Column: Kentucky mens soccer deserves more fan attention


Kentucky’s Eythor Bjorgolfsson (9) celebrates his goal during the Kentucky vs. Wright State men’s soccer game on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, at the Bell Soccer Complex in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 3-0. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Luke Fetzer, Reporter

The leaves are falling, the air has begun to chill and collegiate sports are in full swing.

Football and basketball may be the most viewed sports during the fall, but the Kentucky mens soccer team is arguably the most elite of them all at UK.

Ranked second nationally and one of the last five teams within the top 25 to remain undefeated, the Cats go into every game fighting for recognition.

Those figures don’t even mention that UK sits first in RPI (Ratings Power Index), which calculates winning percentage, opponent’s winning percentage and opponent’s opponent’s winning percentage. The Cats are also leading in the Sun Belt Conference, which is consistently ranked as one of the most competitive conferences in the sport.

So far, the Wildcats have played 12 games, winning eight and drawing four, outscoring their opponents 33-13 in that period. The figures make them one of the most dominant teams on both offense and defense.

Leading the scoring for the Wildcats is Norwegian forward Eythor Bjorgolfsson who, even after not featuring in a handful of games, is UK’s goal-leader with six on the year.

Bjorgolfsson is a unique player. Tall and physical, fast and agile and a complete finisher inside the box, his ability to both create and score goals is what makes the senior one of the most valuable assets that any team would be desperate to have.

While Bjorgolfsson keeps Kentucky’s goal total high, perhaps the most complete player head coach Johan Cedergren has on his team is senior midfielder Nick Gutmann.

Gutmann’s whopping 13 goal contributions (nine assists, four goals) leads the team, with the German having cemented himself as not just a facilitative tactician, but a player that can be depended upon week in and week out.

Dominant showings against teams like Belmont, Georgia State, Georgia Southern and James Madison continuously prove how talented this team is, and each game is a step closer to redeeming its loss to eventual national champions Clemson in the Sweet Sixteen of last year’s NCAA Tournament.

Considering the success that this team is relishing, it’s a head-scratcher as to why soccer remains one of the lowest attended sports at the university.

Of the eight home games the highest attended match was against then No. 7 Marshall on Sept. 16, which ultimately ended in a 1-1 draw. The contest drew in 2,672 spectators per UK Athletics, many of which were students and parents.

The Bell has a maximum capacity of 3,368, yet, this season, in which the Cats are easily one of the most exciting teams in the nation, the average attendance for home games is a measly 1,281.
It isn’t for lack of trying on the part of the university either, as the official UK Athletics Instagram page regularly highlights and praises the team in their posts, many of which receive upwards of 2,000 likes.

Unfortunately, the reception to those posts is still nowhere near the like-total of football and basketball posts which, in some cases, can receive upwards of 20 thousand likes.
Soccer season takes place during a busy time of the year as the school is only truly concerned with the success of the football program and the rapidly approaching basketball season.

More could be said about the lack of interest in soccer nationally and the reinforced athletic stereotype claiming UK to be a basketball school, but that is a different debate entirely.

Simply put, UK soccer deserves to be in the spotlight.

Unlike football and basketball, the players aren’t there for the fame, they aren’t there for professional scouts and they aren’t there for the NIL deals. Soccer, especially at the university level, is bound in passion. The fight to prove their worth and the chance to lift the championship at the end of the season is the driving force behind every moment on the pitch, with each kick of the ball proving critical to success or failure.

This group of players see that, and their relentless march towards national glory is only as promising and strong as the bonds that have defined this team. Whether or not Kentucky will succeed in making a Final Four or even winning a national championship is to be seen, but the real question remains: even if they do win, how many Kentucky fans will even care?