UCSB-Cal Poly crowd was second-largest in NCAA regular-season history

VIDEO: Harder Stadium crowd goes bananas after a UCSB goal against Cal Poly on Saturday, October 24, 2015.

The Blue-Green Rivalry between the UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly men’s soccer programs – the “greatest rivalry in college soccer” – produced yet another record crowd last weekend, as 14,919 fans filled into Harder Stadium to watch the Gauchos and Mustangs do battle.

That draw was the second largest in regular-season NCAA history, trailing only UCSB’s back-to-school contest against UCLA in 2010, which saw just under 16,000 fans file into Harder. Most impressive about last weekend’s draw was the participation of the student body, as over 8,000 Gaucho undergrads took in the Fox Sports-televised showdown.

With that, the two Central Coast schools continued their assault on the NCAA men’s soccer attendance records.

The numbers almost defy belief: the Blue-Green Rivalry games have been the two-best attended men’s soccer games NCAA-wide for four consecutive seasons, and UCSB-Cal Poly matchups now comprise 13 of the 19 best-attended regular season campus games in Division I history.

“It’s a great thing for college soccer,” said UCSB head coach Tim Vom Steeg. “You see what this game means to the community and to the students. The rivalry, and the crowds that go with it, is something that really is unparalleled anywhere in NCAA soccer. The level of enthusiasm from both sides makes me think that this rivalry is going to remain red-hot for years and years.”

Over the past five years, a total of 124,733 fans have witnessed UCSB-Cal Poly games, either at Harder Stadium or Spanos Stadium in San Luis Obispo, a total that dwarfs any other pairing of programs in the entire country. The rivalry has been one of the keys to UCSB’s dominance at the gate, as the Gauchos have led the country in attendance for eight consecutive years and are on pace to do so again in 2015.

Not just an annual grudge match, the Gauchos and Mustangs have produced some top-end soccer since the rivalry hit its stride in 2007.

Of the 20 games played between the two teams since 2007, 16 have been decided by one goal or fewer and eight have required overtime. Both programs have been NCAA Tournament contenders annually, and one could make the case they are the top two teams in the Big West this year, with both among the top-25 in the NCAA RPI rankings.

The most tantalizing fact of all – with the form displayed by both teams down the stretch, it is certainly conceivable that UCSB and Cal Poly will meet in the postseason this year for the first time since 2010. They are neck and neck in the Big West North Division standings, with UCSB in first place at 16 points and Cal Poly right behind at 15 points with two games to go.

Should the Gauchos and Mustangs meet again this season, it will be college soccer fans who will be the biggest benefactors.

UCSB wraps up its regular season schedule this week, hosting Sacramento State for Senior Night on Wednesday before traveling to UC Davis on Saturday. The Gauchos will clinch a Big West Tournament spot with their next win or draw.