When the national semifinals of the 2016 NCAA College Cup kickoff Friday night at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, four alums of the Chicago Fire development program will be looking to send their respective teams through to this year's final. The first of the two matches will feature a Fire product on both sides of the pitch, while the late match will boast a pair former Fire Academy players and two of the nation's top freshmen wearing Tar Heel blue.
For more on the bracket and broadcast schedule of the 2016 NCAA College Cup, visit NCAA.com.
Denver vs. Wake Forest (Friday, Dec. 9 at 5:00 p.m. CT, ESPNU)
Sixth-seeded Denver and second overall seed Wake Forest will square off in the first of the national semifinals on Friday. This matchup figures to prominently feature two Chicago Fire development alums in Denver's Alex Underwood (Winnetka, Ill.) and Wake's Brad Dunwell (Grand Rapids, Mich.).
Denver made it to the tournament's last four on the strength of wins over Clemson, Washington and UNLV. Underwood -- a junior midfielder -- has featured in each match, having set up the game-winner against Clemson in the last round and picking up a goal and an assist in his team's tournament opening 3-0 victory over UNLV.
Dunwell, a sophomore midfielder, has played every single minute of the tournament so far for the 2016 ACC Champions. En route to Friday's showdown, Wake Forest has taken down Virginia Tech, SIUE and Coastal Carolina and allowed just one goal in the process.
North Carolina vs. Stanford (Friday, Dec. 9 at 7:45 p.m. CT, ESPNU)
Freshman Fire Academy alums Mauricio Pineda (Bolingbrook, Ill.) and Cameron Lindley (Carmel, Ind.) have been stalwarts for the ninth-seeded Tar Heels during both their regular season and into the College Cup playoffs. Their trip to Friday's national semifinal against Stanford has not been entirely smooth, however. UNC was taken to double overtime in two of their three tournament matches, including their 1-0 affair with Providence in the last round. Pineda -- a defender -- set up Drew Murphy's 102nd-minute game-winner to help send his side through to Houston. He's additionally played all 302 minutes for his side during the Cup run.
Lindley -- the ACC Freshman of the Year -- provided the assist on the game-winning goal in the Tar Heels' 1-0 win over Syracuse in their second. The central midfielder had gone the distance in UNC's first two matches before exiting in the 20th minute against Providence due to injury.