Dating to the 2004 season, three teams have combined to win nine Nassau Class AA boys soccer championships.
Massapequa (six), Hicksville (two) and Syosset (one) will once again be among the top candidates for the 2015 title. They will try to unseat MacArthur, which built on an 11-0-3 regular season with an impressive run that ended in the Long Island Championship.
The defending champions should still be strong with junior goalkeeper Sean Lyons and senior center back Justin Norcini anchoring a defense that recorded 14 shutouts in 2014. But they graduated a lot of talent.
Syosset has the most returning starters among the perennial contenders with six. Midfielder Richard Rambarran and center back Griffin Halpern, a pair of junior captains, are the top returners from last year's team, which went 10-6-1 and earned the No. 4 seed in the Nassau AA playoffs.
"They're both natural-born leaders," coach Brett Waxer said. "They're great character kids."
The Braves will get a boost from senior midfielder Jason Wasserman, who played for an academy in 2014.
Hicksville has just three returning starters from a team that went 11-5-1: juniors Matt Sloan and Storm Strongin and senior Nicholas Rodriguez. But Sloan, a forward, and Strongin, a midfielder, are among the county's best at their positions, multiple coaches said.
"That 1-2 punch should be very dangerous for us," Hicksville coach Scott Starkey said.
Seniors Peter Meyer, Matthew Johnston, Anthony Cestaro and Matthew Pascale are the returning starters for a Massapequa team that went 14-1-2 last year, the loss coming to Syosset in the county semifinals.
Even though Hicksville and Massapequa lost more than it returned, it was consistently among the teams mentioned by coaches as top candidate to unseat MacArthur.
Plainview JFK is a team to watch. The Hawks return eight players with starting experience, including senior center back David Geyer, who anchored a defense that allowed three goals in the regular season. Plainview JFK earned the No. 2 seed and fell to MacArthur in the semifinals.
Seniors Jonathan Benitez, Jonathan Guardado and Bryan Argueta headline a Westbury team that returns eight starters.
Jericho (four) and South Side (three) have combined to win every Class A title since 2008. Opposing coaches expect both teams to be in the mix again.
Jericho is led by sophomore goalkeeper Tyler McElhinney, seniors A.J. Pinto, Ben Land and Ethan Haas and sophomore Matteo Martino.
Senior goalkeeper Josh Levine, senior midfielder Matt Di Luccio and junior sweeper Patrick Basile will lead South Side, the defending champion.
Great Neck North returns four starters from last year's No. 1 seed and adds reinforcements from a JV team that went undefeated in 2014. Seniors Nick Garzon and Jesus Alvarenga will lead the way.
Valley Stream South,Friends Academy, Roslyn, Wantagh, Garden City, Lawrence and Bellmore JFK will also be in the mix.
Wheatley, the defending champion, is the team to beat in Class B. The Wildcats are led by seniors Jake Barroca and Pedro Lamarre and junior Josh Wolff. Barroca, who played for an academy last year, is a key addition.