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After two dismal years, Big East men's soccer championship abandons PPL Park

The Big East Conference has switched formats for its annual men's soccer championship, electing to have higher seed teams host instead of using a neutral site like it has with PPL Park the last two seasons.

PPL Park will have one less event on its winter calendar this year as the Big East Conference has opted to stage its men's soccer championship at campus venues instead of returning to Chester for a third straight year.

Considering the number of empty seats at the tournament championship the last two seasons, it's a move that makes sense for the reborn conference entering its third year.

In 2013, 506 people showed up to see Marquette beat Providence in the final after 560 showed for the Friday night semifinal doubleheader. Last year, Providence topped Xavier to capture the championship and the automatic NCAA tournament bid in front of just 383 fans.

The weather and distance from the campuses of the teams playing didn't help. Villanova, the only local team in the conference, failed to advance to the semifinals both years, leaving fans of teams like Marquette, Creighton and Xavier with a long drive and fans of teams like Providence and Georgetown on the wrong side of I-95 for a Friday evening match.

The change was voted on unanimously by the Big East men's soccer coaches.

"We are excited about moving forward with a new format which provides an opportunity for higher seeded teams to be rewarded with home competition, while giving more BIG EAST soccer fans the opportunity to cheer on their teams at home," Chris Schneider, Associate Commissioner of Olympic Sports, said in a news release.

College soccer has been a mixed bag at PPL Park. The College Cup had one of its lowest turnouts when it was staged in Chester in 2013 - the official attendance for the final was just 5,303 - but the Army-Navy Cup has seen attendance grow each of the three years it's been staged, peaking at 10,168 fans last fall. This year's Army-Navy Cup will be held October 2.