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The Road to the 2016 College Cup begins

151107-Morgan-Andrews-USCThe 2016 college season is underway. In just 15 short weeks, a champion will be crowned in Cary, N.C. A lot will happen between now and then and here’s a look at some of the talking points this season as well as a few predictions about who might be hoisting the trophy on that last Sunday.

2016 U-20 World Cup

If you take a gander at the schedule of this fall’s 2016 U-20 world cup, you’ll quickly see why it’s a talking point for the 2016 college season. With the tournament kicking off in mid-November and ending the same weekend as the College Cup, a lot of teams are going to be without some of the brightest young stars in the game. That’s something college soccer fans have known for awhile.

What wasn’t known until last spring was that all U.S. hopefuls would miss the entire season.  Take out twenty or so of the top players in the college level, and suddenly the picture looks very different.  The hardest hit by this decision is reigning College Cup champions Penn State. The school announced Friday that it would be without 4 starters from last year’s squad as well as the heir apparent to Britt Eckerstrom in goal. Combine these losses with the three seniors now plying their trade in NWSL, and seems likely that going back-to-back is beyond the reach of the Nittany Lions.

College Cup in Cary

The final weekend of the college season was set for Orlando City’s new stadium but alas it won’t be finished in time. For the second year in a row and the third in four, the College Cup will take place in Cary, N.C.

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Although Cary has played host to the grand finale of the college season numerous times, never before has such a decision in women’s soccer had political ramifications. With the passage of House Bill 2, the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, which places a statewide ban on individuals using bathrooms that do not correspond to their biological sex, it’s possible that the college cup might face public pressure that is generally reserved for the “revenue producing” sports.

Other sporting events including the NBA’s All-Star game left the state due to the law, but the NCAA has left the already slated national tournaments in place. In actuality, the fallout from the NCAA’s decision to use Cary as a host site will likely generate little press. Nonetheless, it’s an issue that soccer fans, especially socially aware ones, will want to monitor.

The Contenders


After a stunning turnaround a year ago brought them to the cusp of a national title, the Blue Devils seem poised to make another run at a title. One. That’s the number of starters from a year ago they have to replace. The team, which stifled opponents attack in the tournament, returns its entire backline including USWNT U-23 pool member Christina Gibbons and Olympic Bronze medalist Rebecca Quinn.

In front of that stout defense are myriad attacking options.  Midfielder Taylor Racioppi, who was in contention for the U-20 team but has opted to stay home, will surely bolster Duke’s attack. Last year she and fellow freshman Kayla McCoy combined for a total of 15 goals on the season. Add in Imani Dorsey and Toni Payne, who are both capable of punishing backlines with their pace, and it’s easy to see why many pundits are tipping the Blue Devils as the one of the teams to beat.

Florida State

The Seminoles have gone to five straight NCAA College Cups. That’s just incredible given the increasing parity in the college game. Arguably, Florida State’s three straight ACC Conference championships is just as impressive given how strong the conference is.

While Florida State certainly has some holes to fill with the departures of Megan Campbell, Carson Pickett and company, it’s just unwise to bet against Mark Krikorian. Krikorian has dealt with significant roster losses before, even during mid-season with European qualifiers and shown that he is more than capable of weathering the storm.

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Of course the there’s still a ton of talent in Tallahassee as the Seminoles return one of the most electrifying players in the country, Megan Connelly. Connelly’s ability to change games with superbly taken set pieces is a significant weapon especially given the Seminoles’ penchant for shutdown defense. One free kick goal is often enough to secure a win for the Seminoles.

Defensively, the Seminoles return keeper Cassie Miller, Emma Koivisto, and Kirsten Crowley, who’s been named to the Hermann watch list. In sum, the defensive unit should be up to the task for frustrating some of the nation’s best offensive talent once more.


Last year a young Stanford side was upended at home in the Elite Eight by a talented and scrappy Duke team. Now a year older and wiser, the Cardinal will be poised to complete their season with a trip to North Carolina.

Stanford is chock full of talent. There’s definitely at least a couple of names on this roster that seem destined to at least get a shot at the full national team. At the center of it all, is All-American Andi Sullivan, who easily has one of the highest soccer IQs  in college game. Sullivan does a lot of things proficiently including taking set pieces and reading the game. What she isn’t however, is someone who’s going to score tons of goals.

In fact, looking at Stanford’s roster, this is there isn’t a real proven goalscorer. Last year the team had five players tied with a high of five. That can either be a blessing or a curse depending on how things play out.  It’s a blessing in that it can make it more difficult for opposing defenses to shut the team down, but it’s a curse in that the team is lacking that go-to player

Other Teams to Watch


Limited to just 13 games last season due to injury, 2015 confirmed what fans already knew: Ashley Hatch is a game changer. Without Hatch, BYU struggled a bit offensively.  In 2016, a healthy final campaign from Hatch could see the Cougars make a late run in the tournament. The attacking talent around  Hatch includes Nadia Gomes, who earned WCC player of the year honors last year. 

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Solid defense is the Cougars’ calling card, though. Last season the team ranked third in the country allowing just 0.43 goals per game and Goalkeeper Rachel Boaz was second in the nation in save percentage. BYU looks primed to win their fourth straight WCC title. If the Cougars can tally a few more goals, they’ve got a good chance at a deep NCAA tournament run.


After a campaign to forget in 2015, the Bruins will rebound in a big way. Bolstered by any exciting group of youngsters including Anika Rodriguez and Canadian sensation Jessie Fleming. UCLA will easily return to the NCAA tournament, the only real question is how far they will go. Regardless, this season will be an interesting prelude to 2017, when the Bruins put a much-anticipated group of youngsters on the field.


After a Sweet Sixteen appearance a year ago, Southern California has returned a slew of talent including U.S. youth national veteran Morgan Andrews and Kayla Mills. Added to the mix are two the best transfers this season in Alex Anthony and Leah Pruitt, formerly of Maryland and San Diego State respectively. Each led their former schools in goals a season ago with 10. This pair could be difference makers on a side that struggled offensively at times a season ago.


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