Five key players to keep an eye on this weekend when NCAA College Cup kicks off this Friday
Some of the best talent in the country will be on display at PPL Park this weekend.
Maryland, Virginia, Notre Dame, and New Mexico will battle the Winter weather, and each other, for the right to lift the College Cup. Scouts will eye potential targets for a return to Philadelphia in January's MLS Superdraft.
With high picks in this year's draft, the Union have an opportunity to bring in some top college players.
Here's a look at five senior prospects who will play in this weekend's College Cup.
Patrick Mullins: forward, Maryland
Mulins might be the most dynamic forward in the country, which is why he's listed in the top three of most mock drafts.
Check out his 2013 stat line:
24 games, 24 starts, 2,113 minutes, 16 goals, 8 assists, 100 shots, 48 shots on goal
And his 2012 stat line:
24 games, 23 starts, 1,779 minutes, 17 goals, 10 assists, 95 shots, 40 shots on goal
Mullins won the MAC Hermann Trophy last season and was also named a first team All-American, ACC Offensive Player of the Year, and MVP of the ACC Championship.
He's got great specs too – six foot one, 172 pounds. He's not a small forward. Mullins has that dynamic body type that really allows for a broad skill set. He's quick enough to turn and pivot and create space for himself, but he's also strong enough to battle with bigger defenders.
- Highlights: Patrick Mullins: Hermann Trophy Winner
Kyle Venter: center fullback, New Mexico
Venter is among the top defensive prospects in this year's draft.
He's got perfect size for his center back position – six foot three, 190 pounds. He's slightly bigger than Jose Goncalves and slightly smaller than Chad Marshall when it comes to height and weight.
Typical of guys with those attributes, he's extremely strong in the air. He regularly wins aerial challenges and physical battles.
Venter is coming off an ankle knock he sustained in the recent win over Washington, but should be fine for this weekend. New Mexico shutout the second seeded Huskies in what was considered a huge upset win. The Lobos haven't allowed a goal in the entire tournament.
Harrison Shipp: forward/midfielder, Notre Dame*
Shipp comes with a big 'ole asterisk next to his name, because he could be signed to a homegrown contract by the Chicago Fire and removed from the SuperDraft process.
He's really been the catalyst for the Irish this season, leading the team with 12 goals and eight assists in his 21 starts. He's played 2,031 minutes and tried 88 total shots.
Shipp lines up as a second striker, but he really likes to receive the ball in the midfield. At 5-foot-9, 145 pounds, he's got the body type to be that hybrid attacking midfielder and withdrawn forward. He can turn in tight spaces, but also has a good nose for goal. Most people see him as an attacking pivot in a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield.
- Highlights: Harry Shipp, Notre Dame Soccer
Grant Van De Casteele, center fullback, Notre Dame
Van De Casteele is a fifth-year senior and a four-year starter at centerback.
Experts have pegged him in the No. 8 to No. 12 range for top defensive prospects in January's MLS SuperDraft.
More than anything he is extremely consistent. He's started pretty much every game going back to 2011. Van De Casteele is a 6-foot-2, 165 pound centerback who could certainly find his way to Major League Soccer.
Michael Calderon, midfielder, New Mexico
Calderon is New Mexico's attacking midfielder, a transfer from Fairleigh Dickinson University.
He assisted on both goals in the tournament win against Penn State and will be key for the Lobos in breaking down a solid Notre Dame defense.
A native of San Jose, Costa Rica, he's described by some as a late second round prospect. A strong tournament performance could up his stock ahead of January's draft.
Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at email@example.com