NEW YORK - The Columbia men's soccer team is slated to begin its 2012 campaign this Friday, Aug. 31, as the Lions welcome Fairfield to the Columbia Soccer Stadium for each team's season opener at 7 p.m.

Friday's opener against Fairfield is the first of nine home games for the Lions this season. Columbia is coming off an 8-7-2, 4-2-1 Ivy season in 2011, which placed them in the hunt for the Ivy League title up until the last match against Cornell. A 1-1 tie gave the Lions 13 points, one shy of Dartmouth and Brown, and a third-place showing in the final conference standings.

Second team All-Ivy League selections  David Najem, Nick Scott and Henning Sauerbier each return to the pitch for Columbia this season. Midfielders Najem and Scott each posted six points last season for Columbia, while Sauerbier tallied 11 points on four goals and three assists.

The Lions' opponent Friday night is the incumbent and predicted champion of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Fairfield, the 2011 MAAC regular-season and tournament champion, received seven of the 10 first-place votes in the 2012 preseason poll.

The 2011 season ended in upsetting fashion for the Stags, as Brown snapped a 13-game win streak with a 3-2 victory in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Fairfield goalie Michael O'Keeffe enters the season as Top Drawer Soccer's top player to watch in the MAAC, while teammate Jordan Ayris was selected as the conference's preseason co-player of the year, as voted on by the league coaches. O'Keeffe, a senior for the Stags, spent the summer competing with the New Zealand Olympic team in London, while Ayris will be returning to Fairfield for his sophomore season after starting all 18 games as a freshman, scoring in 10 games.