COLUMBUS, Ohio – The defending Big Ten champion men’s soccer team started preseason practice Wednesday as the No. 18 team in the nation, according to the recent National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) preseason poll. The Buckeyes took to the field for two sessions of training and will maintain that schedule through next week.

Under sunny skies, all 27 players were accounted for, including 20 returning team members and seven newcomers for the opening session that concluded with a 40-minute intra-squad scrimmage.

At the close of the second practice, head coach John Bluem, who enters his 14th season at the helm of the OSU program, announced the selection of the three seniors – Matt Gold, Sam Scales and Konrad Warzycha – as captains for 2010.

In-state foe Akron is the top pick in the poll with defending national champion Virginia and Wake Forest earning the second and third place rankings, respectively. Akron, the national runner-up a year ago, finished 2009 with a 23-1-1 record, falling to the Cavaliers in penalty kicks after a scoreless draw in the final match.

The Buckeyes will face six teams in the preseason rankings, including the top-ranked Zips, as well as No. 16 USF and No. 20 Louisville on the non-conference side. Big Ten teams in the Top 25 include ninth-ranked Northwestern, No. 20 Indiana and No. 24 Michigan State.

The Buckeyes also were ranked nationally by College Soccer News, coming in at No. 10 in its preseason poll. Soccer America is expected to release its version next week.