COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State men’s soccer team opens exhibition play at 7 p.m. Sunday against in-state foe Cincinnati at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Admission for the match, and all 11 home games this season, is free.

The 2009 Buckeyes feature six returning starters from a year ago, including central defenders, senior captain Doug Verhoff and sophomore David Tiemstra, and a pair of midfielders in junior captain Matt Gold and classmate Sam Scales. Up front, senior captain Andrew Magill and junior Konrad Warzycha both enter the season with two years of starting experience under their belts. Joining the six are 10 others that spent time in a Buckeye uniform in 2008 and 11 talented newcomers.

Ohio State finished the 2008 campaign with a 9-9-3 record and a trip to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, its third appearance in the postseason in the last four seasons and sixth overall.

Head coach John Bluem enters his 13th season at the helm of the Buckeyes with an OSU record of 127-90-31 and a 17-year career mark of 213-117-43, a figure that puts him among the Top 35 active NCAA coaches in total wins and wins percentage. Under his guidance, the Buckeyes entered the most successful era of program history, complete with three Big Ten titles, 10 Major League Soccer draft picks and all six of Ohio State’s appearances in the NCAA tournament, including the 2007 College Cup.

The Bearcats return 10 starters – including leading scorer Branden Stelmak – from a squad that finished with a 7-10-2 overall record in 2008 and made its fourth-consecutive appearance in the Big East tournament. Last year’s team featured 17 newcomers and 15 true freshmen, all of whom gained a year of experience in the Cincinnati system. The Bearcats, who were selected to finish eighth in the conference’s red division in a vote by the league’s coaches, are coached by Hylton Dayes.

The Buckeyes hold a narrow 10-9-3 all-time advantage over Cincinnati with the last regular-season meeting taking place Oct. 29, 2000. The Bearcats earned a 3-1 win, but the loss spurred a four-game winning streak for the Buckeyes that took them their first Big Ten Tournament championship. The exhibition meeting Sunday will not count in the all-time series record between the programs.

The men’s soccer team opens the 2009 regular season with the Bert and Iris Wolstein Classic, an annual tournament that pits Ohio State and Penn State against a pair of nationally-prominent teams. The Nittany Lions begin the tourney schedule by taking on Cal State Fullerton at 5 p.m. Sept. 4, followed by Ohio State vs. Gonzaga at 7 p.m. Action continues at noon Sept. 6 with Penn State and Gonzaga taking the field before the Buckeyes and CS Fullerton battle at 2:30 p.m.