From running around freshly cut grass as a young kid to playing under the bright lights on a competitive club team, for most women’s soccer players, the road to playing in college began many years before their recruitment. And that’s why gathering the necessary information and picking the right college to play ball is so important. Fortunately, we’ve compiled this informative guide to help readers find the women’s soccer program that’s just right for them.
We’ve outlined the major sections that will help guide student-athletes along the way on their college recruitment journey. The recruitment process for women’s soccer is becoming increasingly competitive, and college coaches are recruiting prospects earlier than ever—even as early as 8th grade. NCSA’s own survey of college coaches states that 7% of D1 women’s soccer coaches begin evaluating talent in 8th grade or earlier. That’s why student-athletes need to start early on obtaining club and tournament experience and make sure they ace the recruitment process every step of the way. To do that, they’ll need to know exactly what college programs are looking for, and that’s why this information is invaluable. Everything you need to know about playing soccer in college.
Readers should use this sport-specific information along with our College Recruiting Guide, which outlines the recruiting process from the start to Signing Day.
The NCAA rules prohibit D1 college coaches from actively recruiting a women’s soccer player before their junior year. However, there are many athletes committing to programs before this time. How is that possible? Read up on the written—and unwritten—rules of women’s soccer recruiting.
It’s important for athletes to accurately gauge their own athletic talent. By having a good idea of what coaches are looking for in their players, recruits can compile a list of target schools that they’re more likely to get into, and also determine which division level is the best fit for them. Playing against stiff competition in the U.S. Development Academy, Elite Clubs National League, or Olympic Development Program is a great way to match up against other top recruits. Comparing physical attributes and skill sets to college players is another good way to gauge talent. We’ve compiled guidelines that will help athletes find a program where they can be competitive.
Athletic scholarships are available for collegiate women’s soccer players at the Division 1, Division 2, NAIA and junior college levels. However, the number of athletic scholarships varies by division level, and coaches can choose to give out partial or full-ride scholarships. In this section, we explain more about scholarship opportunities, how they are divided up and how Division 3 athletes can find scholarship dollars.
College coaches are looking for athletes who are fast, skilled and have extensive club experience. From there, the only way a recruit can make sure college coaches know who they are is if they’re proactively reaching out to coaches. In this section, we go over what staying proactive in the recruitment process looks like, including how to find the right schools, contact women’s soccer coaches, develop relationships with programs that would be a good fit and much more.
While college women’s soccer coaches prefer to see prospects play in person, the vast majority of them use highlight videos as part of their evaluation process. Our former collegiate coaches offer insider tips on how to make athletes’ highlight videos stand out, including how to begin each video, the right footage to use and how to film during a game.
Club tournaments are the most popular means for coaches to gauge recruits at the D1 level, while ID camps and clinics can also be used for evaluation. Gaining experience on the field against other elite players is valuable, but the real draw to attending tournaments and camps is being seen by college coaches who rely on these events to evaluate a large number of recruits in a single weekend or event. It’s smart to attend, but recruits will want to pick the right event for them.
There’s no foolproof way to ensure a student-athlete will be recruited for college soccer, but NCSA has noticed a strong correlation between having a strong support system and being successful at the next level.
One of the best ways to solidify that robust support system is through boarding school enrollment. Our partner, IMG Academy has dedicated college placement advisors, experienced coaches, academic teachers, Athletic & Personal development trainers, mentors, counselors and other on-campus staff available to student-athletes to ensure they’re prepared and equipped for the next level. IMG’s soccer student-athletes will experience a schedule mirroring that of a collegiate environment, so they’re already familiar with that schedule from the moment they step foot on a college campus.
Within IMG’s college-preparatory environment for 6-12th graders, as well as gap year student-athletes, athletes will:
In addition to leveraging NCSA’s resources, families who supplement their recruiting efforts with IMG Academy’s proven boarding school experience can incrementally help student-athletes get recruited for collegiate soccer.
There are more than 1,500 colleges across the U.S. that have women’s soccer teams. The real challenge for student-athletes is to find the one that’s the right fit. In this section, we’ve laid out the differences between divisions.
Insider tip: Despite the impact that coronavirus had on college sports, as of June 1, 2021, the NCAA resumed its regular recruiting rules and activity! Coaches are actively working to fill their rosters, so student-athletes should be proactive in reaching out to coaches. Read up on how the extra year of eligibility granted to athletes who were most affected by the pandemic in 2020 will impact future recruiting classes.
High school classes of 2023 and 2024: Underclassmen are not directly impacted by the NCAA’s suspension of in-person recruiting, as college soccer coaches are unable to contact athletes until after June 15 of their sophomore year. That being said, during this time it’s important for underclassmen to focus on developing athletically and remain motivated academically. With high schools across the country switching to e-learning, here are a few online learning tips and strategies to help student-athletes through this change.
High school classes of 2021 and 2022: Starting junior year, college coaches can begin contacting student-athletes, which means upperclassmen need to understand how to initiate contact with coaches and respond to emails, texts, phone calls and DMs. To start a relationship with a college coach, recruits should focus on sending an introductory email that expresses their interest in the program, explains how they can be an asset to the team, share how they are staying in shape and ask questions. Athletes will also need to stay on top of the latest news involving the extra year of eligibility to ensure they are able to compete once they commit to a program.