Soccer Scholarships In the USA
Student athletes from all over the world can obtain a soccer scholarship in the US.
American stars like Clint Dempsey and players from abroad such as Dom Dwyer all played men’s soccer on scholarship. In fact, US college soccer is one area that is attracting more and more players from abroad.
The BBC published an article in 2015, on the impact collegiate soccer is having on British players, who are devoid of university soccer at the same level in the UK.
With the vast geography of the US, it isn’t possible for a college soccer coach to pinpoint the next Landon Donovan or Mia Hamm easily. Therefore, the best way for young soccer players to be seen is to contact universities they are interested in attending.
Of course, for those players that are scoring goal after goal, it may be easier to get spotted, but for most players that want to play in college, they will have to make the first contact.
Before getting a scholarship to play college soccer, students will need to meet certain grade requirements set forth by the NCAA. Each university and level – division I, division II, division III and NAIA – will have its own criteria for aspiring soccer players. While students may meet the NCAA’s grade point average requirement, players must remember that universities will have their own requirements, too. What gets you into Missouri State University won’t be the same as Northwestern.
Division I requirements:
Requirements differ at each division of collegiate sports. Division I will have the most stringent rules in place for its students athletes.
• The minimum GPA is 2.3.
• Students must complete 10 of their 16 core courses before the start of their senior year of high school.
Division II requirements:
The requirements for a division II scholarship is lower than that of division I, giving student athletes far more options of playing at the level.
• A student must graduate from high school.
• Students must complete 16 core courses and receive a minimum GPA of 2.0. The core course requirements are as follows: three years of English, three years of Math (Algebra 1 or higher), two years of Natural or Physical Science, two years of Social Science, two extra years of English, Math or Science and four years of Religion, Philosophy, Foreign Language or additional years of any of the categories above.
• Students must take the SAT or ACT. Students need to score a minimum of 820 on the SAT (Math and Reading only) or an ACT sum score of 68.
Division III requirements:
The division III level does not set out any student academic requirements. However, the universities set out their own requirements that must be met by student athletes.
• Division III schools do not give out sports scholarships. The colleges only give academic scholarships. Therefore, it is possible a student athlete can play on the soccer team, but will be on an academic scholarship.
• The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, along with junior colleges, is the most lenient of college athletic governing bodies. The NAIA is for “small athletics programs”. Despite this claim, colleges with NAIA status offer students scholarships to continue their athletic careers. For NAIA eligibility, students must graduate from high school and meet two of three requirements:
1. Finish in the top half of their graduating class
2. Achieve a minimum GPA of 2.0
3. Score an 860 on the SAT or 16 on the ACT.
Get a coaches attention!
With the size of the US and the fact that many college soccer programs are not funded to the same level as American football, baseball or basketball, coaches may not travel far and wide to scout players.
An abundance of local or regional players can suffice many soccer programs, leaving only the largest – UCLA, Virginia, Stanford, North Carolina and Maryland – to recruit from all over the country. It is advisable that players dreaming of a college career make contact with a coach at the school they hope to attend. Video highlight packages are a perfect foot in the door followed by inviting the coach out to a match.
Perhaps the coach will invite the player to a tryout, trial or scrimmage to see the athlete in more close up environment.
It must be remembered that the US has thousands of colleges and universities. Students have ample opportunity, if they desire it, to find a school to continue their soccer careers.
Scholarships are competitive
Getting a scholarship to play in college is extremely competitive. Being a skillful player is just part of the equation, as players need to carry their weight in the classroom. According to Scholarship Stats, 432,569 men played high school soccer in 2015. There were just 38,845 collegiate soccer players in the men’s game.
Men have odds of 11:1 of playing at any level of college soccer. Going professional has even higher odds at 835:1.
For women, the odds of playing at any division in college is 10:1. Meanwhile, the odds of a female going pro are far higher than the men at 1756:1. This is partly due to the lack of professional leagues and teams in women’s soccer.
In 2015, there were 375,681 women playing high school soccer and 38,119 playing in college. The space is limited for both sexes and is extremely competitive. It isn’t impossible to get a scholarship, but it isn’t a walk in the park, either.
Who to talk to about getting a scholarship
Students interested in playing in college, and are good enough both on the field and in the classroom, should contact the head coach at the university they wish to apply to. Players should diversify their choices and shouldn’t expect that the first college they contact will sign them.
College coaches will ask to see video footage or may attend a match to see the play in action. Perhaps the college will host a trial for potential players or the player will be invited to a showcase. This will give the player the opportunity to demonstrate what they can do on the pitch.
If the coach is satisfied with what they see, steps will be taken to sign the player and possibly offer a scholarship. However, the most important things that a player must do first are 1) be good enough at soccer, and 2) have the GPA to warrant their signature.
Soccer at the collegiate level, like all sports, is exceedingly competitive.
Student athletes must be at the top of their game regardless of division if they want to receive one of the few scholarships on offer for soccer players.
For more information on being recruited to play soccer in college, check out Athletic Scholarships. There are also books about how to successfully get a soccer scholarship that might be worth reading.
By Drew Farmer, author of Soccer Travels.