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Preview: Virginia, UCLA to face off Sunday in 2014 NCAA championship game

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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

Potential MLS No.1 pick, heated rivalry highlight this weekend’s College Cup

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Patrick Mullins has done an awful lot on what could be the path to the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 MLS Superdraft. He won the 2012 Hermann Trophy as the nation’s best male player and just may repeat the feat this year. The 6-foot-1 forward has 16 goals this season and a boatload of career honors.

What he doesn’t have is an NCAA championship, and he can’t get it without knocking off heated rival Virginia on Friday in what amounts to their final battle as ACC foes.

2013 College Cup (in Philadelphia, Penn.)
FINAL FOUR:
(3) Notre Dame vs. (7) New Mexico, 530pm ET
(5) Maryland vs. (8) Virginia, 730pm ET
CHAMPIONSHIP: 3pm ET on Sunday

The Terps are the only returning school among the College Cup contestants, which is Atlantic Coast Conference-heavy with three of the four schools coming from the ACC. Maryland,  3-time champions, is hungry for its first title since 2008, while the Cavaliers have six titles to their name and would love little more than to deny Mullins the biggest accolade missing from his four years at College Park.

Mullins and teammate Schillo Tshuma went in the Top Four of MLS’ first mock draft lats month and are the headline prospects from the weekend. Notre Dame centerback Grant van de Casteele, Maryland winger Sunny Jane and New Mexico midfielder Michael Calderon and defender Kyle Venter are among the draft-rumored names on the pitch in Philadelphia.

Cheat sheet:

– Maryland beat Virginia 1-0 in the ACC title game last month and the two schools drew 3-3 at Charlottesville in October.

– This is Notre Dame’s first College Cup appearance.

– Notre Dame lost to Virginia in kicks during the ACC semifinals after the two teams played to a 3-3 stalemate. Virginia also beat the Irish 2-0 during the conference play.

– New Mexico’s lone College Cup appearance ended in a loss to Maryland in the 2005 championship game.