Playing college soccer on a soccer scholarship in the USA could be an excellent step for (international) soccer players. Combining soccer at a high level and getting a recognized degree sounds like a dream. Read on to learn everything about soccer scholarships.
In this article, you will learn:
What soccer scholarships are
The different levels and soccer scholarships available
Who qualifies academically for a soccer scholarship
The differences between men’s and women’s college soccer
How to get recruited to play college soccer
Soccer players who have successfully earned a soccer scholarship
Soccer Scholarships: What Are They And What Is The Value?
In this blog post, you already learned everything about playing college soccer, but what about soccer scholarships?
Soccer Scholarships in the USA are financial grants for talented players to pursue their sport at a collegiate level while also receiving a quality education. A soccer scholarship is often crucial for most players and their families to make it work financially to play college soccer here.
For parents, this translates to the relief that your child's education and chance to keep playing at a high level are made possible without a big financial burden.
The Different Levels And Scholarship Limitations In College Soccer
There are a lot of different governing bodies in College Soccer. You may have heard of the NCAA D1 and NAIA but there are many more. Below is an overview of the different levels and soccer scholarship numbers.
Each level has unique attributes, and the choice of which division fits best depends on soccer players' skill level, academic goals, and personal preferences.
NCAA D1, NCAA D2 and NCAA D3
The NCAA, or National Collegiate Athletic Association, is the biggest governing body across all collegiate sports.
For Men's and Women's soccer the NCAA is divided into three divisions:
Division I (D1)
Division II (D2)
Division III (D3)
Each comes with its own set of rules and regulations regarding scholarships, competition, and academic standards.
NCAA Division I (D1)
D1 features the best soccer programs in the country, and it is known for its outstanding athletic level and, in most cases, high academic standards.
The best American players on the women's and men's sides are found in this division.
For international soccer players, you need at least a professional academy background or have played at a very competitive level in your home country.
NCAA Division II (D2)
D2maintains a competitive edge but may offer fewer scholarship opportunities than D1, combining high-level soccer with a balanced academic experience.
Many rosters in Division 2 are filled up with talented international soccer players, making the level, in most cases, very competitive with smaller D1 programs.
NCAA Division III (D3)
D3 places a strong emphasis on the overall college experience. The Division 3 level does not allow schools to give out athletic scholarships. Student-athletes participate primarily for the love of the game and their commitment to academics.
The NAIA serves as an additional governing body in collegiate soccer, with member institutions generally being smaller in scale compared to NCAA schools.
In terms of both soccer and academics, NAIA closely aligns with the NCAA D2 level.
Each NAIA school can give out a maximum of 12 athletic scholarships. The fact that the schools often are smaller and more affordable than the NCAA schools makes it an appealing choice for many international soccer players.
NJCAA and CCCAA
The NJCAA is the primary governing body for two-year college soccer in the United States. The CCCAA is the same setup but exclusively focuses on the State of California.
NJCAA & CCCAA member institutions are typically two-year Junior colleges, often called community colleges. These colleges offer academic programs and athletic opportunities for Soccer Players who may be preparing to transfer to a four-year institution (NCAA or NAIA) or looking to gain valuable playing experience.
Many soccer players use their time in junior college to improve their soccer skills and academic standing before moving on to compete at the NCAA or NAIA level. Being older and having better grades sometimes gives them a competitive edge over other recruits.
More information about the junior college system and why many players choose this pathway can be found here.
Who Qualifies Academically For A Soccer Scholarship?
Academic requirements can vary widely between schools and organizations.
It's crucial to research and understand the specific requirements of the college or division you are interested in.
Getting the right grades, taking the right courses, and finishing your high school will affect your playing eligibility in college soccer.
Academic requirements for NCAA Division I, Division II, Division III, NAIA, and junior college (NJCAA and CCCAA) institutions can vary, but we can provide a general overview of the academic eligibility criteria for each level:
The Differences Between Men’s and Women’s College Soccer
Soccer scholarships are offered for men and women at the collegiate level. There are key differences and outcomes in college recruiting for men's and women's soccer.
It is important to note the following aspects to understand what this means for the recruiting process:
Women's soccer boasts about 300 more teams across all divisions compared to Men's soccer. Therefore, there are way more opportunities in the collegiate landscape for International women soccer players.
Player Surplus vs. Shortage
Globally, there is a surplus of male soccer players, while on the women's side, there is a true shortage. In college soccer, we sometimes see men's teams with over 45 players. Women's teams are never close to this amount.
There are significantly more athletic scholarship opportunities available for women's soccer players compared to their male counterparts.
Approximately 33% of all male players in NCAA soccer are international students, whereas only 14% of female players fall into this category.
International Players in Lower Divisions
Many international players are found in men's NAIA, Junior College, and lower DII levels, with some taking years 3 and 4 to move up to higher-level DII and all levels of DI. This dynamic heavily impacts the recruitment of first-year International and domestic soccer players.
How To Get Recruited To Play College Soccer
Timing is critical; a coach can only give out a scholarship once.
We see recruitment on the women's side happening up to two years before High School graduation. On the men's side, it happens up to one year advance, especially when coaches are scouting international soccer players, it can sometimes happen last minute before the season starts.
Ensuring you have the right tools and understanding the landscape of college soccer is crucial in stepping into your recruitment process. Below is a 5-step guide to help you start this new adventure.
1. Evaluate Your Chances
Starting is often the hardest step in your soccer career.
You have to be motivated and determined to go after your goals. We are here to guide you and help you in the right direction, we will also look at your academic background and find out if you are eligible.
We want soccer players to stay on top of their college recruiting process, so everyone deserves an honest review of their opportunities.
Get in touch here and discover your chances with us!
2. Do your research about College Soccer Programs
This is your future; we can tell you everything about the different programs, divisions, or life in the USA.
But you have to figure out what is essential for you and your family; not all programs are the same and will match your preferences.
Make sure to have a target in mind; we will help you go after this.
3. Your soccer resume and highlights
You are among many other soccer players who want to play for your desired college program.
Coaches mostly look at 4 to 5 other players besides you for your position and have already rejected many players or deleted hundreds of emails and messages.
Therefore, making an excellent first impression, gathering your best clips, and compiling all your information correctly is vital.
We can help you with our online recruiting profile and professionally edited highlight reels.
Have a look here at Mau's profile of what this looks like.
4. Get in touch and make connections.
Without connections, there is no conversation. We can help you get in touch with the right coaches.
At Plus31, we played, coached, and worked with soccer players and coaches over the last ten years.
Hopefully, you are speaking to a couple of different programs so you can compare. Evaluate the pros and cons; sometimes, coaches will do everything to convince you of their program. We are here to help you in every step; we even came by to say Hi to Thijmen on his official visit to Florida!
5. Your time to commit
You get bombarded with impressions, information, and paperwork to complete carefully during your recruiting process.
The grand moment is there, the scholarships are received, and you will decide on your future school.
A commitment that is binding for you and the coach. There is no way back.
We will help you, guide you, and ensure you consider everything. Where will you have class, which courses can you follow, where do you sleep, and most importantly, does the campus have a Starbucks? Just kidding.
With our guidance, you will never feel alone, but you have to make the decision! It is an exciting journey that will shape your athletic and academic future!
Soccer Players On Their Journey in the USA
Over the last few years, we have helped many talented soccer players in their recruiting process.
Below you can find some examples and where they are now. And remember, wherever you go we are always going to be supportive!