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Central Virginia United's Guide To College Soccer

If you are not familar with college soccer in America, understanding all the divisions, rules, scholarships, and levels of play can be overwhelming. In fact, there are over 1,000 soccer programs at various levels throughout the United States! That means deciding to play college soccer is usually not as simple as picking up a pen and signing a full scholarship to play at the University where you want to play. There are many factors both parents and players need to consider when deciding not only where they want to play college soccer, but also how to achieve those goals and what kind of education they want to receive. 

A number of our CVU Staff/Technical Staff have been involved in the college game as both head and assistant coaches on the women's and men's side. There is no set blue-print for how a player gets to a certain college, but there are many "best practices" that will help you have a better chance to end up playing where you want to go to school! CVU is proud of the success our graduates have had at the college level and we are always interested in supporting players looking to continue on their playing careers after club soccer. Please contact regarding questions about the recruiting process and opportunities for CVU to assist in your search.

College Soccer Divisions Overview

The NCAA (The National Collegiate Athletic Association) and NAIA (The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) have a few key differences setting them apart. Which association is better for you depends on your goals as a student athlete. As you learn more about specific divisions and programs, it is important to think about what you want your overall college experience to be, and how each institution and program will best serve your short term (next 4 years) and long term (40-50 years out) development.

The NCAA was formed in 1906 and is a larger association representing bigger schools and universities. NCAA schools are organized into three divisions, D1, D2, and D3.

Division 1 schools are typically the largest universities, and compete in a minimum of 14 sports for both males and females. These schools often have world-class facilities, attract the top athletes in the country, and receive the most media attention.

Division 2 schools are smaller than D1 schools, and student athletes usually finance their education with a combination of athletic and educational scholarships.

Division 3 schools are the smallest of the NCAA institutions. D3 schools are not allowed to offer athletic scholarships.

The NAIA was established in 1937 and is a smaller association. It is made up of smaller 4-year colleges throughout the United States, and competitive levels are comparable to NCAA D2 schools.


Do’s and Don’ts of the Recruiting Process

Do: Narrow down your list (When to start thinking seriusly about your opportunities)

  • Freshman year: Start thinking about colleges that might be a good fit. Consult your coaches and soccer professionals about potential options.
  • Sophomore year: Attend summer and ID camps. Be sure to go to different NCAA levels of schools, and be careful to differentiate between pure money making camps and those that will have a legitimate interest in you as a player. CVU can recommend these events for you.
  • Junior year: Have your list to 10 to 12 colleges and do research and visits on schools (meet players, coaches, attend camps).  Be sure to contact the coach, and not just the admissions office. Keep coaches informed about opportunities to see you play.
  • Senior year: Have your list down to 3 or 4 schools by early September, and let these schools know about opportunities to see you play. 

Don’t: Get your heart set on one school before you do any research

  • Make sure you take into account all the factors (academic, social, athletics, financial, etc.)It’s a huge mistake to choose a school because of someone else’s recommendation. What do you want (academics, social environment and athletic environment)?
  • You need to investigate:
    • Does the coach want you?
    • Did you enjoy your time and relationships with the current teammates? After all, you will be spending a tremendous amount of time with them. They are also a great barometer of the type of kids a college coach brings in and what the program is really like.
    • Will you make the team? Be frank in your questions with the coach.  Make sure that the player leads the way, and not the parents.
    • The roster (If you’re a goalie— do they already have that position filled?)

Do: Know the rules

  • NCAA doesn’t give you any leniency for ignorance. You really need to do your homework and the best place to start is to learn the NCAA rules. If you are uncertain of something you can always contact the NCAA for more information. CVU can help you understands the basics of NCAA recruiting rules as it applies to each NCAA Division.

Don’t: Be obnoxious or over-attentive, or have your parents make contacts for you

  • Coaching is a full-time job. There is a difference between contacting, showing interest, and the other side, which is being a little obnoxious and overbearing.
  • Once you’re a freshman in high school you can be recruited. Everything you do from then on has an effect on you being eligible. What you’re doing at freshman year and what you’re doing at senior year has an effect.
  • College coaches aren’t recruiting your parents, they are recruiting you! And they want you to show independence and competence to represent yourself and take the lead on your own recruitment.

Don’t: Be under attentive

  • By Junior year, maybe twice a month, make a contact with the programs your are most interested in. If you really want to have a relationship with the coach, then have a relationship with the coach. Make personal contact (don’t make mom or dad call). Follow up on the season; ask about experiences with the team. Doing this shows real interest.

Do: Introduce yourself

  • An introduction letter goes a long way as a first impression. Do not use a reproduced one. Make this letter something personal.

Don’t: Send a fill-in-the-blank mass e-mail

  • Make sure you introduce yourself even if it is through a letter. Seeing a face makes you easier to identify and is more personal. You have to remember the coaches will identify the players they want.

Do: Let them know why you want to be there

  • Let them know why you want to attend the school (e.g. coaching style, academics… this is why I think I would be a good fit for the team…)
  • Talk about why you personally would be a great addition and what you would bring to the team.

Do: Get out your video camera

  • One of the best ways to see a player play is video. Some coaches want videos showing your best moments, and some want full games.
  • Think about giving a little bit of a teaser (highlights and adding on a game at the end). The important thing is that when you get into the game portion of the video you identify yourself. (I’m on the Blue team, center midfield and I’m wearing number 8). Identify key moments in the video to see— this helps coaches who may have time restraints.
  • With YouTube, you can put it in an easier format for a coach. It’s easier for the coach to handle an e-mail link over receiving a huge collection of videos.
  • Investigate potential recruiting websites such as NCSA, Captain U, and Berecruited. These are not panaceas for college recruiting, but you might find them helpful.

Do: Have three positive references

  • Get the right people to write your recommendation letters. Think about what these people are going to say about you. All coaches know that character counts in a player, and having references about your ability AND your character provides coaches with a lot of insight.

Do: Keep your grades up

  • Players forget this. A lot of people think that just because they’re athletes someone will bend the rules or give them a break. The NCAA is very concerned about student-athletes, academics and graduation rates. Today there is more pressure on coaches to makes sure their student athletes graduate from colleges. Why would a coach recruit a player that has bad grades when it could affect the coaches’ number of scholarships or job stability?
  • Coaches are looking for motivated students who have a sincere interest in academic achievement and they want people who are working hard in the classroom as well as on the pitch.
  • Soccer can get you to the door but you won’t get in if you don’t have academics.
  • VERY IMPORTANT: The majority of all athletes are significantly more likely to receive academic scholarships than athletic scholarships. Having a strong academic background increases your range of choices in colleges, and your financial position in applying to schools.

Final Thought:

Would you come to this university if you didn’t make the soccer team? If the answer is no, don’t go to that university. Enjoy this time, investigate and prepare yourself to make the right decision. Think about short term (5 years) and long term (50 years) impacts that this choice will have on your development. It will be one of the biggest decisions of your life.