Bill Cunningham was one of the major proponents of the Metro Conference’s switch in format for its boys and girls soccer tournament.
“Now I’m living by it,” Cunningham joked Monday night.
His Millard North squad found itself on the outside looking in of the top bracket when matchups and schedules were determined Monday.
For the first time in its history, the Metro tournament will have separate brackets for seeds No. 1 through eight and for seeds nine through 16.
Cunningham’s Mustangs, annually one of the better teams in the state, will be the top seed in the latter.
“Everybody wants to be in the first tier, right?” Cunningham said. “But maybe at this point in the season we’re not.”
Millard North started the year 2-4, with three of those losses coming in overtime or a shootout and all four to teams in the Metro’s upper bracket.
But instead of facing the eighth-seeded team in the first round — with a potential quarterfinals match against the No. 1 — Cunningham’s group will host Omaha Northwest, the tournament’s last seed, in the opening round of the other bracket.
Cunningham said the size of the conference and the compact nature of the soccer season were a couple of reasons for the switch. With first rounds starting on Wednesdays and the finals not slated until Monday in previous seasons, teams could potentially go six days in between games if they lost in the first round.
The new format includes consolation games to ensure that every team plays at least twice.
“I think it’s a pretty good idea,” Cunningham said. “The reality is that you have to reward people for winning. It’s more practical for everyone.”
For a team like his, Cunningham added, it could even be a benefit down the road.
“There is a time when you want to go measure yourself,” he said. “At the same time, you can go in and get a lot out of games like these. We can have a better stage for us to grow as a team so that maybe later in the season and in districts we have a better chance moving forward.”
Class A No. 2 Omaha South was awarded the top seed in the tournament, with two-time defending champion and top-ranked Omaha Creighton Prep getting the second seed.
Omaha Marian, last year’s state champion, is the No. 1 seed on the girls side. First-round matches are at host sites Thursday. Monday’s title games for the girls will begin at 5 p.m. at Millard North with the boys to follow.
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