CLEMSON, S.C. – The St. John’s University men will begin their 43rd season when they play at No. 6 Clemson University Thursday at 7 p.m.

St. John’s and Clemson will meet for the first time in the history of the two programs.

The season opener for both squads will be a matchup of past national champions. Clemson won NCAA Division I titles in 1984 and 1987, a decade before the Red Storm won it all during its first College Cup appearance in 1996. Dr. Dave Masur also led the Johnnies to College Cup trips in 2001, 2003 and 2008. Masur, entering his 31st season at St. John’s and his 35th overall as a college head coach, is the fifth winningest active coach in Division I with 427 career victories.

St. John’s went undefeated in three preseason matches, defeating LIU and Temple University after playing Rutgers University to a 2-2 draw. Brandon Knapp was the Red Storm’s top performer during exhibition play, tallying two goals and an assist. He played a part in each of the Johnnies’ goals against Rutgers before providing the game winner in a 1-0 victory over Temple this past week. Against LIU, Nicolas Fleuriau Chateau, Micaah Garnette, Wesley Leggett and Shawn Coles scored.

Starting in goal for the Red Storm will be Luka Gavran, a 6-6 redshirt junior out of Hamilton, Ont. The fall of 2021 will mark Gavran’s first campaign in which he is expected to play the full 90 minutes. He and Jan Hoffelner split time during both the 2019 and 2020-21 seasons. During 10 appearances this past spring, Gavran compiled a 0.72 goals against-average and posted an .846 save percentage, good enough for third and second, respectively, in the Big East.

An experienced back line will take the field in front of Gavran, as the Johnnies welcome back every defender that made at least one start a season ago. The Red Storm also added the services of graduate student Lucas Bartlett, a three-year team captain and first team All-Missouri Valley Conference selection at Drake University

The Red Storm will likely be without star forward Tani Oluwaseyi for the entirety of the fall campaign as he underwent knee surgery in July. Oluwaseyi, the Big East offensive player of the year as a sophomore in 2019, scored 11 goals and dished out five assists that season as the Red Storm reached the NCAA Tournament Round of 16 for the first time since 2008. This past spring, Oluwaseyi earned his second straight First Team All-BIG EAST honor after leading the Johnnies with five goals and three assists. Four of his five goals were game-winners.

On the heels of a 14-3-3 effort during the split 2020-21 season, Clemson enters the fall campaign ranked sixth in the United Soccer Coaches preseason poll. The Tigers, who were the top overall seed in this past spring’s NCAA Tournament, reached the round of 16 before falling to eventual national champion Marshall in penalty kicks.

The Tigers return two of their top three point producers from that top-seeded team a season ago. Callum Johnson, a New York native and Boston College transfer, tallied five assists and four goals in 2020-21 while James Brighton found the back of the net six times in 19 games.

Last season, the Tigers’ 35 goals tied for third nationally in that category.

A third team All-ACC selection this past season, George Marks returns in goal for the Tigers. As a junior in 2020-21, Marks started 19 of Clemson’s 20 matches and helped earn a shutout in seven games. The Raleigh, N.C. native posted a 0.90 GAA and a .710 save percentage.

After taking on the Tigers, St. John’s will play five home games in the span of two weeks at Belson Stadium. The first of those matches will come against UAlbany Aug. 30.