The South Carolina men's soccer team will leave Conference USA to join the Sun Belt Conference as an affiliate member, Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Keith Gill announced on Wednesday.
"We think this decision gives our team a competitive schedule, regional travel advantages and opportunity for our program to be successful on a national level," Director of Athletics Ray Tanner said in a press release. "We are excited the direction Coach Annan is taking the program and look forward to this transition."
The change in conferences comes as the Sun Belt brings back the sport after it was discontinued after the 2020-2021 season.
"These elite programs will lend instant credibility and help to establish the Sun Belt as one of the nation's premier men's collegiate soccer conferences," Gill said.
South Carolina will join Kentucky and West Virginia as the three teams that will compete as affiliate members for men's soccer only. The rest of the conference comprises the Sun Belt's three new full members — James Madison, Marshall and Old Dominion — as well as three current full members — Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern and Georgia State.
"This could be the strongest conference in the country, and we all know that competition drives development. So, this could be an ideal place for obviously a student-athlete," head men's soccer coach Tony Annan said. "I think we will show the rest of the country that this is how a conference should operate."
The Sun Belt becomes the third conference the Gamecocks have played in since the team's creation in 1978. Prior to joining Conference USA in 2005, the program was independent from 1978-1992 and 1995-2004.
South Carolina also spent a two-year stint in the Metro Conference from 1993-1994.
During its time as a Conference USA affiliate, the Gamecocks won two conference titles in 2005 and 2010, while finishing runner-up once in 2014.
South Carolina is looking to bounce back from a 5-9-2 season where the team went 1-5-2 in conference play next year in its new conference.
"Very thankful to be part of it and very excited to get going," Annan said. "I think the vision for the Sun Belt aligns with what we have at South Carolina."