Why should you be looking for a soccer scholarship in the USA? The USA college system offers unbeatable scholarship opportunities for talented student-athletes and not to forget the attractive facilities that will help you benefit and maximize your potential. The possibilities of receiving a soccer scholarship and the amount you receive is all dependent on your academic and athletic ability.
Playing soccer in college is a significant step up from high school and club soccer. Only the best take part in intercollegiate soccer in college, especially for those on top NCAA Division I soccer teams. However, the competitiveness is not just limited to the teams that are broadcast on television as only a fraction of youth players end up playing at any level of college soccer. Even a move to a Junior College soccer team will be a considerable step up from club soccer.
Those looking to head on to a soccer college have several schools located across the USA to choose from:
- NCAA Division I Soccer – 204 men's teams and 322 women's teams
- NCAA Division II Soccer – 181 men's teams and 228 women's teams
- NCAA Division III Soccer – 428 men's teams and 407 women's teams
- NAIA Soccer – 218 men's teams and 219 women's teams
- Junior College Soccer – 221 men's teams and 186 women's teams
Should you go to a soccer school?
If you have the opportunity to attend a strong soccer program school you should definitely consider attending, but you should carefully determine if you have the skills necessary to play at the next level. It's great to have an inner drive and belief in your abilities, but it's also important to focus on which school will be the best fit for you based on; academics, athletic opportunities, social aspect, size of school and location. You want the best overall fit, not just the soccer aspect.
It's also important to consider whether you want to be competing for playing time at a more significant program or have a significantly more likely opportunity to play extended minutes from the start at a smaller school.
What is the Difference between men's soccer and women's soccer?
The most notable difference between the two programs is at the scholarship level. There are no differences between Division III with zero scholarships offered, NAIA can offer 12 and junior college soccer can offer 18 for both men and women. Division II soccer programs can offer 9 scholarships for men and 9.9 for women. The biggest difference is at the Division I soccer programs who can offer 9.9 for men and 14 for women.
Keep in mind that not all schools sponsor both men and women programs. When searching for schools make sure you look for the program that offers soccer for your gender. This difference is especially notable in Division I with 204 schools sponsoring men's teams, but 322 schools offering women's teams.
College soccer rankings, standings, and statistics
Staying in touch with the latest news, stats or even new recruits will help you get a better overall feel for the college soccer scene. This will help when you start speaking to the coaches as you can congratulate them on recent success or even ask a question about how they play. Showing an interest will only help benefit your scholarship opportunity with the coach.
Several polls assess soccer in college rankings at all levels, both nationally and regionally. For example, a United Soccer Coaches poll lists the top-25 men's teams that play Division II soccer while a different one does the same for the top 25 Division III soccer teams on the women's side. If you're considering Division I schools, also look at the RPI. The RPI offers soccer in college team rankings of every squad nationally from the best soccer college in the USA to the bottom one at that time.
Standings are vital, and they arguably play a more significant role in determining that season's best soccer programs in college than polls. Conference champions are, in most cases, automatically entered the NCAA soccer or NAIA soccer postseason tournament. Automatic qualifiers can be postseason tournament winners or if that league does not sponsor postseason soccer in college tournaments, its regular-season champion.
What college has the best soccer team?
College soccer program excellence changes from year to year, and a team that's not very good now relative to its competition might be amongst the best by the time you start with your college playing career. Over the years, the best soccer colleges on the men's side have been Indiana University, the University of Virginia and the University of Maryland while Saint Louis University has the most titles with 10. Meanwhile, the University of North Carolina has dominated women's college soccer with 21 national championships.
College soccer tournaments
Postseason tournaments are organized similarly to how college basketball works. They're all single-elimination competitions in which teams that win move on or claim the national championship in the final round while teams that fall short see their seasons come to an end. In the early rounds, the higher-seeded team will host while later rounds will be played at a neutral venue. The soccer version of the Final Four ‘The College Cup’, has ESPN coverage and is broadcast live on match day and ESPN also shows the Championship Final.
The number of college teams that participate in these postseason tournaments is proportional to how many schools sponsor soccer in college at that level. For example, the Division I men's tournament is comprised of 48 teams while the Division I women's bracket is filled out by 64 schools that sponsor soccer in college.
College soccer recruiting
One of the most important things to learn when deciding on whether soccer in college is for you is the difference between soccer prospects, soccer recruits and soccer commits. A prospect merely is somebody who is eligible to play soccer in college; playing skills are irrelevant as far as this term goes. Conversely, a soccer recruit is somebody whom at least one soccer recruiter has shown interest. Finally, a commit is a player who has agreed with a soccer recruiter to play at the school, generally by signing a National Letter of Intent.
How do you get a college soccer scholarship?
Regardless of where you're considering, in nearly all cases, one of the most important things that you can do for a scholarship is gain more exposure. Exposure can increase by playing for a top club or high school team that competes at top tournaments, but that is not a requirement. Also, participating in soccer ID Events can help, as college coaches look into these events for future prospects.
Perhaps the most important thing that you can do is stay in contact once a coach has reached out to you. Always keep them updated with your current performances and also how your academics are going. The more coaches you impress, the better it is as you'll have more options when the time comes to decide.
Strong grades will help too as more schools will be open to having you play soccer there, and coaches will not have to be as concerned with how you're progressing academically while there. Also, if you're a top student, that'll make it easier to earn non-soccer financial aid, which is even more critical at non-scholarship schools such as at Ivy League institutions and in the Division III ranks.
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