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How Many Years Can You Play College Soccer?

How Many Years Can You Play College Soccer?

College soccer is a huge step up from high school soccer. It’s more competitive and offers more prospects to players.

College soccer encapsulates soccer played in both colleges and universities. While most of the players are amateurs looking to go pro, the colleges employ the services of full-time professional coaches to help nurture the players’ talents.

In the US, college soccer is regulated by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). It comprises both the men’s and women’s soccer programs. Across the US, there are an estimated 800 and about a thousand soccer programs for men and women, respectively.

College soccer is heavily competitive because players can have the opportunity to play professionally in the national or international leagues at the end of their collegiate careers.

The best players from the men’s programs make it to the MLS or other top leagues. In contrast, those from the women’s programs play internationally or in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).

This is one of the reasons why aspiring professional soccer players are keen on playing in college. In the US, there’s really no better substitute for the level of exposure a player can achieve.

A distinguishing feature of college soccer to professional soccer is that the players are not paid. Players are not allowed to play alongside professional soccer players, only against them.

The article takes an in-depth look at the allowable playing lifespan of players in soccer. It also addresses age limits, if any, for aspiring college soccer players.

How many years can you play college soccer?

According to the official rules of the NCAA, a soccer player can only play for a maximum duration of 5 years. Within this period, the player is able to compete in 4 soccer seasons successfully.

This means a player can take a year break between the end of the high school program and the start of a college program in Division 1 & Division 2 schools. On the other hand, they can play in 4 soccer seasons and then have the last year as the red-shirt year.

Note: A player can take a red-shirt year any year within the 5-year eligibility playing period.

What is a red-shirt year? Although not entirely related, you can take a cue from what happens with a red card in soccer. A red-shirt year is a period (usually a year) where players do not participate in any form of college soccer games.

redshirt year

There are several reasons for missing out on a playing year. The most common of them is injury-related and is referred to as a medical red-shirt. Players are allowed to take a break to help with recovery.

Also, due to the competitiveness of college soccer, players can get a red-shirt year from being unable to secure playing time. Whatever the reason, as long as it falls within the red-shirt year, college soccer players are allowed to compete and complete the four-year soccer seasons.

However, such eligibility guidelines, as stated, only apply to Division 1 & 2 schools. Each Division 3 school determines its criteria for eligibility.

Is there an age limit to play college soccer?

The answer is No! Going by the stipulated rules and guidelines of the governing body of US college soccer, there is no age limit to play.

There seems to be stated age limits in college sports like ice hockey, tennis, and skiing. However, no age limit is placed for soccer.

no age limit for soccer

The only requirement is that a player must have completed his/her high school program and get enrolled full-time in an NCAA college. His/her eligibility begins a countdown to the five years maximum eligibility period.

So what happens if the player fails to gain admission into a college or never enrolls in college? The NCAA laws allow for such a person to have his eligibility.

In other words, as long as the player never enrolled full-time in college or played the sport professionally, age cannot be used against him/her in terms of eligibility. This may seem unfair and unbiased, but it’s the reality.

Can a 25 year old play college soccer?

This is quite tricky, but yes, they can. A 25-year old can only play college soccer if he/she were never enrolled full-time in college or played the sport at club or professional level.

However, this is not the norm. Most high school graduates aspiring to play the sport professionally would enroll in an NCAA college almost immediately or within a gap year.

As an intense sport, soccer has its peak playing age between 25 and 30. The major concern for any 25 year old player is how well they can adapt to the physical demands of the sport at that age.

three soccer players running

Players who play college soccer do so to rise to the top and be selected for the national or foreign leagues. These leagues take particular interests at certain ages. For this reason, most college soccer players fall within the ages of 23 years when they are done with their collegiate careers.

In addition, the NCAA eligibility gives players a five-year limit to play college soccer. Therefore, they can compete in 4 college soccer seasons.

So, a player enrolling full-time into college at 21 for whatever reasons like joining the Armed forces, foreign aid services, or religious missions immediately after high school still has his 5-year eligibility.

At the end of his collegiate career, he/she would be 26 and would have played through college soccer as a 25-year old.


College soccer remains one of the most competitive sports in colleges and universities across the US. It is an excellent gateway for promising soccer talents to fully realize their professional soccer career dreams.

The NCAA, which is the regulating body of soccer in the US, gives each player five years of eligibility to play in 4 college soccer seasons. The additional year can be used as a red-shirt year.

Since most high school players look forward to starting their collegiate careers, the maximum age of completion is usually 23 years. Notwithstanding, there is no law on age-limit for the sport.

In relation to eligibility, the law only stipulates that an eligible player must have completed a high school program and entered into an NCAA college to study a full-time course. Then, when admission is secured, the player has only five years to be eligible to compete and complete his/her college soccer career.