Stanford has been tabbed as the favorite in this year's Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Preseason Coaches' poll, it was announced Thursday.
The Cardinal accumulated 60 points and five of the nine first-place votes to earn the top spot, ahead of UCLA (58 points, three first-place votes) and six-time defending NCAA champion USC (53 points, one first-place vote).
California (42 points) and Long Beach State (32 points) round out the top five. Pacific, UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine and Pepperdine were slotted Nos. 6-9, respectively.
Stanford finished third at the National Collegiate Championship last year, its first postseason appearance since 2008. The Cardinal turned in an overall record of 23-6 and went 7-1 in MPSF play, reaching the title game at the MPSF Championship in November.
Led by coach John Vargas, in his 13th season, Stanford will be led by returning All-Americans Bret Bonanni, who set an MPSF record with 97 goals in 2013, Alex Bowen (71 goals), BJ Churnside (45 goals) and rising sophomore goalie Drew Holland (9.08 saves per game, 7.44 goals-against average).
Bonanni, Bowen and Connor Cleary are currently playing with the United States senior national team at the FINA World Cup in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
The MPSF's opening weekend is slated for Sept. 6-7 while conference competition begins Sept. 27. Long Beach State will host this year's MPSF Championship Tournament (Nov. 21-23), where for the first time since 2002, all nine teams will compete for automatic entry to the NCAA Tournament.