Nov 5, 2007

Inaugural Blogger Q n' A: From College To The Pros

Like many soccer fanatics, Soccer Source is painfully clueless when it comes to the college game. With all the pro leagues to pay attention to, there simply isn't much time left for sleeping and eating and working a day job, much less following an entirely different niche of the sport. Yet many of these players will be drafted into MLS next year, and some have already featured on various youth national teams. What's more, the college season is entering its most crucial period (conference playoffs followed by the NCAA tournament) right now. What's a soccer blogger to do to get caught up? Easy. Interview somebody who knows a thing or two about the subject! My search for experts led me to Bonji, a Denver-based blogger who runs From College to the Pros, which focuses on young U.S. players and pays close attention to the NCAA. For anybody interested in up-and-coming soccer talent, particularly U.S. talent, From College to the Pros is a terrific resource. Bonji started following college soccer and the impact college players had on the pros back in 2003. He was kind enough to respond to questions so my readers and I could get caught up:

Soccer Source: How many teams make the NCAA tournament? Is it single elimination like the basketball playoffs or double elim like baseball? Where is the final four held this year and when?

From College to the Pros: The NCAA soccer tournament is similar to basketball in that it is a single elimination tournament with regions and seeding. Seeded teams receive an automatic bye into the second round. Each year there are 16 seeded teams. There are 48 total teams that play in the tournament.

On Monday, Nov. 19, there will be a “selection show” on ESPNews between 5:30 pm and 6 pm EST. The first round matches kick off later that week on the 23rd and 24th. Here is a link to the NCAA page showing more details.

This year the College Cup will be held in Cary, N.C., at the SAS Soccer Stadium from Dec. 14-16. The semifinals and final are called the College Cup and are part of the NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Tournament. The College Cup is the Final Four of college soccer.

Soccer Source: Okay, so who are some of this year's favorites? Can you tell me about their star players, tactical formations, other items of note such as famous
coaches, etc?

From College to the Pros: Here is a link to the current NSCAA/adidas National Poll: An updated poll will be available tomorrow. This regular season UConn and Wake Forest have been storming through college soccer. However, Boston College is top of the ACC, which is the top college soccer conference. BC beat Wake Forest last week which was huge for BC as it was Wake’s first loss. As you can imagine, anything can happen in a single elimination tourney. The Big Ten, Pac 10 and Big East are also strong conferences. Then you get Santa Clara and SMU out of less competitive conferences. Brown has to be the biggest surprise of the top 10 but I think their strength of schedule has helped their record and they could be an early upset victim in the tourney.

Soccer Source: A recent entry on your blog provided a list of the best
MLS prospects. Can any of these guys play in Europe?

From College to the Pros: Unfortunately, I don’t get to see all of these guys play in person. I think without that it is hard to judge who can go abroad. That being said, UCSB's Andy Iro has a strong pedigree having grown up playing in Liverpool. Additionally he is a huge kid with good soccer sense and skills. Being English, he could easily move back across the pond. UConn defender Julius James is an athletic kid with national team experience. Maryland's Stephen King is a gifted midfielder who given the right opportunity could move overseas. Julian Valentin is a strong defender and some hard work could see him go to Europe. Duke midfielder Michael Videira is another player who has a lot of youth national team experience and has won many accolades. I’m certainly missing some but that is a start.

Soccer Source: What do you know about teams local to my area and their chances in this year's tournament? (That would be Rutgers and UConn, basically,

From College to the Pros: So you’re in the New York area? UConn will most likely be one of the top four seeds and could be the #1. They’re a favorite to win it all. Lehigh and Rutgers should also make the tournament, however they have to be considered underdogs. Expand the circle a little and you’ve got a lot more. Up in New England: Brown, Boston College and Harvard. Of those three, BC has the best chance to go far since they are top of the ACC. Expand to the south a little and you’ve got: Virginia Tech, UVA and Maryland. You have to give any of the ACC teams a chance because they’re typically stacked with talent and used to playing in tough games.

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