In 2004 as a college sophomore at the University of Missouri, I founded Missouri Loves Company or MLC. Now in 2012, as a twenty seven year-old working stiff, Skyd is sending me to cover the ninth edition of MLC in Columbia, MO. I last ran the tournament in 2008 and I’m very excited to see how things have changed since I left. The best part however will be watching the best college teams in the country together in one place.
The MLC winner has never failed to qualify for the College Championships. The eventual national champions have been MLC semifinals losers in 2007, ’08 and ’10. With 2012 boasting some of the strongest competition ever, including defending national champions Pittsburgh and runners-up Wisconsin, MLC is the most competitive fall tournament in the country.
The idea behind the first MLC was bringing the best teams from across several different regions to mid-Missouri. Columbia is about a 12 hour drive or less from Austin, Boulder, Pittsburgh and Madison. That means a majority of the non-coastal teams in the country are within a day’s drive of Missouri. We began with 16 men’s teams and 8 women’s teams and eventually grew as high as 40 men’s teams and 22 women’s teams in 2008. The format has always included power pools for elite teams while still offering bottom pool winners the opportunity to play into the top bracket. I have always believed every team that enters a tournament should have the opportunity to win it, and thankfully MLC has always preserved this principal.
By 2007, top teams like Carleton, Colorado and Wisconsin had begun to attend regularly. Field space in Jefferson City, a short drive from Columbia, was used to accommodate the increased participation. The tradition of refunding the winning teams’ tournament fee is another small practice that I’m proud of. It is a small but meaningful gesture for programs that travel far and play hard all weekend. Any time the tournament director walks over after a tournament win and starts writing you a check, it has to be a good feeling.
This year I’ll be attending MLC as a spectator/reporter for the first time ever. I’m excited to watch 60 teams from 16 different states battle for the fall’s biggest prize and position themselves as contenders for the spring. I’m excited to see darkhorses play their way from the lower pools and upset top teams. I’m excited to see a new format in the open division that will begin a 32-team bracket on Saturday. I’m excited to watch NexGen studs like Jimmy Mickle and Will Driscoll bring the experience of their summer tour and club season back onto the college field. Mostly I’m just excited.
I’ll be posting some team previews and info, plus pool predictions and tournament overviews between now and Friday evening. If there are any games or matchups you’d like covered, leave a request in the comments section. I’ll be tweeting as many scores as I can get my hands on and trying to help everyone at home stay connected to what’s going on in Columbia. Thanks for following.