Florida State has advanced to its 14th College Cup and fourth in a row. The Seminoles will be attempting to earn their fourth national championship (2014, 2018, 2021). The other four College Cup teams are Clemson, BYU and Stanford.
Let’s take a closer look at the upcoming College Cup starting with a quick primer on each of the teams and then answering some burning questions.
The following chart provides a thumbnail sketch on each of the teams in the 2023 College Cup.
BYU is an impressive offense team. The Cougars have five players with double digit goals. They scored four second half goals in the snow against a fantastic North Carolina defense in the Elite Eight last week. BYU averages 3.1 goals per game. This is a high powered offense. The issue for the Cougs is that the defense is a bit shaky. They concede a goal per game. In particular, the goalkeeping has been an issue. Junior Savanna Mason (1.19 gaavg) was the original starter but freshman Lynette Hernaez (.92 gaavg) took over the starting job midway through the season and she has started all of the postseason games. BYU will score. The question will be how well the defense can hold up.
Clemson is a defensive first team. The Tigers are led by one of the best goalkeepers in the nation in Halle Mackiewicz. They also have a talented and experienced team in front of her. However, the Tigers can struggle to score. Coach Eddie Radwanski correctly points out that the Tigers have scored 56 goals this year (2.24 per game). However, if you only consider the games against Massey top 100 competition that average falls to 1.28 per game. Clemson is a really good team but they will have to find a way to amp up the offense against Florida State because the Seminoles have scored fewer than two goals only twice this season.
Stanford is a balanced team that has the distinction of being the only team other than Florida State that is undefeated this season. Stanford has an outstanding defense. The Cardinal have not conceded multiple goals in any game this season. However, the chart above reveals the question mark for Stanford. The schedule has been weak. The Cardinal have only played one game against a team (#5 UCLA) that is currently in the Massey top 10. For reference, Florida State has played six such games. It’s tough to know exactly how good Stanford is because they just haven’t been tested that often against strong teams.
Florida State will face Clemson in the first game of the College Cup. What are some keys to watch for in this matchup?
These two teams have played twice before and FSU has obviously won both times. Clemson has to find some way to score. It’s that obvious but that simple. The Seminoles will score against Clemson because that offense scores against everyone. If FSU scores more than twice it will be really hard for the Tigers to keep up. Mackiewicz is fantastic in goal but she needs to have the game of her life on Friday. FSU must keep the set-pieces to a minimum. Clemson is probably not going to have much success offensively in the run of play but if they can generate set-pieces they can score.
BYU will face Stanford in the second game of the College Cup. What are some keys to watch for in this matchup?
This sets up as a matchup between Stanford’s stingy defense and BYU’s explosive offense. Stanford needs to occupy BYU. What I mean by that is that the Cardinal need to make the Cougars defend. They have to force the Cougar midfielders and hopefully forwards to track back to their defensive third. If players like Brecken Mozingo and Olivia Wade-Katoa are able to camp out in Stanford’s territory all game it will be a long night for a defense even as good as the Cardinal. For their part, the Cougars need to protect Hernaez in goal. She is talented but inexperienced and BYU does not want to see her having to face too many shots. The way the Cougs will hope to do this is by attacking, attacking, attacking. If they are attacking that means that Stanford isn’t. This game will be a clash of styles and it should be a good one.
You haven’t talked that much about Florida State yet. What do you think FSU’s chances are to come home with the title?
While every team in Cary is talented, Florida State is the clear favorite. We don’t have to sugercoat this. The Seminoles are the best team in the country and they should win. However, as Mark Krikorian was famous for saying, the best team doesn’t always win. FSU can’t just expect to show up and be anointed the champions. They will have to earn it. They have all the pieces that they need to earn the fourth star. We will see if they can deliver.
Finally, what is your College Cup prediction?
If the Seminoles play like they have all year they will beat Clemson and probably comfortably. If Noles have their A game they win by 3+ goals. If they have their B game they win but it could be a nail biter. Clemson needs to play really well and FSU needs to be really off or really unlucky or both for the Tigers to pull the massive upset. Clemson is really good and they won’t be a bit scared or intimidated. However, FSU has too much talent. The Noles win game one 2-0.
As I said before the second game will be a clash of styles. I am really leery of Stanford’s soft schedule but I do think that the Cardinal are a strong and balanced team. However, BYU is so explosive. This game is really tough to pick. It could absolutely go either way. I think the game will be tight and will be tied after 120 minutes. The game will end as a 2-2 draw but BYU will win 4-3 in penalty kicks to advance to the College Cup final.
In the Final Florida State will have too much for the Cougars and will take the National Championship by a 3-1 score.
Florida State will face Clemson in the first National Semifinal in Cary, NC on Friday at 6pm. BYU will take on Stanford in the second National Semifinal 30 minutes after the finish of the first semifinal. Both games will be broadcast on ESPNU.