DIY College Soccer Recruiting Guide: Know What to Do to Play Soccer in University or College

DIY College Soccer Recruiting Guide: Know What to Do to Play Soccer in University or College DIY College Soccer Recruiting Guide: Know What to Do to Play Soccer in University or College

Soccer is growing rapidly in the United States. This means great news for college soccer and its student-athletes as the game is gaining more exposure and becoming a lot more popular. Getting recruited by college soccer coaches takes more than performing well on the soccer field!

Coaches of soccer teams usually only have 4-10 roster spots (depending on the division) and have to choose a select few from tens, if not hundreds, of prospective student-athletes. Some of the major recruiting steps include completing soccer questionnaires, showing up to ID camps and showcases, communicating with coaches and sending your highlight video, and ensuring that your academics are in the best shape possible!

Take strategic steps and get your best chance to play soccer in college. This college soccer recruiting guide outlines key strategic steps to plan your college recruitment. Don't forget to check out our general DIY college recruiting guide for additional tips on key topics such as highlight reels, deciding on the best fit and knowing if the coach is really interested in you.

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In This Guide

  1. Soccer Recruiting Fast Facts
  2. Understanding the Differences in Divisions for College Soccer
  3. What Matters for College Soccer?
  4. Showcases and Camps
  5. How to Contact Coaches
  6. Example Email
  7. Inside Scoop
  8. Summary

College Soccer Recruiting Fast Facts

Surveys have shown that 74% of D1 soccer college coaches begin evaluating recruits in 10th grade, while 22% begin evaluating in 11th grade. So it’s important to utilize the stages of recruitment relatively early to be on the radars of coaches!

Men's College Soccer Athletes
44,192
Revenue
Men's College Soccer
$463.6 M
Average Roster Size
College Men's Soccer
31
Women's College Soccer Athletes
42,955
Revenue
Women's College Soccer
$594.2 M
Average Roster Size
College Women's Soccer
27

Source: U.S. Department of Education Equality in Athletics Data Analysis

Recruiting Statistics

  • There are 454,324 boys and 390,108 girls who play high school soccer.
    • 8% of boys and 10.6% of girls will go on to play college soccer.
  • 0.9% of high school boys will go on to play NCAA Division I soccer.
  • 2.4% of high school girls will go on to play NCAA Division I soccer.

Source: ScholarshipStats.com

Understanding the Differences in Divisions for College Soccer

NCAA logo long

When starting the recruiting process, athletes should keep in mind the specific process for different divisions varies. Soccer players will want to understand each division’s guidelines, rules and deadlines before committing to a specific process. For instance, NCAA Division I soccer programs are typically highly competitive and often have more resources and scholarships available compared to other divisions.

NCAA Division I

Division I programs can offer athletic scholarships to soccer recruits, and the recruiting process in Division I can start early, with coaches able to send recruiting materials and make contact with prospects as early as September 1 of the player's junior year in high school (keep in mind: athletes can reach out to coaches and verbally commit before their junior year). Official visits can also occur starting September 1 of the player's junior year. Division I is best for you if you are looking to play at the highest level, even if this means having less time for academics. DI is definitely the biggest time commitment of all the divisions.

NCAA Division II

Division II soccer programs also offer athletic scholarships, although they may have fewer resources compared to Division I programs. Division II scholarships will almost always be partial scholarships. In Division II, coaches can contact prospects and send recruiting materials starting June 15 after the player's sophomore year. Official visits can also occur June 15 after the player's sophomore year. Division II is best for you if you are looking for a school with a good academic and athletic balance, but still a strong focus on athletics.

NCAA Division III

Division III soccer programs do not offer athletic scholarships, as NCAA rules prohibit the awarding of athletic aid based on athletic ability. However, Division III schools can offer academic scholarships or need-based financial aid. Division III coaches can contact prospects and send recruiting materials at any time, and official visits can also occur at any time. The Division III recruiting process will be a bit less stressful. Division III is best for you if you are looking for a school that has a great balance of academics and athletics and you also want time to do other things in school like join clubs or take an extra major.

NCAA Requirements

  • If you are planning on playing NCAA Division I or Division II, you MUST register with the NCAA Eligibility Center. The NCAA will review your academic standing, SAT or ACT scores, and they will make sure that you have only competed at amateur levels in your sport (meaning you have not received payment for playing your sport). Division III athletes do not need to register.
  • SAT/ACT scores are NOT required for the NCAA. You will only have to report your scores to your school if they require test scores.

NAIA

NAIA logo

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) has two divisions. It is a smaller association with around 300 schools. 

The NAIA also has different academic requirements than the NCAA. Like the NCAA, NAIA offers four-year schools but has significantly fewer students than the NCAA. The NAIA is best for players who want a smaller school or can't hit the NCAA recruiting standards. The NAIA still offers great competition for soccer players.

JUCO

NJCAA logo JUCO

The National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA or JUCO) has three divisions and covers 2-year schools. The NJCAA has around 525 member schools with three divisions. 

  • JUCO offers athletes a chance to get their grades up if they do not meet the academic standards for their school of choice at the time of application.
  • It offers athletes a chance to refine their skills and get more playing time before entering a four-year college.
  • The NJCAA establishes a time dedicated to self-discovery and maturity before entering college, allowing athletes to become more confident.
  • It gives more time for those who started the college sports recruiting process later than they wanted.

Getting College Coaches' Attention: What Matters for College Soccer?

what matters for college soccer recruiting

Playing high school soccer, for a club team, and outside travel tournaments are all important if you think you want to play college soccer. It is crucial that you are playing all year.

Depending on where you live, high school soccer might be in the fall or the spring. Either way, in your off-season from high school, you should be playing with a club team. Clubs tend to be the best thing for recruiting. As you get older, your club will likely be going to tournaments where college coaches will be. This is the best way to get exposure and get your name out there. Your club coach will likely have connections to college coaches who they can talk to and get you in contact with. Your high school coach might be really involved and knowledgeable about the recruiting process, so don’t be afraid to reach out to them to see if they have any advice or help they can give you! 

Soccer Leagues

Statistics matter, but your appearances in tournaments are the most important. Email coaches to come to your games, make sure that you are prepared mentally and physically, and also be aware of your body language on and off the field while coaches are watching. Here are some club soccer leagues that will get you college attention:

1. Elite Clubs National League (ECNL)

ECNL

The ECNL is for both boys and girls. It is a big commitment, but it will get you college exposure and you will be playing with some of the best high schoolers in the country. The ECNL will allow you to play for your high school or another club team while playing ECNL, which is not always allowed.

2. National Premier League (NPL)

National Premier Leagues for soccer recruiting

The NPL is part of US Club Soccer. This league does not require a ton of qualifications to get accepted and it offers opportunities to teams of all levels. NPL teams get more college exposure the further they get in the tournament.

3. MLS Next

MLS Next is a boys league only. This league replaced DA which had to stop due to financial challenges. MLS Next is for boys that are u13-u19. MLS Next is extremely competitive and has some of the best resources and coaches in the country.

4. Girls Academy (GA)

GA is a girls league only. It provides excellent competition and college exposure across the country. Age groups u13-u19 can participate. GA hosts multiple tournaments and showcases throughout the year.

Showcases and Camps

soccer recruiting showcases and camps

Showcases and camps are a great way to get noticed by college coaches and scouts. All of those coaches are there for the sole purpose of scouting and finding the best talent for their team.

Showcases

Some of the most popular showcases include:

  1. Disney’s Soccer Showcase in Florida
  2. San Diego Surf Cup in California
  3. Dallas Cup in Texas
  4. Needham Memorial Day Tournament in Massachusetts
  5. Jefferson Cup in Virginia

Many good showcases tend to be invitational, so it is important to see what type of tournaments your club team will be going to throughout the year.

ID Camps

In terms of camps, if you know the specific schools you are interested in, then the best camps to go to will be those schools’ individual ID camps. Usually, these camps will be run by those schools’ players who can give you great tips on what it’s like going to that school. You will also get great visibility with the coaches at that school. If you don’t have specific colleges that you want looking at you, then make sure you are going to ID camps with as many different colleges as possible. This will give you the widest range of coaches to watch you play. Some great options for camps with a wide range of colleges in attendance include:

1. Soccer Academics Hosted by Dartmouth College

soccer id camps

Dartmouth hosts the Soccer Academics ID Camp, but it has many other college coaches in attendance from all divisions. This camp is 2 days and is for both boys and girls. You will be able to talk to current college coaches and players and learn about the recruiting process or maybe even make some connections!

2. Future 500 ID Camps

adidas future 500 id camp for college soccer

The Future 500 ID Camps are located all across the country, and every camp has different coaches in attendance. This camp is 2 days and allows for lots of 1 on 1 interaction with current college coaches.

3. EXACT Sports ID Camps

Exact Sports ID Camp

The EXACT ID Camps are 3 days long and provide great exposure to college coaches. The camp has incredible resources and facilities and they will provide you with an option for game film after the camp has concluded. You will be playing a lot of soccer at this camp, but you will also learn about mental performance on the field.

4. Just Play Elite Soccer Camps

just play elite 200 id camp

The Just Play Soccer Camps are only 1-day camps, but they will provide you with lots of great information and advice from current college and club coaches. Each camp is only 3 hours, but you will get some great exposure without having to pay for a hotel.

5. Soccer Masters Prospect Camps

Soccer Masters Prospect Camps are 2 days long and are located across the country. Some of the best college coaches in the country attend these camps. The camp guarantees that you will spend at least hours with every coach there!

6. Elite College Soccer Camps

Elite College Soccer Camps

Elite College Soccer Camps are also 2 days long, but they only have locations in California. At this camp, you will receive great feedback from current college coaches about how you play and how to find the right school for you.

What College Soccer Coach Should I be Contacting? When and How?

What Coach Should I be Contacting? When and How?

For many tournaments, showcases, and camps, the website will tell you which of the schools’ coaches or recruiters will be in attendance. Make sure to check this, so that you reach out to the correct person and that your email doesn’t get lost in the wrong person's email box. If the school has a recruiting coordinator, this person will likely be on the team roster or website with their contact information. For other schools, assistant coaches are the most likely to be the person to contact when it comes to recruiting. Head coaches have a lot on their plate and it will be more likely that your message gets lost in their sea of emails. However, if you haven’t heard back from the coach you reached out to, try another coach on their roster to see if you can get a hold of them.

The best time to reach out to coaches is when will be attending an ID camp or showcase and you want them to come see you play. Professional soccer player Dorian Bailey said, “I would encourage them to send an email, highlight tape, or even make a phone call to coaches and universities that they are interested in.” Make sure that you are taking initiative when it comes to recruiting. It might seem weird at first, but coaches aren’t going to know who you are until you assert yourself.

What Should I Include in My Email to College Soccer Coaches?

emailing college soccer coaches

Sending emails is the most effective way to get in touch with college coaches. In terms of timing, the NCAA rules do not permit coaches to email or contact athletes until September 1st of their junior year in high school. So, reaching out and sending emails during your junior year would be a great idea. But, how should you go about emailing coaches? What should you include? And how should you write an email? These are important things to consider, so let’s talk about these points in a little more detail.

1. Have a subject line that stands out

  • Your subject line should include things like your grad year, position, and location. You can add in something that makes you stand out like your GPA or a quick statistic. This makes it easy for the coaches to understand who you are with your basic information. Try to be reactive with subject lines if you can and play around with what you’re happy with.

2. Attach a highlight reel

  • Attaching a highlights/videotape of you playing soccer is an important part for the coach to be able to know how you play, recognize what you’re good at, and identify the strengths that you can bring to their program.

3. Include your achievements

  • Make sure you add in any awards you have received or impressive statistics you have (goals, assists, clean sheets, etc). This backs up your highlight tape with evidence of where you’ve played, at what level, and how well you did - leaving any doubts that coaches might have when viewing your highlights.

4. Do your research

  • If you learn about the soccer program, the school, and the coach, this makes it a lot easier to personalize emails and to make them a lot more fun to read for coaches - remember, they receive hundreds! Researching the school will also show that you care about the program and have respect for the coach you’re speaking to, which goes a long way.

5. Be professional

  • Using the correct language when speaking to the coach you’re emailing, along with being professional and mature is important. This will show that you’re a serious recruit with a good character and demeanor, which coaches love! 
  • Use a grammar checker to help you with the best sentence structure and catch spelling errors.

Related: Want to Wow Recruiters? Remember these 7 Components of an Effective Email to a Coach

6. Address to the Right Coach

  • Often you will be using the same email content to contact multiple coaches, make sure you double check who you are addressing the email to. It would be a terrible mistake to send an email to Coach Smith while starting your email with "Dear Coach Robert Gray"

You may find it overwhelming to contact several coaches, which could be time consuming. But making sure that each email you send is of good standard and includes all the points mentioned above is key. Here’s a quick template of an example email that you might wish to use when contacting coaches. Remember to personalize the email about you and to add personality (when necessary) to your emails to make you stand out from the crowd.

Example Email

Subject: [Class Year] [Position] [Club Team]
EXAMPLE: 2025 Center-mid, Rush Soccer Club. Disney Showcase Schedule Attached

Dear [Coach’s Name],

My name is [Your Name] and I am in the graduating class of [put the year] at [Your High School] in [Hometown, State] and I play for [Your Club Team]. I am writing this email because I am highly interested in [Name of the College] and learning more about your program.

[Put a small paragraph here discussing any research that you did on the school, highlighting what you are interested in, and specific qualities that they have that you think stand out, maybe points on how you like how the team plays/the coaching style/philosophy and relating to how you think you would fit in academically and athletically would be a great addition to the email.]

I play [list the position you play, as well as secondary positions you have experience in, and the name of your team]. Some of my accomplishments are [list your top three to four individual awards, championship/tournament wins or recognitions]. You can view my complete playing resume here [Link to your playing resume or online profile]. I have also attached a highlight of my respective games. Please feel free to contact my coach(s):

[include the email and phone number of your high school or club team coach]

  • Coach Name
    • Title [high school or club team coach]
    • Email
    • Phone

Here is my schedule [include the date(s), location(s), and the name of the event(s) you will be attending, as well as your team’s name, your number, and the name of the field - so that coaches are able to recognize you].

  • Event Name
    • Date
    • Location
    • Team
    • Your Number
    • Name of the Field

[List your GPA/SAT and ACT scores. Here, mention what attracts you to the college in terms of academics, any majors that interest you, and any added points about the educational side of the school.]

Thank you for taking the time to review my email. I look forward to hearing from you and learning more about your program.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

[Add attachment or link to an online highlight video]

[Include your email, phone number, and address at the bottom]

Don’t be surprised when a coach replies or asks for your additional contact details - expect it, be confident! When coaches do reply or reach out, be sure to continue to be respectful, and remember etiquette when emailing, texting, or on calls. Show them your personality and ask plenty of questions that will determine which college you would like to attend and commit to.

Related: Second Impressions Matter in Recruiting! 7 Tips for Writing an Effective Follow-Up Email to a Coach

Inside Scoop on College Soccer Recruiting

Inside scoop on college soccer recruiting

Before committing to a school, you have to know that you are making your decision based on the school as a whole. Even if you love the coach and the team, your life in college isn’t going to be fulfilling unless you have a school that also fits your academic and social life needs. Make sure this school has the major you are interested in, clubs you might want to join, and a social life and atmosphere that you can see yourself enjoying. Statistics and awards matter, but the most important thing is to show up in your best at showcases and ID camps. Coaches likely will not recruit you until they see how you play and interact with other people. 

Depending on your division, redshirting is more or less common. Division I is definitely the most common division for redshirting, as Division I schools are the most likely to have the funds and resources to keep you as a redshirt player. Similarly, your process to being a walk-on in the soccer world depends on the division of the school. Some schools may only recruit walk-ons during the spring season where there is less pressure during practices. Other schools may have spots open for walk-ons, but the most important thing is to keep in contact with the coach if you are considering walking-on. This way you can make sure that your coach has you in mind during preseason or during the spring and you can guarantee that you at least have a chance to try out for the team.

Summary

Around 10th and 11th grade, it’s important to start getting on top of your recruiting process. The club team you play for is a great resource to utilize because most of the coaches and staff there will have a wide range of knowledge about getting recruited as a soccer player.

Attending showcases with your club is an important way to get noticed by colleges, as well as going to individual ID clinics and showcases.

Sending emails and reaching out to coaches can be intimidating, but we have provided a sample of an outline for emailing a college coach.

Try to talk to as many people as you can. This process is stressful and there are people out there who want to help you. If you ask questions, work hard, and put yourself out there, it will all work out and you will end up at a good place for you as a soccer player and as a person.

* Originally published on August 18, 2023, by Bella Nevin

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