With a strong core of returning players on the Yale men’s and women’s soccer teams, both squads returned this year optimistic about their postseason chances. An off-field decision only heightened their hopes.

On August 29th, the NCAA Executive Committee announced the 2001 Division I national championship bracket will expand from 32 to 48 teams for the men and from 48 to 64 teams for the women.

The 2001 men’s tournament include 20 automatic berths for conference champions and 28 at-large bids. The women’s tournament will now have 28 automatic bids and 36 at-large teams.

All play-in games will be eliminated, and the changes will allow 640 more student-athletes to participate in the tournament each year.

For the Bulldogs, the expansion greatly improves their chances for an at-large bid. The Ivy League champion receives an automatic bid, and usually one or two other teams receive at-large bids. As the Ivy League is typically one of the strongest conferences in the nation, teams that finish third or fourth in the conference will have a stronger chance for an at-large bid this season.

“It’s exciting, but our goal is still to win an Ivy League championship and win an automatic berth,” defender Brian Roberts ’04 said.

Last year, the men’s team finished fourth in the Ivy League, but only the top two teams, Brown and Dartmouth, received tournament bids.

“It’s going to be an asset to the men’s college game, since more teams will have a chance to experience championship play,” men’s head coach Brian Tompkins said. “Now, teams that have been close can expect to get a look. There could be as many as 4 [Ivy League] teams.”

The Eli women finished fifth last season, with Harvard and Princeton being the only Ancient Eight squads receiving NCAA tournament bids.

“In the past, a lot of teams that we beat have gotten in,” women’s captain Sara Ruiz ’02 said. “We have a really good chance of making the tournament, because we’ve always been really close, just one team away from making it.”