While most American college soccer teams have just started preseason, the Buffalo State men's soccer team is smack in the middle of their tour of England, splitting two friendly matches and visiting several iconic sites so far.
Among the highlights is a 4-3 win over the AFC Bournemouth under-18 team on Thursday, with the Bengals' goals coming from Maissa Dieye, Devonte Black on a penalty kick, Alex Cassells and transfer Corey L'hommedieu. In their other friendly, Buffalo State fell to AFC Wembley, 3-2, Wednesday.
Head coach Mark Howlett, a native of Portsmouth, England, the city in which they played their first friendly, sees the trip as a serious advantage entering the 2016 fall season.
"We have been able to come in a week before the trip, and then we're away for nine days, playing four games before our 'actual' preseason starts," Howlett explained over email, citing the NCAA rule that allows an international trip once every four years. "I am hoping that this togetherness, continued understanding of each other, the system and the expectations will propel us throughout the upcoming season."
The fascination with the English Premier League for Americans has led to some larger-than-life experiences for the Bengals, as the college team has visited Wembley Stadium, home of the England men's national team and host of the annual FA Cup final, and attended the 2-0 Reading win over Plymouth in the League Cup.
Perhaps the most exciting opportunity is yet to come, though, as the Buffalo State team has tickets to Saturday's English Premier League opening day match between Southampton and Watford.
Other approaching highlights on the itinerary include a training session with the Portsmouth U18s (Friday), a potential friendly Friday night against Poole Town and a match against Moneyfields FC U21s on Sunday before returning home Monday.
On a personal level, the trip back home is a chance for Howlett to connect two different worlds - his roots as a soccer player in Portsmouth, before moving to the United States to play collegiately with Roberts Wesleyan and Judson, and now his current profession as a head soccer coach.
"It will be very nice to showcase the team," Howlett reflected before his team departed. "I am excited for the people we will come into contact with to see what I am doing out here and what I am trying to build.
"Hopefully we will go and give a great account of ourselves both on and off the pitch. There is a lot of excitement about us coming over and there will be a lot of people watching training sessions and games."
For photos and updates on Buffalo State's trip, follow the team on Twitter.
The Bengals open their season on Sept. 2 at RIT; their home opener welcomes Medaille College to Coyer Field on Sept. 6. The SUNYAC schedule starts on Sept. 23 against Geneseo, also at Coyer. View Buffalo State's full schedule.
-- Reading are coached by Jaap Staam, the former Holland international defender, while the side started Danny Williams, a United States men's national team midfielder, in the League Cup contest the Bengals saw.
Email Ben Tsujimoto, who never liked Jaap Staam, at firstname.lastname@example.org