College Cup final preview: What to watch for in Sunday's NCAA national championship

Daryl Dike - University of Virginia - celebrating goal vs. Wake Forest in College Cup

Georgetown University and the University of Virginia will duel for an NCAA national championship in Cary, North Carolina on Sunday evening as the 2019 College Cup final unfolds at Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park.

While the Cavaliers are well-established as NCAA royalty dating back to Bruce Arena’s 1990s dynasty era, the Hoyas have risen to national contention more recently under the savvy leadership of head coach Brian Wiese. Here’s a quick rundown of the mid-Atlantic matchup, which features two of the best-run programs in the Division I game and a bevy of potential future professionals.

The game is at 6 pm ET and will be broadcast on ESPNU. See full NCAA tournament results here.

How they got here

Both the Hoyas and Cavaliers have been nearly perfect all season, each losing just once and finishing in first and second in the final edition of the United Soccer Coaches’ national rankings last month. Boasting the top two defenses in D1, they continued that excellence in the postseason, passing a range of different tests on their way to today’s final.

Georgetown have been a true team, riding a wide range of contributors to reach this point, and it showed in their emphatic 2-0 defeat of the Sanford Cardinal in a semifinal win played in a frigid downpour on Friday night:

UVa have been graced by a bit more in the way of individual excellence, most prominently when powerful striker Daryl Dike – younger brother of former MLSer Bright – has gone beast mode, most recently with a brace in Friday’s semifinal win (pictured above) over Wake Forest, an epic clash of ACC titans:

Players to watch


Achara (Senior) – His first name is Ifunanyachi but he only goes by one, and with a skilful, explosive style cultivated in the streets of Nigeria, it’s understandable. 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 regular-season games.

Jacob Montes (Junior) – A Floridian who left home early to spend time in the Portland Timbers’ system as an academy prospect before shifting to the college game with G-town, Montes is a shifty, technical player with the quality to change games, as shown by his three goals – two of them free-kick golazos – and three assists in the tournament to date. One to watch with the next level in mind.

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

Sean Zawadski (Sophomore) – A deep-lying midfielder who’s drawn comparisons to another Columbus Crew SC academy product, Wil Trapp, Zawadski opened Friday’s scoring with an absolute worldie of a goal, a blistering first-time volley from the top of the penalty box that tilted the field in the Hoyas’ favor.


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. With 7g/8a this season, the Oklahoma native leads the Cavs in both categories and has hit top gear in this tournament with several dominant displays.

Joe Bell (Jr.) – 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. He’s a MAC Hermann Trophy finalist and could also be a GA candidate, though his international status may give some MLS teams pause.

Henry Kessler (Jr.) – A central defender who’s both hulking (6-foot-4 in height) and cerebral (graduated high school and started college coursework two years early via a Bard College program), Kessler has been an ever-present in the nation’s best back line. The Lower East Side native spent time in the Red Bulls’ system early in his youth career, but left in pursuit of more playing time at Beachside SC and it paid off. Could well mature into an Axel Sjoberg-esque pro at some point.

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