led the team in minutes in 2019, earning 1,950 minutes on the field.
George Marks will return to the net for the Tigers in 2020 following a historic season in 2019. The junior from Raleigh, N.C. posted a record of 17-2-1 last season, with his 17 single-season wins making him tied for fourth-most victories by a Clemson goalkeeper in program history. Marks’ seven solo shutouts in 2019 make him tied for 11th all-time in the single-season category.