Becoming a professional soccer player at 18 may seem like a herculean task for most people. However, the processes involved are quite simple if you understand how to walk your way through.
Almost every soccer-loving child has at one point in their lives had a dream of becoming a professional soccer player. Like many of our childhood dreams, many of them never see it to fruition.
The journey to becoming a professional soccer player, in today’s world, begins with having the right foundation. In the US, you have the opportunity to begin your soccer career from an early age in life.
Most young players prefer to enroll directly into soccer academies and connect with others. Although a soccer academy is a great way to get started with your soccer career, you can also start from your high school soccer team.
Some professional soccer players didn’t start from the academy. In this article, we will appraise ourselves with the steps and methods to become a professional soccer player at 18.
If a soccer academy is your thing, you will also learn how to get into the academy and the best tactics to kick off your career.
- How to become a professional Soccer Player at 18?
How to become a professional Soccer Player at 18?
Before turning 18, you probably already have a passion for soccer and already desire to go pro. Most professional soccer players started their soccer careers at an early age.
In today’s competitive world of soccer, especially with everyone trying to get in, the best way to make yourself known is to start pretty early. There are notable mentions of professional soccer players that started late but they are more of an exception to the rule.
These soccer players include Ruud Van Nistelrooy who first got signed at 22, Miroslav Klose at 22, Ramires at 20, and Jamie Vardy at 23, to mention a few.
Since we’re all about starting early and going pro at 18, it’s only fair we make notable mentions of professional soccer players that have gone ahead of you in this journey.
There’s no better way to start the list than with the legend Pele. He was shortlisted to play for the senior team at age 15 and would score his first international goal for his country at an age of 16+.
Martin Odegaard of Norway went pro with Real Madrid at 16, Ansu Fati also went pro at 16, and Theo Walcott at 17.
Fun fact: In 2009, at just 12+ years, Mauricio Baldivieso would become the youngest professional soccer player in history when he made his debut for Club Aurora.
With all of these notable examples of youngsters that started early to actualize their professional soccer player dreams, there’s no reason to hold back on your dreams. Here are some methods to begin your journey.
Method 1: Participate in college Soccer
Most young soccer players never understand the great benefit attached to college soccer. In the US, professional coaches lookout for the best college players to take them to the next phase of their careers.
College soccer can serve as one of the best bold steps to take while hoping to become a professional soccer player. If you are active in college soccer teams, luck may come your way sooner than expected.
These pro coaches prefer to work with the best college teams. In college soccer, you will be ranked according to your skills and expertise in playing the game.
You can start with a lower-level division before migrating to Division 1 men soccer in your college. In the US, 333 teams make up the D1 soccer team program.
However, moving from low level to D1 may not be an easy process. With the right amount of resilience, you can push your way through.
Several experts have revealed that it’s practically easier to get noticed in the D1 level than D2 or D3 level. If you want to make your breakthrough through college soccer, you must work your way upwards to the D1 soccer level.
- You can easily get noticed by professional coaches if your skills are good enough
- You get to combine academics with soccer. This eliminates the fear of missing out on an education while pursuing your dreams
- Connecting with professionals is much easier when you play college soccer.
- There is enough room to learn new skills. This is because as you progress through the divisions, you tend to master the necessary skills and talents to excel
- Your chances of moving from one level to the next are slim. There is a lot of competition amongst teammates to get selected
- Other academic activities may distract your sporting activities.
Method 2: Join top youth leagues around your locality
Soccer is the most popular game in the world. Since you have the passion and zeal to participate in the game, you should find youth leagues around your environment to join.
You don’t need to join any academy before joining a youth club. All you are required to do is make yourself available for the club training sessions and abide by their terms and conditions.
Although some of these clubs may charge you a specific amount to register, you still have a lot to gain at the end of the day. In the US, you can join a travel team or club that performs well or decide to grow with one.
Since you are more focused on reaching a greater milestone, you need to find a club that will drive you closer to your dream. Top US youth leagues to consider include Elite Clubs National League, Soccer Development Academy, etc.
The essence of joining the top youth leagues in the US is to improve your skills. You will also boost your chances of becoming a professional soccer player at 18.
- Youth leagues will enable you to connect with your fellow youths with similar ambitions.
- You will receive instructions and guidance from professional coaches.
- You will learn new skills and abilities to improve your knowledge of soccer games.
- The terms and conditions of the club may not favor all soccer players.
- The club’s decisions may affect your personal opinion about soccer.
- You may need to make financial contributions to meet up the club demands.
Method 3: Participate in a paid professional tryout
The professional tryout will give you an opportunity in pursuing your soccer career. During the MLS draft, professional coaches scout for skillful players to sign into their clubs.
However, if you don’t get signed during the MLS drafts, the paid pro tryout will serve as another option for you to embrace. Almost every professional team, lower leagues, MLS, and NWSL creates a room for a paid tryout for prospective professional soccer players.
So how can you find out about paid tryouts for a particular team? Most pro teams advertise their paid tryout on their websites.
If you want to participate in any tryout, always visit the team’s website and check when their tryout opportunity is available. Once you notice that they are opened, proceed to sign up immediately.
When you successfully apply for one, begin to search for other teams that are open for paid tryouts. Sign up and wait for their response.
It’s best to reach out to as many teams as humanly possible. This increases your chance of getting signed for a professional contract.
If you are invited for screening, attend and give it your best shot. If your performance is exceptional, the team may develop a unique interest in working with you.
When the opportunity finally presents itself, give it your best! Everything you’ve practiced for culminates for that moment – do not let yourself down.
- A paid tryout is one of the fastest means of becoming a professional soccer player at 18.
- You will have the opportunity to meet with top players and high-ranked team members.
- Professional coaches always have an eye for new talents. You can easily win favor if your performance is exceptional.
- You will have the chance of connecting with other young players with similar dreams.
- You will need to pay a stipulated amount to register. Registering for many teams to increase chances at success may become too expensive
- There’s always that probability of failure. Too much disappointment could kill your dreams
Method 4: Participate in Olympic Development Program (ODP)
In the US, ODP is one of the ways to identify the best players. By standard, ODP consists of state, regional, and national team levels. The primary goal of the organizers of this program is to find the best players to boost the chances of US National Teams in international soccer games.
As a young soccer player participating in the ODP, you need to prove to the organizers that you have better skills. When they find you worthy, you will be offered opportunities to become a better player and embrace the next phase of your soccer career.
So how can you participate in the ODP? If you want to try out ODP, you need to get in touch with your local US Youth Soccer State Association office. Once you establish this contact, you will learn more about the US Youth Soccer ODP.
- If selected, your journey towards becoming a professional soccer player will become much easier.
- You get a chance to represent the country at a national level in international tournaments
- The ODP is usually awarded by merit. Therefore, you won’t feel cheated in any way. If you are worth it, you will likely be selected – the program has a straightforward selection process.
- There’s a limited number of players accepted at every given time. If you don’t get selected, it could end up as a waste of time
- You need to possess a professional skill to be selected by the organizers. This is not a place for mediocrity. Standards for selection are stringent
- You need to receive professional training before participating in the ODP. The essence of professional training is to increase your chances of being selected during the process.
Method 5: Join a soccer academy
There are hundreds of soccer academies spread across the US, looking to work with talented players. If you have the zeal, skill, and talent to become a professional soccer player at 18, joining any suitable soccer academy will surely boost your career.
However, before joining an academy, ensure that you conduct a background study to learn more about them. Some academies work extra hard to bring out the best in their players.
Even if you are not a talented soccer player, an academy will bring out the best in you. If you can successfully register with an MLS Academy youth team, you will have a lot of opportunities awaiting you.
This is because, in the MLS Academy youth team, you don’t have to pay to play. Another great benefit of the MLS Academy youth team is that professional coaches will always be available to guide you and correct your mistakes.
You would also have state-of-the-art soccer technology at your disposal for training.
In the MLS Academy team, young players are groomed to become professionals with time. How far and we’ll a player goes is solely dependent on the player.
- Some academies accept prospective players without any form of a registration fee. This makes it a cheaper option at achieving your dream of becoming a professional soccer player.
- Professional coaches are always around to direct you.
- Your chances of climbing the ladder of success are very high when you join a top academy.
- A lot of young stars are also competing to reach the top.
- If you are not careful, you may sign up with the wrong academy and become a victim of fraud or waste the time with nothing to show for it.
- You need to have a unique skill to stand out. This becomes a problem when you’ve to compete with some of the best soccer players in the country.
Things to note before enrolling in a soccer academy
To join a soccer academy in the US, you need to prepare your mind for the task ahead. Consider the following before joining an academy;
- Prepare to pay a membership fee
Most soccer academies require players to pay a membership fee to facilitate their affairs. This membership fee is often used for insurances, player development, uniforms, cleats, referees and coaches salaries, etc. You would need to set aside a particular amount of money for fees to pay for your registration.
- Join your age grade
In most soccer academies in the US, you will be offered various options depending on your age grade. When you are assigned to your age grade, focus on bringing out the best in you to become the best with time. The goal is to stand out remarkably from the rest.
The essence of separating players based on age grade is to provide a suitable training platform for everyone. An 8-year old player may not be able to endure the challenging training of an older player at 15 years.
- Participate in all activities
Once you are signed up with a particular academy, focus on participating actively in all activities. When you partake in all training activities, your skills will improve.
So if you are hoping to succeed in your soccer career, you must devote your time to working tirelessly alongside your teammates and coaches. Coaches are always on the lookout for budding talents to develop and promote.
As a soccer player hoping to become a professional at 18, you must work extra hard to bring your vision to reality. Most top players in the world reached such a milestone because of their tireless training and commitment to the game.
If you are looking up to them, you must endeavor to follow their path. Success comes with lots of motivation and focus.
You need to inspire yourself to become better with your soccer skills. As you begin to make a move towards your soccer career, endeavor to follow the great tips listed above to actualize success with time.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!