For most people in America—immigrants and minorities—getting a soccer scholarship can be their surest ticket to obtaining a university or college education. Soccer scholarship gives athletes the opportunity to pay their tuition while still developing their soccer abilities.
Thankfully, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) offers a scholarship for Division 1 and 2 levels. You will also find similar scholarship opportunities at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and junior colleges.
- Being an exceptional soccer player may not be enough to land you a soccer scholarship
- The majority of soccer scholarships last for one year and must be renewed annually
- International students can also get soccer scholarships
- Building a good relationship with soccer coaches can increase your chance of getting a soccer scholarship
Although soccer scholarships are offered to players that have proven that they have what it takes to compete at the game’s top level, being an exceptional soccer player may still not be enough to land you a soccer scholarship.
In addition to being an exceptional soccer player, you also need to be outstanding in your academics by having a certain grade point average. Even when you have met these requirements, the scholarship will not drop from the sky and fall on your palms, you need to find it.
So, if being an exceptional soccer player and having good grades is not enough, then what is? Keep reading to find out.
- How to get a soccer scholarship?
- Step 1: Join your high school soccer team
- Step 2: Build a rapport with high school coaches
- Step 3: Reach out to the coaches of your potential college team
- Step 4: Ace your grades and review academic eligibility requirements
- Step 5: Attend soccer training camps and showcases
- Step 6: Sign up with a recruiting agency
- Step 7: Sign a letter of intent
How to get a soccer scholarship?
Getting a soccer scholarship is tough and only a small percentage of students will get it. Schools have a maximum number of students they can offer scholarships—which is why it is very competitive.
About 1,410 colleges offered scholarships to male soccer players in 2020. There were 205 schools offering scholarships in Division 1. Each of the schools had a maximum scholarship cap of 9.9.
That means 9 student-athletes will get a full scholarship while the tenth student will get a scholarship that covers 90% of his tuition fee. In Division 2, there were 214 schools offering scholarships with a max scholarship cap of 9 students per school.
In the NAIA, there were 188 schools with a maximum of 12 scholarships per school. The highest scholarship cap was in the Junior College (JUCO) which had 217 schools with a scholarship cap of 18 per school. As we stated earlier, there is no scholarship offer for Division 3.
While getting a soccer scholarship can be tough, it is not also impossible. However, you need to be proactive to scoop up one of the available positions. The steps below will guide you on the criteria and how you should go about your search.
Step 1: Join your high school soccer team
Starting early is often the secret to getting ahead of your peers in life. If you know that you will be needing a soccer scholarship to get through college or university, the best place to start would be by joining your high school team.
Recruiters often prioritize students that have been in their high school varsity for a few years when making their recommendation. This is particularly true for international students hoping to get a soccer scholarship in the United States.
Unlike their counterparts in the United States that can easily be discovered through camps, an international student may not have the funds to travel to the United States to attend camps or to visit coaches.
As an international student, all your communication has to be done through an electronic medium including calls, emails, and sending videos to coaches. This explains why you have to work twice as hard to get the exposure that you need.
Some of the things that the Next College Student Athlete (NCSA) recommends that international students should do to increase their chances of being recruited into soccer teams (and get a scholarship) include;
- Expanding their vocabulary
- Researching and learning all about the division soccer levels
- Learn about different schools and narrow your target depending on your preference
- Read the eligibility requirement of your intended school to be sure that you are eligible
- International student-athletes can get a soccer scholarship too but will have to work twice as hard
The recruitment process according to Athletic Scholarships website can start as early as in 8th grade. Starting your recruitment process early will give you an edge and place you in a better position of getting a soccer scholarship.
Step 2: Build a rapport with high school coaches
Some high school soccer coaches may have the contacts of college soccer coaches or know them personally. When you build a relationship with your high school soccer coach and share your aspirations, your coach may be the bridge that will link you to your potential college soccer coaches.
Even if your high school soccer coach doesn’t know any potential college soccer coaches, they may be knowledgeable enough to give you a tip or two that will strengthen your application.
Once your high school soccer coach is aware of your ambition, they may help you to work on strengthening your weaker skills in preparation for playing soccer in college.
However, I would recommend getting a professional soccer assessment since your soccer coach may give you a biased assessment. A professional soccer assessment will be able to give you detailed information on your abilities, eligibility, and what steps you need to take to increase your chance of getting a soccer scholarship in the United States.
Step 3: Reach out to the coaches of your potential college team
Don’t just rely on your soccer coach to link you to potential college soccer coaches. It is your ambition and you need to take your destiny into your hands.
According to the NCAA, coaches can only contact student-athletes after June 15th of their sophomore year. While there are rules restricting coaches from contacting student-athletes, students don’t have the same restrictions.
Therefore, it is always a good idea to start reaching out to college coaches early. Most of the coaches will be eager to start filling their available roster early so that they can get the best recruits.
When writing an email to a potential soccer coach, make sure that it is personalized for their program. Since coaches receive lots of emails, they will easily trash a generic email. As a potential recruit, you have to clearly explain to the coach why you are interested in the program.
Avoid talking about scholarships first. If you get a reply to your first email, it is most likely because the coach wants to know you better. Only talk about scholarship money after you must have developed a connection with the coach over a period of time.
When contacting a soccer college coach, it is important to come equipped with your best video that highlights your skills and ask for a tryout. Always send the latest version of your recruiting video every time.
You may get lots of ‘No’ but if you keep trying, the ‘Yes’ will come.
Step 4: Ace your grades and review academic eligibility requirements
While improving your soccer skills to impress potential college soccer coaches, don’t take your eyes off your grades because they will be called into question too. To be eligible to compete in college sports, you need to meet NCAA and NAIA academic eligibility requirements.
Division 1 is the hardest to get and is usually reserved for exceptional soccer players with good grades. To be eligible for a soccer scholarship, you must maintain a specified grade point average throughout your high school as well as take certain classes. Below are the NCAA academic eligibility requirements for Division 1 and Division 2.
|Division 1||Division 2|
|4 years of English||3 years of English|
|3 years of math (either Algebra I or advanced)||2 years of math (either Algebra I or advanced)|
|2 years of physical/natural science||2 years of physical/natural science|
|2 years of social science||2 years of social science|
|Take ACT or SAT test||Take ACT or SAT test|
|Academic records for year nine and above in English||Academic records for year nine and above in English|
|Proof of graduation (final exams, diplomas, certificates)||Proof of graduation (final exams, diplomas, certificates)|
|2.3 GPA for your main classes||2.2 GPA for your main classes|
Step 5: Attend soccer training camps and showcases
While sending a recruiting video to potential college soccer coaches is important, not many of them will take it seriously. Also, your request for a tryout will not be granted in the majority of cases.
Where available, take a peek at the traveling schedule of your potential soccer coaches to see which camps or showcases they will be attending, and make yourself available there.
Many soccer scouts and coaches use camps and showcases to properly evaluate the potential of a student-athlete rather than when they are practicing with their high-school teammates.
Apart from bringing you face-to-face with your potential college coach, attending soccer camps and showcases can broaden your recruitment opportunity since you may get discovered by coaches from other schools.
Use the National Sports Center website to find the schedules for different camps and showcases. Attending camps also helps you to play with higher-level soccer players which will help you to learn a thing or two about the game.
Playing with people that are better than you is a good way of honing your skills and abilities. If you are an international student hoping to attend a soccer camp in the United States, make sure that you properly evaluate the cost to see if you can cover it—because it can get really expensive.
Step 6: Sign up with a recruiting agency
Perhaps, you find the entire recruitment process overwhelming or too busy to keep up. A good alternative would be to find a recruiting agency and sign up with them.
Recruiting agencies have built relationships with schools and coaches often rely on them to get the top soccer student-athletes on their roster. There are hundreds of such agencies scattered all over the United States.
Signing up for soccer agencies is usually free. The agency evaluates student-athletes and signs those that they believe are exceptional. Working with the student-athlete, they will create a professional highlight video and help the student with their CV and academic profile.
If you have exceptional soccer skills, going through a recruiting agency may be the easiest way to get a soccer scholarship. They can also help you with visas and other requirements that you will need.
Step 7: Sign a letter of intent
This is the final step to getting a soccer scholarship. After a college or university has recruited you, you need to sign a letter of intent to get the soccer scholarship.
Signing the National Letter of Intent (NLI) is a mandatory step for playing in Division 1 or Division 2 NCAA college. Scholarships are only offered to students for a year if they promise to attend the institution for a full academic year.
If the student-athlete fails to keep their part of the agreement they will miss one season of playing time when they get to the next NLI institution. However, you don’t have to sign this document every year. You will only do it the first time you join a four-year college or university.
The letter needs to be signed within a specified date or it will be invalid. The moment you sign the letter, you will no longer be available for other institutions to contact you.
Some institutions may have their own rules on student-athlete commitment and you will have to accept them to get the scholarship.
No doubt, the road to getting a soccer scholarship is long and exhausting. However, if it is your only guarantee to getting a college or university degree, then you have to overlook the pain and focus on the gain.
Even if you are a soccer superstar, a soccer scholarship will not be dropped on your doorstep. You have to go out and fight for it.
Most times, the best soccer players will not get scholarships, those that eventually get it are those that are really hungry for it and go the extra mile.
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!