Akron Wins College Cup, and What It Means for MLS

Akron Zips players stand arm in arm during the penalty kick shootout. The Virginia Cavaliers defeated the Akron Zips 3-2 in a penalty kick shoot out after a scoreless game and overtime in the finals of the 2009 NCAA Men's College Cup at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, NC on December 13, 2009. Photo via Newscom

The media attention around the 2010 College Cup was focused squarely on the University of Akron.  The Zips one of the most successful men’s college soccer program the past two seasons, losing only twice and making coach Caleb Porter a sought-after commodity on the MLS market (in DC at least).  In 2009, the Zips lost the 2009 College Cup on penalty kicks and made this season a mission to win the championship they felt they deserved.  On the other side of the match was Louisville, undefeated and by seeding the favorite going into the match, making this a highly anticipated college game that did not disappoint.

The Zips notched the game’s only goal in the 79th minute and survived a late chance by the Cardinals to win the College Cup 1-0.  It was sophomore Scott Caldwell who collected his own rebound and slotted the ball past the Cardinals keeper for the match’s only goal.  Louisville, who for most of the second half was dominated by Akron, was denied a penalty kick in the first half on a handball and had a great chance to tie late in the second half that was barely turned away.  Cardinals forward Aaron Horton collected a rebound from a saved corner kick and had a clear look at the goal, with the Zips keeper off the line and only defender Chad Barson standing between him and an empty net.  Barson was able to do just that and save Lousiville’s last chance.

So why is this match important to MLS fans?  For two reasons.  The first is the important role collegiate soccer plays in the American soccer landscape.  Even with the revived MLS reserve league and various development academies, collegiate soccer still has a niche for developing American talent.  Some MLS stars will always come from the collegiate ranks and a number of them currently do.  And NCAA soccer will always provide quality matches for soccer fans.

The second reason this match was important is the incredible amount of talent on the pitch during the game.  Akron could conceivably have almost ten players from this team signing some sort of professional contract within the next few months, despite having so few seniors.  Anthony Ampaipitakwong will certainly be drafted in the MLS Superdraft this offseason, but a number of his underclassmen teammates could also go with him or sign Generation Adidas contracts, depending on a number of factors.  One of them is the number of players like University of Maryland’s Ethan White who sign Home Grown Talent contracts, which would free up Generation Adidas dollars for Akron underclassmen like Zarek Valentin and Darlington Nagbe.

What did you think of the 2010 College Cup?

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