College Soccer – Everything You Want to Know
College soccer provides tremendous opportunities for you to work with top coaches, improve your skills and earn a degree that will prove invaluable both immediately after graduating and throughout your life. In many cases, you can also be awarded college soccer scholarships and have all or part of the cost of attending the soccer college taken care of, an invaluable benefit.
The experience of playing soccer in college is a rewarding one as you put a tremendous amount of time and sacrifice into both the sport and your education. Regardless if you have been awarded one of the college soccer scholarships that are made available every year, you can be assured that the matches will be competitive and a step up from your time playing high school and club ball. Matches are also longer at 90 minutes. Off the field, you need to be prepared for a more professional attitude that is laser focused on the tasks at hand. Time management is a skill that players must learn to be successful.
As a result of this dedication during their college experience combined with their talent, some take the next step to the pros. Do note that the style of play at the next level tends to be more tactically focused and that the rules are significant different, especially as they relate to substitutions. However, you can combine college soccer with playing for NPSL or WPSL teams during the summer months. Those are two of the leagues that use professional rules, which will allow you to adapt to that style in addition to gaining more playing experience between college seasons.
Playing college soccer
Before you can start having those college-to-pro dreams, you need to take the step to playing on one of the college soccer teams that are located throughout the country. This is a significant one as only about 6 percent of high school players make the move to NCAA soccer teams.
And take note that doing well in any college soccer tryouts that you may take part in needs to be combined with bringing off-the-field skills as well. You need life and character skills. Do you know how to best prepare? Do you have a strong work ethic? Are you willing to learn? Are you mentally strong? Do you perform in the classroom as well as on the pitch? These are all important questions to answer.
You must also gain enough exposure so that not only the soccer coach who you most want to impress knows of you but so do several others. Even if you have a dream school and even if it may seem likely that you will be able to play at that soccer college, you always want to have alternative options ready. Receiving exposure is a big part of that. The more soccer coaches know about you, the better.
Soccer colleges around the country
Not only are soccer colleges spread across the country, but college soccer teams are also divided into various levels of national competition. Also, the schools are of all types and sizes. They include small liberal arts colleges as well as large state universities with tens of thousands of undergrads. Meanwhile, some of the best soccer colleges are in small towns while others are in large cities.
Regardless, the best college soccer teams are NCAA soccer ones that play in the Division 1 ranks. However, it is important to point out that Division 2 soccer and Division 3 soccer are also high quality, especially compared to high school.
Note that the number of NCAA soccer teams that exist differs between the genders with women's college soccer being more prominent.
- NCAA Division 1 soccer – 204 men's, 322 women's
- NCAA Division 2 soccer – 181 men's, 228 women's
- NCAA Division 3 soccer – 407 men's, 428 women's
College soccer rankings and statistics
It is important to research the best soccer colleges so that you can better understand the soccer colleges that you are considering and can also speak to college soccer coaches about their teams and how they are doing. One way to do so is by browsing soccer rankings and statistics. When looking these up as well as college soccer scores, do consider the level of competition. For example, a Big Ten school will have garnered its stats and record against higher quality opposite than a soccer college in a lower-ranking league.
One of the most useful set of college soccer rankings is the RPI (rating percentage index). This tool, which is used to help the selection committees select and seed teams for the NCAA Soccer Tournaments, allows you to see how every D1 school is ranked, an especially useful piece of information since only a small percentage of the best college soccer teams are listed in the top-25 polls.
College soccer championships
The NCAA Soccer Tournaments, known as College Cups, are identical to the famous ones that basketball teams take part in every March. Several college soccer championship teams who claimed league titles earn automatic berths to these events while the fields are filled out with at-large squads.
At the D1 level, the men's season ends with a 48-team competition while the women's college soccer season culminates with a 64-school field. The difference in those numbers is due to the smaller number of men's soccer colleges. Regardless of which round these teams enter their respective competitions, their seasons end once they lose except for those who run the table and claim national championships.
College soccer has always played a significant role in the culture of the city of St. Louis, and that is shown in the 10 national championships that Saint Louis University's men's team has claimed. Conversely, the most recent power in men's college soccer has been Stanford; the Cardinal had a three-peat from 2015-17. In women's soccer, North Carolina has dominated the sport, winning 21 national championships. Conversely, Florida State has been a recent power, lifting trophies in 2014 and 2018.
The college soccer elite of 2018, the ones that were amongst the final four teams standing were, on the men's side, Akron, Indiana, Michigan State and champion Maryland and, in women's soccer, Georgetown, North Carolina, Stanford and the Seminoles.
ESPN soccer is a great resource for following these matches as ESPN soccer broadcasts are professionally done and include telecasts of the four national semifinals and two championship games. The ESPN soccer announcers also do a professional job of breaking down the matches and providing commentary.
Of course, if you are looking to garner one of the college soccer scholarships that are available, you will want to learn more about the school than its soccer side. That is why it is important to see which men's and women's soccer universities are the best at both. Some of the most valued college soccer scholarships are awarded by Duke, Stanford and Notre Dame while Ivy League schools rank highly on these lists as well.
College soccer news and awards
One of the best news sources is TopDrawerSoccer.com while another that provides soccer news on a regular basis is the appropriately named College Soccer News. Both TopDrawerSoccer.com and College Soccer News regularly release polls as well as report on soccer news throughout the season. Also, Soccer America provides information on developments as well as general soccer news. Of course, the official NCAA website and the websites of athletics departments that you are considering joining are great resources for news as well as scores.
It also helps to research which schools do well in the major awards such as the Hermann Trophy, which is awarded to the top college soccer players both men and women.
College soccer scholarships and recruiting
Since the competition for scholarships is intense, it is essential to understand the recruiting process as best as you can. For example, where are you in the college soccer recruiting timeline? Can a soccer coach reach out to you? Fortunately, you can reach out to a soccer coach at any time, but the reverse is not true. Can a soccer coach verbally offer you one of his or her scholarships? Can a soccer coach invite you to visit campus? How soon can you sign a National Letter of Intent?
It is also important to understand the differences between a soccer prospect, a soccer recruit and a soccer commit. A prospect is simply somebody who is eligible to join a college soccer side. Your abilities are not relevant as far as this term is concerned. A recruit has been recruited by a soccer recruiter. In other words, interest has been shown in you by a soccer coach. A commit is someone who has come to an agreement with a college soccer university to play there. This can be verbal or written.
How do you get recruited and get to play college soccer? Simply put, you need to impress the coaching staffs at the schools that you are considering. This can be shown through your on-field abilities, and it can also be done through your off-the-pitch skills. One of the ways to do so is through getting it done in the classroom. Not only will doing so expand your options, but it will also cause coaches to feel comfortable with your ability to assimilate yourself into the academic side of the university culture.
Another consideration is how you carry yourself. Do you make eye contact with those you speak with, especially coaches? You should. On the pitch, how do you react when you receive what you view as an unfair yellow card or were called for a foul that you did not commit? Coaches take that into account too.
It also helps to take part in college soccer camps. One of the best benefits of camps that take place on campuses that you are considering getting a degree at is that you can get a feel for the school while improving your skills. They can also provide you with exposure and act as college soccer tryouts in a way, but do not count on either as soccer camps are not designed with those things in mind. Whenever you attend soccer camps, ensure that your priority is on improving your soccer skills.
One other resource to consider using during this period is a service such as NCSA. This organization has helped student-athletes who play soccer as well as a wide variety of other sports successfully navigate the recruiting process since it was founded in 2000. This is thanks to the vision that founder Chris Krause had. When he played high school football in the 1980s, he struggled through the recruiting experience. As a result, he wanted to do his part to ensure that nobody had to endure the struggles that he did.
Throughout the years, more and more student-athletes and coaches have become part of the NCSA network, including 24,000 who commit to a college to play sports every year and 35,000 who actively recruit them. NCSA helps bring them together. In fact, creating the best fits for both sides of the process is a point of pride for those at NCSA as they understand the ins and outs of what everybody is looking for. Thanks to the quality of what they do, NCSA's Google Reviews score is 4.9 stars out of 5 with more than 2,000 reviews having been submitted.
Are you looking to gain exposure, get discovered and, ultimately, receive offers from college soccer coaches? Take advantage of what NCSA has to offer today. Fill out your free profile and get the process started. If you have any questions about what NCSA can provide or about the form itself, call (866) 495-5172.