In the last meeting of the Maryland and UMBC men’s soccer teams, the lasting image was an unfamiliar one: Retrievers fans streaming onto Ludwig Field, mobbing their team like rock stars after a second-round NCAA tournament upset of the fourth-seeded Terps, their first step in a wild run to the 2014 national semifinals.
Students, spectators, school administrators — they all still remind coach Pete Caringi Jr. they were there that late-November night in College Park.
“A lot of them still remember that game,” he recalled Monday, “and still remember the thrill of the victory.”
The only thing it perhaps lacked was the proper backdrop. Caringi expects one Tuesday night, when No. 3 Maryland (6-0-1) and UMBC (5-2-1) will meet at Retriever Soccer Park before an expected record crowd.
A school spokesman said a sellout of the 3,000-seat venue is expected, and an additional 200 seats could be added for the game. The Retrievers set a school record last month when an announced 2,873 came out to watch a 2-0 win over Howard.
The buzz around campus, Caringi said, does not compare.
“This is almost a culmination of all those years of trying to … bring a No. 1 team in the country in, and the place is going to be packed,” he said. “The interest is above anything I've seen at a sporting event at UMBC, and I've been here 27 years.”
Sasho Cirovski hopes it will be just another Tuesday night for the Terps.
In his team’s locker room, there is a precedent to these kinds of unprecedented games.
Over 4,600 watched No. 6 Michigan State fight Maryland to a scoreless draw Friday night at DeMartin Stadium. That was a record crowd for East Lansing, too. Two years ago, an announced 8,449 took in the Terps’ win over No. 1 UCLA at Ludwig Field. Another record crowd.
“We're used to having a big bull's-eye on your back and really bringing out record crowds most places we go to and play, so that's something that we enjoy, that we've worked hard to achieve,” Cirovski said. “But we also know we're going to get the best effort from the opposition and we know we have to bring our best.”
Both coaches acknowledged the importance of the teams’ matchup — and the difficulty in getting it on the schedule every year.
Cirovski said Maryland-UMBC games are “circled on everyone’s calendar.” Caringi called them a showcase for the area’s best players, many of them Baltimore products. But after meeting four times from 2011 to 2014, the series went on hiatus until this season.
“Some years, you can pull it off, and other years, you can't,” Caringi said. “I can't sit here and say that they should play us every year, because they have reasons why it doesn't work, and I fully understand that.”
The winner of a game like Tuesday’s, Caringi said diplomatically, is the state of Maryland soccer. Not that he doesn’t know the stakes: Maryland is unbeaten in regular-season play since 2015, a string of 25 games.
“We trust the process of what Maryland soccer is all about, and I think our players have bought into that. They believe in it,” Cirovski said. “We literally just focus on the very next game, and now we're ready for a big one tomorrow night.”