The Maryland men's soccer team will host Albany in the first round of the NCAA tournament Thursday. The winner will travel to face No. 10-seed Western Michigan on Sunday.
It's the Terps' 17th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance but the first time Maryland (10-5-3, 5-1-2 Big Ten) has failed to earn a first-round bye — given to the top 16 teams in the field — since 2009.
Albany (14-4-2, 4-2-1 American East) was the No. 4-seed in its conference tournament but earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament with a penalty shootout win in the first round and a pair of 1-0 wins in the semifinals and finals.
The Great Danes boast the 14th-ranked defense in the nation, allowing 0.67 goals per game.
The only time Maryland played Albany was at Ludwig Field in 2006. The Terps won that matchup, 4-0.
Maryland entered this season with national title expectations and were ranked No. 3 in the country for over a month as they opened the year 10-0-3.
But the Terps have collapsed since then, losing five consecutive games for the first time since coach Sasho Cirovski's inaugural season at Maryland in 1993, forcing them to play a first-round NCAA tournament game for just the third time since 2001.
The Terps still have an opportunity to turn their season around beginning Thursday against the Great Danes. A win would send the Terps to Western Michigan to face the Broncos (16-3-1, 5-0-0 Mid-American), who own wins over No. 5-seeded Akron and No. 13-seeded Michigan.