A crucial part of the recruiting process involves athletes getting in front of college coaches and showing off their skillset. The most effective way to do that is by attending women’s soccer tournaments, camps and showcases where coaches will be present. The preferred way for D1 coaches to evaluate top recruits is to see them compete in club soccer tournaments, though ID camps and clinics are also used for scouting new talent. The benefit of attending these events is getting exposure to college coaches, as well as gaining experience competing against other elite athletes. However, in order to gain access to these events, athletes need to play on club teams—which offer varying levels of play. The strongest competition can currently be found in the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL). After that, coaches look at National Premier Leagues (NPL) and may also look at players from state and regional Olympic Development Program (ODP) teams.
For D1 programs and top schools at other division levels, club soccer tournaments and showcases are where coaches do most of their recruiting. In order to play at a high level in college, athletes need at least two years of experience playing in an elite club, with four years being more common. Since there is a wide variation in levels across clubs, the same is true for club soccer tournaments—that’s why athletes will want to gain a roster spot on an elite club in order to play in soccer tournaments that attract the most college coaches. For coaches, this is an efficient way to recruit, since they get to see many top-level athletes in one place playing against strong competition. US Youth Soccer and US Club Soccer both offer a lengthy list of soccer tournaments held throughout the year.
Elite soccer ID camps and clinics run by club organizations (like US Club Soccer’s exclusive id2 Camp, which finds players through an intense national scouting and recommendation process) are generally invitation only and restricted to club members. Their focus is to offer athletes an opportunity to play at a very high level and let coaches evaluate top talent. In general, an ID camp brings top recruits in and has them stay overnight for three to four days, providing athletes with skills development, competition and evaluation. Meanwhile, an ID clinic is a shortened version of a soccer camp, usually lasting one or two days. If a camp or clinic is hosted by an NCAA institution (on campus), the camp might have a lot of talented players but must allow anyone to attend regardless of ability level.
For athletes who are seriously interested in attending an elite ID camp or clinic, the first step is to get a recommendation from their coach. College ID camps and clinics are run by college women’s soccer coaches and offer high-quality soccer skills instruction. Attending soccer camps and clinics also lets athletes check out campuses and athletic facilities, as well as gain some familiarity with the coaching staff and program at each school.
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.
We are continuously adding new camps to this list, so check back often to find more camp opportunities!