Paul Kennedy on the Men's College Cup
The Atlantic Coast Conference has produced five national champions -- in chronological order, Maryland, Clemson, Duke, Virginia and North Carolina.
It has a 50-50 chance of producing a sixth on Sunday.
The Wake Forest-Virginia Tech semifinal assures the ACC of one team in the final.
This is the fourth time ACC teams have met in the semifinals. Clemson beat North Carolina, 4-1, in 1987. Virginia downed Duke, 2-0, in 1992, and Duke reserved the tables three years later, edging the Cavaliers, 3-2, in Bruce Arena's final match as Virginia coach before heading off to MLS.
ACC soccer took off in the late '70s with the arrival of Arena at Virginia and John Rennie at Duke. They took the lead on recruiting American talent from the burgeoning youth programs of the day, and Clemson and N.C. State, two programs who success had been acquired with foreign talent, soon followed suit.
The ACC has changed in recent years. Virginia Tech and Boston College joined the conference as part of a football restructuring. Their soccer programs have prospered in the ACC.
BC won both the 2007 regular-season and conference title to claim the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament but was upset by Men's College Cup surprise Massachusetts in the second round.
Patrick Nyarko's arrival two years ago made the Hokies an instant powerhouse.
Oliver Weiss has taken the Virginia Tech program to an even higher level with the arrival of four upperclassmen from Europe this fall. None of the players is dominating -- three Germans and 6-foot-6 Englishman Robert Edmans -- but they've added considerable depth to the team.
Wake Forest has the youngest soccer program of the original ACC schools. First George Kennedy and then the late Walter Chyzowych faced stiff competition in the 1980s and early 1990s.
In recent years, teams like Maryland and Virginia have been hurt by the exodus of their best underclassmen to MLS.
To his credit, Jay Vidovich, the Demon Deacons coach the last 14 years, has managed to keep his best players in school -- and then send them to MLS.
Wake is the Men's College Cup favorite in 2007 and a favorite to return in the years to come -- thanks to a sensational freshman class arriving next fall.