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Charlotte-area connections aplenty in soccer’s big weekend

Toronto FC goalkeeper Clint Irwin (right) is a former Charlotte Christian player.
Toronto FC goalkeeper Clint Irwin (right) is a former Charlotte Christian player. AP

Championships will be decided at the highest levels of soccer in the United States this weekend, with the MLS Cup set for Saturday and the NCAA men’s College Cup being played Friday and Sunday in Houston.

The Carolinas and the Charlotte area have plenty of connections to both events:

NCAA College Cup

At Houston

Wake Forest (18-2-3) vs. Denver (20-0-3)

Friday, 6 p.m. (ESPNU)

Deacons senior defender Jared Odenbeck played for Charlotte Soccer Academy and attended Charlotte Christian … Denver sophomore goalkeeper Nick Gartner also played for CSA and went to Charlotte Latin.

North Carolina vs. Stanford

Friday, 8:30 p.m. (ESPNU)

Tar Heels sophomore goalkeeper James Pyle went to Ardrey Kell High and played for Charlotte Soccer Academy … Stanford junior Tomas Hilliard-Arce (CSA, Providence Day) is the Pac-12’s defensive player of the year … Another Cardinal defender, sophomore Justin Kahl, also played for CSA and went to Providence Day … Stanford coach Jeremy Gunn is a former Charlotte 49ers coach who took them to the 2011 College Cup championship game against the Tar Heels … Cardinal volunteer assistant coach Charles Rodriguez is a former 49ers All-American.

Note: The championship game is Sunday at 2 p.m. (ESPNU)

MLS Cup

Seattle Sounders at Toronto FC

Saturday, 8 p.m. (Fox)

Former Charlotte Christian star Clint Irwin is Toronto’s starting goalkeeper … Irwin, who has also coached the Charlotte United club team, went on to play at Elon before landing with MLS’ Colorado Rapids and being later traded to Toronto … Another Toronto player, midfielder Daniel Lovitz, also played at Elon and midfielder Drew Moor began his college career at Furman … Seattle striker Clint Dempsey (Furman) won’t play due to a heart ailment that has also forced him to miss U.S. World Cup qualifiers … The Sounders’ Nathan Sturgis was the 2005 ACC defender of the year at Clemson ... Toronto defender Mark Bloom is a former Charlotte Eagles player.

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