Four years removed from winning the men’s soccer national championship in the cold, snowy confines of Saint Louis University, UCSB will now get to see the College Cup from a whole different perspective. This past Thursday, the NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Committee announced that Santa Barbara will play host to the 2010 College Cup, further cementing Harder Stadium’s reputation as The Cathedral of College Soccer.

“Short of winning a national championship, this is right up there,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said.

This will be the first NCAA championship UCSB has hosted since the 1974 men’s volleyball finals, and it could not have come for a better sport. The Gauchos have drawn some of the biggest crowds in college soccer and have led the nation in attendance for each of the past two years. Furthermore, the team has been ranked in the top 25 at the end of seven straight seasons and has made two College Cups in that span, so the possibility of UCSB participating in its own event is hardly out of the question. However, Santa Barbara administrators hope for and expect the event to be a fantastic experience for the university and the surrounding area, even if the home team does not partake.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for the entire community,” Executive Associate Athletics Director for Internal Affairs Diane O’Brien said. O’Brien, who also serves on the Men’s Soccer Committee, was an integral part in UCSB’s success.

O’Brien said she tried to use her spot on the committee to “make the NCAA realize how … the community would come together and be supportive of this.” She added that her position gives her “an opportunity to make sure that west coast soccer is being represented well.”

2010 will mark only the ninth time that the College Cup has been played on the West Coast, and the first since 2004 when it was in Carson, Calif. The event, which will be televised on ESPN, should provide fantastic exposure for UCSB, but it also means a lot of extra work in the coming months.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” O’Brien said. She referenced upgrades of the press box, wireless Internet, a new paint job and improvements to the field as part of the Athletic Department’s plan to “put its best foot forward,” as she put it.

While fundraising for such development will be difficult, the College Cup should also bring in a substantial amount of wealth to Santa Barbara as well. The university will take a share of the ticket revenue, while the city should see an influx of out-of-towners coming for the event. Between the non-residents visiting the city and the support of the community, the three games (two semi-finals and the finale) have the potential to see massive crowds.

“We have a great big venue where we can draw bigger than what the venues have been more recently,” O’Brien said, referring to Harder Stadium’s 17,000-person capacity. While the current record in the stadium is just shy of 12,000, a sellout is certainly possible. Without making any predictions, O’Brien added “I have no doubt … we will draw well.”

The games will take place in December of 2010, during Fall Quarter of the 2010-11 school year.