College soccer

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Canadian Premier League draft lets players keep eligibility

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How could you make college soccer and professional soccer better in the United States?

Just follow the lead of the new Canadian Premier League.

The CPL recently held its first college draft ahead of, naturally, its first professional season.

[ MORE: U.S. qualifies for U-20 World Cup ]

As someone who’s fascinated by nascent leagues in North America, in particular the start of this one, I took a peek at who was drafted and saw something a bit odd.

Fourteen of 21 picks are in their first, second, or third year of college (out of five in Canada).

So I rang up one of the top college coaches in U Sports — Canada’s NCAA — and he’s not worried at all. Why? Because the players are leaving school early, at least for now. They are allowed to stay in school.

Players will leave their colleges for the pro season, then return to school in the summer for their college seasons.

Back to the “at least for now” point: It will be interesting to see what happens when one of these kids are key contributors to their pro club and have to go back to school.

The college programs will improve and be more stable, kids will find college soccer more attractive, and the pro teams could catch the rights of top prospects at a younger age and play a role in their development (in turn developing the college game).

Here, of course, is where I could say that it would be amazing if the NCAA found a way to do this. But that would be disingenuous.

Wake Forest No. 1 as NCAA D-I Tournament set

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Wake Forest is the No. 1 seed for the 2018 NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Tournament, Bobby Muuss’ men aiming to go back to the College Cup final for the second time in three years.

[ USMNT: Nagbe, Steffen out ]

The Demon Deacons have produced a strong crop of MLS players, including Jack Harrison, Ian Harkes, Sam Cronin, and Ike Opara.

Other seeded teams are Syracuse, Stanford, Saint Mary’s, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Georgetown, Louisville, Kentucky, Central Florida, Maryland, Duke, Notre Dame, Virginia, Denver, and Indiana (It pays to be in the ACC).

A fun side note for those who don’t follow the college game: One of Duke’s top players is goalkeeper Will Pulisic, brother of USMNT and Borussia Dortmund star Christian Pulisic.

First two rounds
New Hampshire vs. Colgate (winner vs. Wake Forest)
Akron vs. Rider (winner vs. Syracuse)
UC Irvine vs. Grand Canyon (winner vs. Stanford)
Oregon State vs. Southern Methodist (winner vs. Saint Mary’s)
High Point vs. James Madison (winner vs. North Carolina)
Charlotte vs. Georgia State (winner vs. Virginia Tech)
West Virginia vs. LIU Brooklyn (winner vs. Georgetown)
Michigan State vs. Illinois-Chicago (winner vs. Louisville)
Portland vs. UCLA (winner vs. Kentucky)
Washington vs. Lipscomb (winner vs. Central Florida)
NC State vs. Campbell (winner vs. Maryland)
Pacific vs. UC Riverside (winner vs. Duke)
Michigan vs. Princeton (winner vs. Notre Dame)
UNC-Wilmington vs. Furman (winner vs. Virginia)
Air Force vs. Central Arkansas (winner vs. Denver)
UConn vs. Rhode Island (winner vs. Indiana)

Field. Stormed. Blue Green Rivalry sees 11,075 at Cal Poly (video)

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As the beautiful game continues to grow in the United States, we see more and more videos of big, passionate crowds.

We just don’t expect them to be this large when it comes to college soccer, and this one would’ve been the high season attendance for all but three USL teams and every team in the NASL.

[ MORE: Burnley 1-0 Newcastle ]

In what’s become an annually well-attended derby, the Blue Green Rivalry between UCSB and Cal Poly saw the largest crowd in NCAA Soccer this season, as 11,075 fans crammed into Spanos Stadium on Saturday. Cal Poly won 4-1.

The show is nothing new, but always impressive. Just listen to the roar when coach Steve Sampson’s — yes, that Steve Sampson — Mustangs equalized through sophomore midfielder Kenneth Higgins en route to a 4-1 win (about 40 seconds into the above video).

According to the Cal Poly site:

The best-attended sporting event annually in San Luis Obispo County, the Cal Poly-UC Santa Barbara series has drawn 20 of the top 53 regular season crowd figures in NCAA history with all matches occurring during the previous 11 seasons.

Not bad, and the match finished with Cal Poly fans flooding the field in what will be an enduring memory for the Mustangs (and surely the visiting Gauchos as well. The sides drew 0-0 at UCSB on Oct. 14).

VIDEO: Evansville senior fires goal from halfway line

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College soccer is back, and one player kicked off his senior season with a bang.

Evansville midfielder Ian McGrath scored and posted two assists in a season-opening win over D-2 side Anderson, but saved his best for the Aces’ first D-1 opponent of the season.

[ PL PLAYBACK: 20 teams, 20 hot takes ]

McGrath spied Marshall’s goalkeeper well off his line in the 39th minute, and set himself up to launch a bold attempt from midfield. The backstop could only get a piece of the ball, which wound up as the match winner in Huntington.

The 6-foot-4 McGrath comes from the ranks of the Chicago Fire Juniors, and is coming off an 11-goal junior season. He’s played center midfield and center back during his time in college.

College Soccer Update: Maryland goes No. 1; Cuse, Notre Dame play Friday

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Sasho Cirovski’s Maryland program has no problem landing blue chip recruits, so adding the nation’s leading scorer on a transfer just seems unfair.

You might remember Gordon Wild’s name from this space last year, as the German burst onto the scene with USC Upstate and netted 16 times as a freshman.

[ MORE: Pulisic starts again as BVB rolls ]

While USC Upstate certainly won’t love the development, Cirovski was waiting with open arms when Wild decided to seek a challenge bigger than the one provided by the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Wild didn’t need to sit a year after transferring to Maryland — a program which has produced Omar Gonzalez, Graham Zusi, Robbie Rogers, Clarence Goodson, and Maurice Edu amongst others — and his eight goals in seven games show his form is carrying over well.

— Still, all those things said, I’ll never understand polls.

Notre Dame was No. 1 last week, and fell to 6-1 over the next 7 days after a loss to Louisville.

Syracuse entered the latest Top 25 coaches polling period 7-0, having won at NC State and defeated No. 15 Boston College at home. Five of those wins were shutouts.

[ MORE: Wenger praises 2-goal Perez ]

So who’s No. 1 now? Not Cuse, but 5-0-2 Maryland. The Terps and Orange both have 11 first-place votes, while Notre Dame still managed a pair.

The Orange handled the issue well, belting Cornell 3-1 on Tuesday night to move to 8-0. Up next is a Friday date at Notre Dame. Must-watch.

— Keep an eye on Denver, which is following up a very good 2015 season with a 7-0-1 start. They’ve allowed four goals all season — three have come via penalty kicks — and the Pioneers basically brought everyone back from their 15-1-3 season in 2015.

— I had the pleasure of meeting some players this summer who come from a very unusual college system at LIU Brooklyn. The Blackbirds made an NCAA Tournament appearance under head coach T.J. Kostecky last season, and the man has an unusual directive for his players on offense: They don’t talk.

Kostecky is a preacher of “vision training”, in which the coach implores his players simply to “look around” and anticipate the game. His players say the quiet tactics take some time to get used to, but then become second nature.

[ MORE: Zidane, Simeone defend Neymar’s “antics” ]

Claudio Reyna is one of the disciples of this training, and vision training was a topic on Glenn Crooks’ radio show last week.

That reminded me to check in on LIU, which has two of the more gifted young players in the Northeast. Danish attacker Rasmus Hansen and Norwegian midfielder Simen Hestnes were All-Northeast Conference as freshmen, and they’ve picked up where they left off.

Hansen had two goals and three assists this weekend and Hestnes had a goal and two helpers as LIU Brooklyn knocked off No. 22 Rider 2-1 and Manhattan 4-1.

Three Stars

  1. Simon Hestnes, sophomore, LIU Brooklyn — See above.
  2. Christian Thierjung, senior, Cal — Scored five goals against Harvard.
  3. Mohamed Thiaw, junior, Louisville — Scored fourth goal of year in 1-0 upset of No. 1 Notre Dame.

Other notes

— The nation’s leading scorer remains Russell Cicerone of the University at Buffalo, and the 10-goal man is also second in assists with six. The playmaking wizard is a surefire top-end pick in the next MLS SuperDraft.

[ MORE: EFL Cup roundup ]

— The national lead for assists belongs, however, to talented Canadian forward Brian Wright. He has nine, and should be closely watched by MLS teams ahead of the draft as well.

— Other No. 1-ranked teams:

Men’s D2- Charleston
Men’s D3- Trinity (Texas)
Women’s D1- Stanford
Women’s D2- Grand Valley State
Women’s D3- Williams