The NCAA Men’s College Cup, soccer’s version of the Final Four, is upon us, and the consensus favorite is defending champion Wake Forest.
Wake has the nation’s best scoring offense (averaging 3.52 goals per game), and has outscored opposition 81-16 on the season, including 14 shutouts, two of which came in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight.
Over the past two seasons the Demon Deacons are 43-3-3, including 21-1-1 this year, and this year they boast three Hermann Trophy semifinalists: Marcus Tracy (13 goals, 10 assists); Cody Arnoux (17 goals, eight assists); and Sam Cronin (10 goals). Add to the mix sophomore Corben Bone’s seven goals and 17 assists (leading the nation in assists per game, 0.74) and it becomes clear that this team has a formative advantage from a statistical standpoint.
Tracy and Cronin are seniors due to be snatched in the MLS SuperDraft next month. Seattle owns the No. 1 pick. Incidentally, Wake Forest features a Federal Way native, freshman Danny Wenzel, in its back four.
Although it’s no surprise that Wake is back to defend its College Cup title, it hasn’t come easy. The team has had a target on their back all season long. In the Atlantic Coast Conference, taking out the Deacs is like beating the likes of Duke at Cameron Indoor, an arduous task that if accomplished can make a team’s season.
Although formidable, the Deacons’ fallibility was demonstrated early in the postseason. They were eliminated by Virginia in the ACC tournament and Wake was extended to overtime in the NCAA’s first round by William & Mary. Since then it’s been smooth sailing, handily beating both Dartmouth and South Florida, 7-0 and 5-0, respectively, to reach the College Cup.
Wake Forest, which has been ranked No. 1 nationally all season, is just the 12th school in NCAA history to advance to three consecutive College Cups. It is bidding to become the first repeat champion since Indiana (2003-04).
Three from ACC
Without a doubt, there will be at least one ACC team in Sunday’s final at Pizza Hut Park. Three of the semifinalists come from the ACC, including Wake’s semifinal opponent, North Carolina, a team they beat 4-2 on Nov. 1. The Tar Heels entered the tournament as a No. 13 seed.
The Wake-UNC victor will meet the winner of Maryland and St. John’s. The Terps won the ACC tourney while the Red Storm conquered the Big East.
The Terrapins’ Omar Gonzalez, a 6-foot-5 defensive giant, is another Hermann finalist. Both Gonzalez and Wake’s Bone will be playing near their hometowns in the Dallas area.
Semifinals take place on Friday, Dec. 12. ESPN2 will air Wake Forest v North Carolina beginning at 2:30 p.m. PT. Maryland and St. John’s follows on ESPN U at 5p.m. PT.
The final is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 14, at 10 a.m. PT on ESPN2.