Eight World Cup alum to watch in US national college tournament

Jamaica's Kameron Necole Simmonds celebrates after scoring.
Jamaica's Kameron Necole Simmonds celebrates scoring her side's second goal during a 2023 Cup of Nations match against the Czech Republic on February 19, 2023. (Photo by SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty Images)

In August, when asked, “What’d you get up to this summer?” 16 college soccer players attending school in the U.S. could answer, “Competed at the Women’s World Cup.” Now, some of those returning players hope to lead their college teams to a different trophy: the NCAA College Cup.

On Monday, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) selected the 64 top Division I teams that will compete in an elimination-style tournament ending with the championship match on Monday, December 4.

Out of the 337 eligible programs, 31 teams qualified by winning their conferences. The other 33 were selected by committee. Teams were seeded 1-16 based on performance and strength of schedule, then organized in a four-quadrant bracket.

Here are the eight World Cup alum on teams in this year’s Division I NCAA tournament:

1. Onyi Echegini / Florida State / Nigeria

Senior midfielder Echegini scored both of undefeated Florida State’s goals in its 2-1 win over Clemson to secure the Atlantic Coastal Conference (ACC) title on Sunday. With the brace, Echegini also secured tournament MVP honors.

Echegini was on the roster for Nigeria’s Round of 16 finish in Australia, though she did not play. In 15 matches with FSU this fall, her 11 goals and three assists earned Echegini ACC Offensive Player of the Year.

One of those 11 goals helped beat her Nigeria coach, Randy Waldrum. Waldrum also coaches the seventh-seed University of Pittsburgh women’s soccer team.

No. 1 ranked Florida State (16-0-1) has three players on this list and hopes to avenge last year’s loss to North Carolina in the national tournament semifinals. It will host Morehead State (9-5-5) on Friday.

2. Josefine Hasbo / Harvard / Denmark

Josefine Hasbo also came up big in her conference final. The Denmark national team midfielder scored a hattrick in Sunday’s 3-0 Harvard win over Columbia University.

Hasbo, a junior, is the first Harvard player to have competed — and started — at a Women’s World Cup.

With her team having the ninth-highest goals-per-game average in Division I soccer, Latsbo scored nine goals and notched six assists in just 14 games. She was also named Most Outstanding Player in the Ivy League tournament.

Harvard (12-3-2) is a four-seed and hosts Maine (11-1-6) on Friday.

3. Ruthny Mathurin / Mississippi State / Haiti

Junior defender Mathurin started all 20 matches for Mississippi State this fall. A two-time All-Conference honoree while playing at Lousiana, Mathurin transferred in June and helped the Bulldogs’ backline post a 0.62 goals-against average through the start of November.

That figure was tied for second-best in the Southeastern Conference.

Mathurin debuted for Haiti’s senior team in 2019 and played in the team’s first Women’s World Cup this summer. The Haitian defense only conceded four goals in three games against top-20 national teams — though one, unluckily, to a penalty on a challenge from Mathurin.

As a sixth-seed, Mississippi State (10-5-5) hosts Providence (10-4-5) on Friday.

4. Kameron Simmonds / Tennessee / Jamaica

After Canada and the United States, Jamaica had the most 2023 World Cup players come through the U.S. college soccer system — 17. So, it’s no surprise there are four on this list.

Simmonds, a sophomore forward, came on as a substitute twice for Jamaica as the Reggae Girlz drew with heavyweights Brazil and France on the way to their first-ever Round of 16 appearance.

Simmonds has started 16 games for Tennessee this season, scoring eight goals with two assists. She started the season on the front foot, with six goals in her first six games back from the World Cup. After a stretch without goals, she scored in back-to-back games heading into the NCAA tournament.

Tennessee (8-6-4), seeded 13th, lost early in its Southeastern Conference tournament. On Friday, it will travel to play fourth-seed Xavier (14-3-4).

5. Kiki Van Zanten / Notre Dame / Jamaica

Van Zanten, a graduate student midfielder, teamed up with Simmonds and played half a match for Jamaica this summer. For the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Van Zanten has scored six goals and added three assists this fall.

Van Zanten is no stranger to coming up big in knockout tournaments. Her first goal for the Jamaican senior team came as a substitute in extra time of the CONCACAF Championship bronze medal match. She scored the game-winner over Costa Rica to clinch a spot in the 2024 Olympics for the Reggae Girlz.

Notre Dame (11-3-4) is a three-seed and hosts Valparaiso (11-5-6) on Friday.

6. Peyton McNamara / Ohio State / Jamaica

McNamara came on twice as a substitute for Jamaica during this summer’s World Cup. As an Ohio State senior, she’s a consistent starter in the midfield and earned 2021 Co-Freshman of the Year honors in her conference, the Big Ten.

This year, she’s started all 18 matches for the Buckeyes, scoring once and assisting twice. At the World Cup, McNamara repped Ohio State with a red or gray headband — matching her school colors.

As a 10-seed, Ohio State (9-7-2) will play seven-seed Pittsburgh (14-5-1) this Friday.

7. Jody Brown / Florida State / Jamaica

At just 21, this summer marked Brown’s second time at a Women’s World Cup. She also represented Jamaica in 2019 and was the youngest player to see the field in France.

Brown, a senior forward at FSU, appeared in all four 2023 World Cup matches for Jamaica. She’s scored four goals with four assists in 14 matches with Florida State this fall.

Her goals have come at clutch times, too. In September, Brown earned College Soccer News’ Player of the Week by scoring back-to-back game-winning goals. Last year, she recorded 10 assists; she can set up her teammates for dangerous chances, too.

In 2018, Brown made her senior national team debut at age 16. As the youngest player in the 2018 CONCACAF Women’s Championship, she earned the tournament’s Golden Boot with four goals and helped Jamaica qualify for the 2019 World Cup.

8. Maria Alagoa / Florida State / Portugal

Rounding out our list is another FSU player. Alagoa, a junior midfielder from Portugal, has played in fourteen games for Florida State. She’s come on as a substitute in each game and scored twice.

That early second-half “super sub” role seems to be a common one for Alagoa during her time at Florida State. She may make an impact late in upcoming tournament games.

Alagoa and Portugal made their World Cup debuts this summer, earning a win over Vietnam and a draw against the United States.

An updated NCAA tournament bracket and schedule can be viewed here.

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