College Cup 2013: What To Watch For & Where To Watch It

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Preview of this weekend's NCAA College Cup action!

This weekend at PPL Park in Chester, PA, the final three games of the 2013 NCAA Men's Soccer season will take place. The semifinals are set to happen on Friday, December 13. The two winners of the semifinals will advance to the final on Sunday, December 15 at 3:00 PM (2:00 PM in Chicagoland).

Below is some information and notes as a primer to the upcoming games.

Game 1: #3 Notre Dame vs. #7 New Mexico; 5:00 PM EST (4:00 PM in Chicago) - PREVIEW - WATCH LIVE

Notre Dame

Conference: Atlantic Coast

Record: 15-1-6 Overall; 7-1-3 Conference

National Ranking: #3

How they got here:

Defeated #33 Wisconsin 4-0

Defeated #16 Wake Forrest 4-2

Defeated #12 Michigan State 2-1

This game should have the most appeal to Chicago Fire fans as potential Homegrown Player, Harrison Shipp, will be leading the charge for Notre Dame. Shipp was recently named a finalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy, which is college soccer's equivalent to the Heisman.

Other players to look out for on Notre Dames' squad are senior defender Grant van de Casteele, who was just invited to the MLS Player combine in January and sophomore midfielder Patrick Hodan, who has scored 9 goals and 5 assists.

Another player who has been getting a decent amount of minutes in the central midfield is junior Nick Besler, brother of Sporting Kansas City centerback Matt Besler.

University of New Mexico

Conference: Conference USA

Record: 14-5-2 Overall; 7-1-1 Conference

National Ranking: #11

How they got here:

Defeated George Mason 1-0

Defeated #16 Penn Stat 2-0

Defeated #2 Washington 1-0

New Mexico has the stingiest defense out of all the teams remaining in the tournament. On the year, they have only allowed 148 shots and given up 18 goals. For context, their opponent on Friday night, Notre Dame, has only conceded 17 goals, but they have allowed 214 shots.

It's easy to write off New Mexico's defensive prowess. They play in a conference that is somewhat weak and, through their entire season, they only faced four ranked opponents before entering the NCAA tournament. New Mexico's defense has lived up to it's reputation as they are the only team remaining that has not conceded a goal so far in the entire tournament. By the time their Elite Eight showdown against #2 Washington reached half time, the Huskies, who averaged 2 goals a game, only had a single shot recorded to New Mexico's ten.

New Mexico's midfield is run by two players named Michael who were both invited to the MLS Player Combine this January. Michael Kafari is a 6'1" defensive midfielder from Accra, Ghana. Michael Calderon is an attacking midfielder from San José, Costa Rica and is third on the team in points.

Two players are tied for the most goals on the team. Junior forward James Rogers and freshman forward Niko Hansen both have 7 goals on the season. Rogers has the most points on the team by virtue of have in one more assist than Hansen with six.

Game 2: #9 Virginia vs. #4 Maryland; 7:30 PM EST (6:30 PM in Chicago) - PREVIEW - WATCH LIVE

University of Virginia

Conference: Atlantic Coast

Record: 13-5-5 Overall; 4-3-4 Conference

National Ranking: #9

How they got here:

#34 St. John's 2-0

#8 Marquette 3-1

#21 Connecticut 2-1

It's really hard to think that Virginia has any chance against Maryland in this game. With eleven freshmen on their roster and only two seniors, they are a young team. Of the two seniors on Virginia's squad, only defender Kevin McBride appears on the stat sheet, having logged 1,988 minutes this year.

Virginia does have a couple of interesting young players to watch. Eric Bird, Jordan Allen, and Darius Madison were recently named to the NSCAA All-South Atlantic Region Team. Virginia forwards Bird (junior) and Madison (sophomore) have combined for 13 goals and 8 assists.

University of Maryland

Conference: Atlantic Coast

Record: 16 - 3 - 5 Overall; 7 - 1 - 3 Conference

National Ranking: #4

How they got here:

Defeated #23 Providence 3-1

Defeated #13 UC Irvine 1-0

Defeated #7 California 2-1

Senior midfielder Patrick Mullins is playing out of this world. If you have not heard of his name by now, then you will begin to start hearing it a lot come January. In the last two season, Mullins has scored 33 goals and been credited with 18 assists. 2013 is also his second straight year as a finalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy. If Mullins doesn't go first overall in next year's SuperDraft, it's likely that he will not fall far.

Maryland is not all about Mullins, though. Sophomore midfielder Schillo Tshuma is having agreat follow up year to his stellar freshman year where he scored 10 goals. F.C. Dallas Academy product Mikey Ambrose is one of the top defenders in the country according to TopDrawerSoccer.

Another player to look out for is senior Jake Pace. Recruited as a defender, Pace was converted to play the forward position. Standing at 6'2" and weighting 208 lbs., Pace is an imposing figure and could probably play linebacker for the Terps' football team. Pace is a super sub, making 23 appearances with only 1 start this season. He has managed to notch 5 goals and 3 assists in 998 minutes of playing time.

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