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How to Get Recruited for Men’s Soccer

The recruiting process for college men’s soccer is very competitive. About 7.9% of high school men’s soccer players go on to play in college, and only about 1.1% go on to play for a Division 1 school. In addition to having athletic talent and good grades, it’s essential to take the recruiting process seriously. In this section, we’ve outlined the major steps involved in the recruiting process and the general order in which they happen to help your family stay on track.

However, keep in mind that every recruiting journey is a little different, from athlete to athlete and from school to school. Athletes need to remember to stay proactive and not wait for coaches to find them. This guide covers all the different milestones potential recruits need to hit to get started on their men’s soccer recruiting journey. 

When does the recruiting process start for men’s soccer?

Athletes and parents who want to get a jump on the recruiting process should be ready to get started by sophomore year of high school. In NCSA’s survey of D1 men’s soccer coaches, 74% reported that they began evaluating talent in 10th grade and 22% began evaluating talent in 11th grade. Student-athletes looking to play ball in college should be in contact with coaches by sophomore year of high school if they want to get the jump on securing a college roster spot. By junior year, many men’s soccer coaches will have their rosters filled.

Starting the recruiting process: Setting expectations

The process of how to get recruited for college soccer starts with research and self-evaluation. In order to reach their goals, athletes and parents need to figure out what’s attainable for them athletically and academically. We include some questions to ask before embarking on the recruiting process.

Am I ready for the demands of being a college men’s soccer player?

Regardless of division level, playing college sports is a major time commitment—and that’s why college coaches make it a priority to evaluate recruits’ commitment. There will be early practices, training sessions at odd times and plenty of travel—all in addition to classes and homework. Before student-athletes take the next steps in their recruiting process, they need to be certain that they’re prepared to take their game to the next level and are ready to manage the demanding schedule of a collegiate student-athlete.

Am I good enough to play college men’s soccer?

The college soccer recruiting process is competitive, and athletes need to evaluate their own skill set while projecting how much they can improve by freshman year of college. To do so, they’ll need to loop in their current coach and have a frank conversation about their skill level and future potential. To get a better idea of where they stand, athletes can also get evaluated by a third party such as NCSA. Our staff of former men’s college coaches and athletes know what it takes to compete in college and can offer invaluable advice for the recruiting process.

What division level is right for me?

Even though there are thousands of available roster spots across the Division 1, Division 2, Division 3, NAIA and junior college levels, earning one is no easy task. Potential recruits have to do a fair amount of self-assessment and confer with their current coach to determine the level of competition that’s right for them. A third party such as NCSA can also help in setting proper expectations.

Do I need to play club soccer to get recruited?

Simply put, playing high school soccer is not enough to get recruiting attention from most colleges. Men’s soccer is a sport where club teams are incredibly influential, and college coaches expect that their recruits have club soccer experience. Coaches also do a large portion of their recruiting at club soccer tournaments and showcases, which offer access and exposure for those playing club soccer. To play at a high level in college, athletes need at least two years of experience playing for an elite club, and four years of experience is more common.

Athletes will want to gain a roster spot on an elite club in order to play in tournaments that attract the most college coaches. The strongest competition can currently be found in the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) and National Premier Leagues (NPL). After that, coaches might also look at players from state and regional Olympic Development Program (ODP) teams.

Your coach’s role in the recruitment process

Student-athletes need to understand that success in the college soccer recruiting process is all about the effort that they put in. For most athletes, their club or high school coach can serve as an advocate who can get them over the hump in the recruitment process. They can advise athletes on the right level of play in college or talk to college coaches at programs that recruits have been in contact with. Just remember that coaches are busy and have an entire team (or several teams) full of athletes asking for help. Use their time wisely.

Researching schools and creating a target list

The college men’s soccer recruiting process can be drawn out and stressful, but the approach is surprisingly simple: Do plenty of research and cast a wide net. Once a student-athlete has determined the division level their skill set is best suited for, it’s time to start putting together a list of target schools. Student-athletes should consider whether they want a big school in a small town, if they’re comfortable attending a school that’s in a different state, how important class size is and more. Start with a list of 20 to 30 schools and then start contacting college coaches and whittling the list down to preferred schools. While putting together the list, organize it into the following categories:

The best path forward is to create as many opportunities as possible, which means starting out with more—rather than fewer—schools on the list. As recruits start communicating with coaches and learning more about each school, some might bump up a few spots on the list, and others might drop off entirely. Keep checking back in with the list and keep it updated.

Creating an impressive recruiting video

A great recruiting video can be the difference maker in an athlete’s recruiting. While coaches prefer evaluating players in person—often at club tournaments—a well-done recruiting video can make athletes stand out among comparable recruits.

In a recruiting video, coaches want to see match footage with field players making 20–25 plays. For goalies, a mix of match footage and skills footage is best. Here are some other tips for making a top-notch recruiting video:

Read more tips about how to make your best recruiting video.

How to contact college soccer coaches

Once recruits have contact information for the coaches on their target list, they should start their outreach. We’ve created a handy guide for communicating with college men’s soccer coaches. For more information, visit the Contacting College Coaches page in our College Recruiting Guide.

Some college soccer coaches across the country have been furloughed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Recruits should continue to send the coaching staff regular updates on their training progress as a way to maintain their relationship with the coaching staff during this time. For general athletic and academic questions, families can contact the athletic director or college admissions team. Current team members can also be a great resource for recruits to ask specific questions regarding their experience and the team dynamic to get a better feel for the program.

Insider tip: Athletes who are having a hard time getting in touch with a college coach can ask their high school or club coach to call the college coach and schedule a phone call for them. College coaches can call club and high school coaches back at any time, which makes it easier for them to connect. An added bonus: When the college coach is talking to an athlete’s current coach, they can ask them questions about the athlete to help with their initial evaluation.

What you need to know about calling college soccer coaches

In a world where we rely heavily on digital forms of communication like email, text and direct messaging, when a coach receives a phone call from a student-athlete, it stands out positively in their mind. And for student-athletes, it gives them an opportunity to learn about the coach, evaluate their interest and ask direct questions. Check out this video where former NCAA and NAIA coaches Lindsey Boldt and Luis Cortell talk about the value of calling coaches and how recruits should prepare beforehand.

Choosing the right tournaments, camps and showcases

Coaches prefer to evaluate recruits at club tournaments, so playing for a top-tier club team and attending these events is a great way to get attention from Division 1 schools. However, many coaches also like to evaluate recruits at ID camps and clinics, so attending these events can also get players on the radar of coaches from many different division levels.

What’s important is finding the right tournaments, camps and showcases to attend. The most effective way for athletes to plan an events schedule is to make sure that coaches from their target list will be in attendance. Before traveling, research which coaches attended the event the previous years and if it has a tradition of good coach attendance. Then, athletes should contact those coaches to double check that they will be there and let them know to keep an eye out for them.

At the end of the day, finding the right events to attend really comes down to being part of the right men’s soccer club. Most events are held by club teams, so athletes really need to do their research and ask the right questions before joining a club team.

Managing the men’s soccer recruiting process

Once student-athletes have started the recruiting process, there’s a lot of maintenance work to do in order to keep the process moving forward. At the beginning of the process, recruits will need to spend a few hours a week researching schools, sending introductory emails, making sure their highlight film is complete and establishing their NCAA and/or NAIA eligibility. After that, recruits might go a few weeks without any recruiting activity. For example, if coaches are in the middle of their season, there might not be a whole lot of recruiting going on. While managing the recruiting process, recruits are going to have peaks and valleys. Here are a few key things to accomplish and prepare for during this phase of your athlete’s recruiting:

Understanding scholarship offers and how to negotiate them

For most athletes, the goal of the men’s soccer recruiting process is to get a scholarship offer. Because men’s soccer is deemed an equivalency sport by the NCAA, coaches are not required to give out full-ride scholarships. They can break up the scholarship money as they see fit, and they usually give the most money to their top athletes. Student-athletes can learn more about the different types of offers in our College Recruiting Guide.

Most families want to know tips for negotiating a scholarship offer. The best bargaining tool athletes have is offers from other schools. Coaches do not want to lose recruits to other institutions, especially rival schools. Ideally, recruits should have serious recruiting interest from five schools to negotiate their best offer. And always negotiate based on Expected Family Contribution, or how much money the recruit’s family will be paying out of pocket after all financial aid is factored in.

National Signing Day for men’s soccer

To formalize a scholarship offer and make it legally binding, recruits need to sign with a school. About 650 NCAA DI and DII schools use the National Letter of Intent (NLI) and NAIA schools have their own version of the NLI to sign. The NLI is a legally binding document, so recruits need to double—and triple—check that they know what they’re agreeing to before putting pen to paper. By signing this document, they’re agreeing to compete at the school for one year, and the school is promising to provide them with the agreed-upon scholarship for that one year.

After signing, the recruiting journey is over! Student-athletes should celebrate this important moment as they look ahead to the next chapter of their lives.