College Cup 2013: MLS prospects on display in Philadelphia

Photo Courtesy of University of New Mexico

Four powerhouse teams have made it to Philadelphia for the College Cup, meaning plenty of future MLS prospects are on display. This year's group is a good mix of top draft prospects, soon-to-be homegrown signings and youngsters for the future.

While youth academies and the homegrown rule have made college soccer and the SuperDraft a bit less important to MLS clubs in recent years, teams still get some of their best young talent from the draft. Sporting Kansas City won MLS Cup anchored by Matt Besler and Graham Zusi, defeating a Real Salt Lake team with important draftees like Chris Schuler, Devin Sandoval and Tony Beltran. Some of last year's draftees had major impacts on their teams in their rookie seasons, with Andrew Farrell helping the New England Revolution to the playoffs and the pair of Deshorn Brown and Dillon Powers leading an exciting Colorado Rapids attack.

There are plenty of players in this year's edition of College Cup who will make MLS rosters next year and even more who will make their way into the league a year or two down the line. Here's who to keep your eye on in Friday's semifinals, both of which are on ESPNU. The final takes place on Sunday and will also be shown on ESPNU.

New Mexico vs. Notre Dame - 5 p.m. ET

Harrison Shipp - Don't expect Shipp to end up in the MLS SuperDraft -- Chicago has a homegrown claim on him that is being disputed, but that they're expected to win. He's one of the best pro prospects in the country and should suit up for the Fire next year. The forward led Notre Dame with 12 goals and eight assists.

Nick Besler - The younger brother of an aforementioned USMNT central defender plays in the center of midfield for the Irish and is currently thought of by most as a fringe MLS prospect, though Top Drawer Soccer has him as one of its top-10 players.

Grant Van De Casteele - The Notre Dame senior central defender went to high school in Frisco, but wasn't an FC Dallas product. Expect him to get drafted this spring and get a shot to make an MLS roster.

Patrick Hodan - A sophomore, Hodan probably won't be declaring this year, but he could grace MLS in the future. He plays out wide for Notre Dame and was second on the team in goals behind Shipp.

Kyle Venter - New Mexico's 6-foot, 3-inch central defender is the only slam-dunk first-round pick playing in this game. He's a redshirt senior, so no one will expect him to improve by leaps and bounds, but he's seen as a very pro-ready player.

Michael Calderon - A Costa Rican youth international, Calderon transferred from Farleigh Dickinson and has played his way into the draft picture over the last two seasons. Expect to see him play as an attacking midfielder for New Mexico.

Virginia vs. Maryland - 7:30 p.m. ET

Darius Madison - UVA's second-leading goal-scorer might be a bit small to ever play as a lone striker in MLS, but his pace should land him a job for a while. He's a Philadelphia Union product and should enter the league as a homegrown player.

Scott Thomsen - After Madison, UVA's lacking for surefire MLS talent. Thomsen should get a look simply because he's a solid left back, and those are very hard to find.

Eric Bird - Bird isn't going to be a first-round pick if he comes out this year, but he's got another year in college to prove himself to MLS scouts. He'll certainly be on their radar for his senior season after leading UVA in goals and assists.

Patrick Mullins - There are quite a few Maryland players who will eventually be pros, but Mullins is the headliner. The senior forward could be a top-five pick in the upcoming draft, though his pro position isn't obvious.

Schillo Tshuma - While less accomplished in his college career thus far, Tshuma -- just a sophomore -- probably has a higher ceiling than Mullins. He scored 10 fewer goals than Mullins this year, but he's a much faster and trickier player. If he comes out this year, he's a top candidate for a Generation adidas contract.

Zack Steffen - Unless Philadelphia has given up on Zac MacMath, don't expect to see Steffen in MLS anytime soon. The United States Under-20 keeper is just a freshman and probably won't be signing with the Union for a while, but he's been marked as a possible USMNT keeper of the future.

Sunny Jane - Operating in the shadow of Mullins and Tshuma, Jane hasn't gotten much time to shine, but the winger is still a fringe pro prospect who could do a lot for himself with a good College Cup and combine.

Michael Ambrose - If you're a decent fullback from a big program like Maryland, you're going to get looks from MLS. However, Ambrose is just a sophomore and might stick it out in school for another year or two.

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