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Men's Soccer Recruiting Guidelines: What Are College Soccer Coaches Looking For?

Men's soccer recruiting guidelines.

“What do college men’s soccer coaches look for in recruits?” is a common question for us here at NCSA. It’s important to remember that there are over 1,400 men’s college soccer programs in the U.S. The athletic requirements to play on each team vary, sometimes even within the same division level. However, understanding the basic height requirements and skill level that programs are looking for can help athletes target the level of competition that’s best suited for them. In this section, we’ve outlined some guidelines to help men’s college soccer players get an idea of what recruits look like.

The skills guidelines section offers a snapshot of what D1-level athletes can do on the field, while the height guidelines section provides information on athlete sizes at different division levels. Keep in mind that these numbers are simply a current snapshot of what coaches are already looking for. If a player is shorter than the average height for a particular division or position, it doesn’t mean that he cannot play at that level. It does mean, however, that coaches are looking for someone taller, and the shorter recruit will have to showcase skills that stand out from a crowded player pool in order to compete at that position or division.

D1 goalkeeper skills

Extremely athletic; taller than average; can out-jump opposing forwards; covers most of the goal-mouth when diving; catches everything when able to get two hands on the ball; is able to consistently catch crosses; punts and drop kicks past mid-field; goal kicks past midfield; is able to throw balls to teammates 35-45 yards away; is vocal in communicating with teammates, calling out marks and calling for the ball.

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D1 outside defender skills

Fast; great first touch; makes smart passes and always looks to keep the ball, as opposed to just randomly kicking it; looks to get involved in the attack and dribble up the wing; defends one-on-one well; clearly looks to force the ball one way or the other; tackles smart.

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D1 center defender skills

Fast; great first touch; ability to win headers; consistently good positioning (in position to help support other defenders in case they get beat); vocal communicator to other defenders and midfielders; controls the team's back line in regard to pushing up and dropping back; always makes smart passes; solid and smart one-on-one defending.

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D1 center midfielder skills

Very comfortable with the ball; consistently has a great first touch no matter how good the pass is (hard, soft, in the air, bouncing, etc.); connects a large majority of passes; has vision to see and make passes that others can't; looks to switch the field of play away from pressure; totally comfortable using both feet; can take deep shots; strong in the air, winning headers on goal kicks and punts; strong defending, either stealing passes or making strong tackles.

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D1 outside mid/wing forward skills

Fast; good endurance; one-on-one ability; ability to consistently serve a cross that is driven (not looped) into dangerous areas of the box; ability to get up and down the field (attack and defend); ability to make combination plays (give and go, etc.); ability to get in behind the back line; desire and vision to go to goal and take shots if opportunity presents itself (not content to stay on the wing).

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D1 forward skills

One-on-one ability; more than just fast (has multiple moves to beat defenders); good power and accuracy of shot; good shot placement and selection (knows when and where to put the ball); ability to win headers on crosses; uses both feet equally; ability to receive ball with back to goal and then turn to attack goal; ability to get in behind the back line; knowledge of when to make runs to receive ball to attack goal without being offside.

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Average soccer player height by position

The following heights are pulled directly from college rosters. NCSA has pulled the heights and positions for all college soccer roster for the last 6 years and below represent the average heights, broken out by position and division level. It is important to note, just because you don’t match up to the height listed, doesn’t mean you can’t play that division level. However, it does represent what coaches typically look for in a recruit for that position, so you will have a better idea of what coaches are expecting.

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Average height of college goalkeepers by division level

D1 goalkeeper
Average Height: 6’2”
6’3” and over: 30.5%
6’ and under: 33.1%

D2 goalkeeper
Average Height: 6’1”
6’3” and over: 17.5%
6’ and under: 47.3%

D3 goalkeeper
Average Height: 6’0”
6’3” and over: 17.3%
6’ and under: 57.4%

NAIA goalkeeper
Average Height: 6’0”
6’3” and over: 15.7%
6’ and under: 59.7%

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Average height of college defenders by division level

D1 defender
Average Height: 6’0”
6’1” and over: 40.4%
5’10” and under: 31.3%

D2 defender
Average Height: 5’11”
6’1” and over: 33.1%
5’10” and under: 38.4%

D3 defender
Average Height: 5’11”
6’1” and over: 26.6%
5’10” and under: 44.7%

NAIA defender
Average Height: 5’11”
6’1” and over: 27.4%
5’10” and under: 47.2%

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Average height of college midfielders by division level

D1 midfielder
Average Height: 5’10”
6’1” and over: 16.0%
5’10” and under: 58.5%

D2 midfielder
Average Height: 5’10”
6’1” and over: 14.2%
5’10” and under: 62.0%

D3 midfielder
Average Height: 5’10”
6’1” and over: 13.6%
5’10” and under: 62.8%

NAIA midfielder
Average Height: 5’10”
6’1” and over: 12.0%
5’10” and under: 65.2%

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Average height of college forwards by division level

D1 forward
Average Height: 5’11”
6’1” and over: 27.2%
5’10” and under: 43.4%

D2 forward
Average Height: 5’10”
6’1” and over: 20.8%
5’10” and under: 53.1%

D3 forward
Average Height: 5’10”
6’1” and over: 20.8%
5’10” and under: 53.6%

NAIA forward
Average Height: 5’10”
6’1” and over: 20.3%
5’10” and under: 55.4%

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