Nico Benalcazar - New York City FC - Rises for header

The men’s college soccer season has reached its pinnacle, with four teams having navigated paths through the NCAA Tournament to reach the 2019 College Cup, taking place this weekend at Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina.

Some of the student athletes vying for a national championship will aim to continue their careers at the next level, perhaps in the MLS SuperDraft, as a Homegrown signing of the MLS club where they played at academy level or via other routes to the pros.

Here are some players to watch as the semifinals unfold on Friday with top-seeded Virginia facing ACC rivals Wake Forest (6 pm ET) and Georgetown meeting Stanford (8:30 pm ET). The winners advance to Sunday’s final (6 pm ET); ESPNU will broadcast all three matches live.

Georgetown University

Achara (Senior) – It’s not often that a college player goes by one name, but that’s just one of many interesting things about the Hoyas’ talented striker (his first name, if you need it, is Ifunanyachi). With a skilful, explosive style cultivated in the streets of Nigeria, he was a prolific prep scorer at the Berkshire School, where he was a teammate of former NYCFC winger Jack Harrison. After injury woes early in his NCAA career, he netted six goals and four assists this season in just 13 games.

Dylan Nealis (Sr.) – Younger brother of the New York Red BullsSean Nealis and former Houston Dynamo draftee Jimmy Nealis, Dylan is a well-rounded right back. He captains the Hoyas and has racked up seven goals and 14 assists in 76 career college games.

Dante Polvara (Freshman) – A New York City FC academy product, Polvara was a member of the Cityzens squad that won the 2018 U.S. Soccer Development Academy national championship and has chipped in four goals and two assists in his first NCAA season. Spent time with NYCFC’s first team during their 2019 preseason.

Will Sands (Fr.) – Another NYCFC product, this is the younger brother of City Homegrown James Sands. He earned minutes as a reserve in his first NCAA season and could conceivably blossom in the years ahead.

Sean Zawadski (Sophomore) – A deep-lying midfielder who’s drawn comparisons to another Columbus Crew SC academy product, Wil Trapp.

University of Virginia

Daryl Dike (Soph.) – An imposing No. 9 in the Jozy Altidore mold, Dike may well be on the radar for a Generation adidas contract offer given his hulking frame, fleet feet and huge upside. The Oklahoma native has played both finisher and provider for the Cavaliers with 12g/9a in 34 career NCAA matches. Younger brother of former MLSer and Nigerian international Bright Dike.

Joe Bell (Junior) – Born in England and raised in New Zealand, the do-everything central midfielder has represented the latter nation at the senior international level and is said to set the example in the Cavs’ locker room with a professional’s mentality and preparation. Could be a GA candidate, though his international status may give some MLS teams pause.

Robin Afamefuna (Sr.) – A left-footed defender who’s played multiple roles in his college career, the German spent time in Borussia Monchengladbach’s system before injury sidetracked his professional hopes and led to an American adventure.

Stanford University

Tanner Beason (Redshirt Sr.) – A left-footed defender who played left back early in his Cardinal career before shifting to center back, he’s been a key anchor for the perennial national championship contenders, with myriad individual honors to prove it – including a spot on the MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalists list.

Cam Cilley (Fr.) – A San Jose Earthquakes academy alum, Cilley is one to watch for the future.

Gabe Segal (Fr.) – A US youth national teamer at multiple ages, the young striker came up in Maryland club Bethesda SC but joined D.C. United as a guest player in Generation adidas Cup action. So the Black-and-Red, among others, may have their eyes on him.

Jared Gilbey (Sr.) – The New York Red Bulls product has been a central-midfield standout in NCAA play; has it been enough to earn a contract offer from RBNY?

Wake Forest University

Bruno Lapa (Sr.) – The Brazilian has scored a team-high nine goals and six assists and is a MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist. Played high-school ball at Montverde Academy, a developmental partner of Orlando City’s, so the Lions should know a bit about his attributes.

Alistair Johnston (Sr.) – The Aurora, Ontario native switched from center mid to right back this year and may draw the attention of one of MLS’s Canadian clubs after a solid overall college career.

Nico Benalcazar (Fr.) – The NYCFC academy defender (pictured top, right) has spent significant time in the US youth national team system and is an accurate passer and savvy reader of the game, though his average-sized frame may give the Cityzens some pause.

Machop Chol (Jr.) – One of Atlanta United’s first academy players, the Sudanese attacker is quick, rangy and creative, typically working the flanks and seeking out one-on-one opportunities (4g/8a this year).

Joey DeZart (Sr.) – A Jamaican youth international who came through the Philadelphia Union’s respected youth system, the midfielder was a regular starter for the Demon Deacons this season.