When the 2014 NCAA Division I men’s soccer tournament national championship game kicks off on Sunday (noon ET), forget about rooting for an “underdog,” because there’s no “Cinderella” story here.
Instead, Sunday’s championship game will feature a pair of perennial powerhouses of the college game, the six-time national champion University of Virginia and four-time national champion UCLA.
The Cavaliers (13-6-3) and Bruins (14-4-5) reached the championship game by dispatching a pair of surprise semifinalist teams, Maryland-Baltimore County and Providence, respectively, Friday night.
Beyond the fact both programs are regular postseason contenders, there’s plenty of direct history between the two institutions to add a little extra spice to Sunday’s championship game. When current UCLA coach Jorge Salcedo was a freshman on the Bruins’ title team in 1990, he made a friendly bet with some of his friends from Virginia – including former US national team captain Claudio Reyna – that his school would win more NCAA championships during their playing careers.
“It was, to me, pretty ironic that this College Cup (final is) us against Virginia,” Salcedo said on Saturday. “I absolutely want to give us our fifth (title). … If I could have picked one team to play against, it would have been Virginia because of the history we have against them.
“We’d like to get closer to their six national championships tomorrow.”
On Sunday, Virginia will become just the third program in Division I history to place both its men’s and women’s soccer programs in the title game in the same year. Virginia’s women’s team lost the title game to Florida State last week.
Both sides’ current rosters boast a number of promising professional prospects, with a handful expected to be selected in next month’s 2015 MLS SuperDraft (players to watch listed below).
Their paths to the final
Virginia: UNC Wilmington (3-1); Notre Dame (1-0); Georgetown (1-1, 5-4 PKs); UMBC (1-0)
UCLA: San Diego (2-1); California (3-2); North Carolina (3-3, 7-6 PKs); Providence (3-2, 2OT)
Players to watch
Virginia: Eric Bird, midfielder; Pablo Aguilar, midfielder; Darius Madison, forward;
UCLA: Leo Stolz, midfielder; Abu Danladi, forward; Larry Ndjock, forward