Welcome back to the Thursday Q&A series, where we focus on one particular topic – today's being this weekend's College Cup – and ask you to react, share, and discuss in the comments section. However, feel free to ask about anything game-related (MLS, USL, NASL, USMNT, CanMNT, etc.) over the next several hours.
College soccer isn't dead yet, though there are many who wish it was. While the game as it is played in the college ranks is often inelegant and unsophisticated -- sometimes downright brutal -- and it is far from an ideal breeding ground for top-level talent, the best college programs nonetheless manage to churn out talent that can be contributors both in MLS and in leagues around the world.
Alejando Bedoya and Vedad Ibisevic say hi.
On Friday afternoon there will be more future pros running about on the field at Sporting Park, as Clemson, Syracuse, Stanford and Akron face off in the 2015 College Cup. The first game (Clemson vs. Syracuse) will be at 6 pm ET, followed by Stanford vs. Akron at 8:30 pm ET. Both semifinals and Sunday's final (2 pm ET) will be available on ESPNU.
The biggest name is, of course, US men's national team forward Jordan Morris, who's led Stanford back to the final four for the first time since 2002. He's got three goals in his last two games, including this absolute gem against Ohio State:
My concern over Morris heading into this season was that he'd never been a truly dominant player in the college game -- producing the type of numbers guys like Ibisevic or, say, Dom Dwyer produced.
He's put that to rest this year. Morris has met expectations when he's been available, and over the last couple of weeks he's exceded them.
Here are a few other standout players to keep an eye on this weekend:
LB Brandon Vincent, Stanford -- A senior who probably won't last past the fifth pick, and will be in serious play starting as high as No. 2. Think of him as a left-footed Sean Franklin.
MF Richie Laryea, Akron -- An underclassman who has serious interest around the league, Larya is a a goal-scoring central midfielder who might be shifted to the wing at the next level. He's a Canadian, and a product of Sigma FC -- the same youth set-up that produced Cyle Larin.
CB Kyle Fisher, Clemson -- A senior who's been a winner and a leader throughout his youth career, Fisher has flown under the radar a bit despite a dominant season from the Tigers. I've had several scouts and agents tell me he's a top 10 pick, and one team executive called him the most MLS-ready central defender in the draft regardless of who declares.
DM Juuso Pasanen, Syracuse -- Pasanen's one of the few seniors on Syracuse's roster, and he's a litmus test: I see a heady and composed player who knows how to be available as an outlet and understands the shape of the game. Others I've spoken with see a guy who just doesn't have the physical qualities necessary for the league. The fact that he was a Finnish youth international is worth noting.
There are, of course, others of note, including Stanford midfielder Eric Verso, Syracuse playmaker Julian Bueschler, Clemson forward T.J. Casner, and Akron playmaker Adam Najem (who may or may not be in play for the Red Bulls as a Homegrown).
Some of these guys will be in MLS in the next couple of months, some in the next couple of years, and a few more not at all.
That's the reality of college soccer. It may not be perfect, but it's what we've got -- for now.
Ok folks, thanks for keeping me company!