College soccer players who aspire to play professionally may wonder what their chances are of making it to the next level. While it is difficult to provide a definitive answer, a statistical overview of the transition from college soccer to professional soccer can offer some insights. According to a report by the NCAA, only 1.9% of men’s college soccer players and 3.7% of women’s college soccer players go on to play professionally.
Pathways to professional soccer can vary depending on the individual player’s circumstances and goals. Some players may be scouted by professional teams while still in college, while others may need to attend tryouts or sign with lower-level clubs to gain experience and exposure. In general, the transition from college soccer to professional soccer requires a combination of talent, hard work, luck, and support from coaches, agents, and mentors.
Check out our article on the best Soccer Colleges once you’re done with this article.
- Only a small percentage of college soccer players go on to play professionally.
- The pathway to professional soccer can vary depending on the individual player’s circumstances and goals.
- The transition from college soccer to professional soccer requires a combination of talent, hard work, luck, and support from coaches, agents, and mentors.
Pathways to Professional Soccer
Becoming a professional soccer player is a dream shared by many college soccer players. However, the road to becoming a professional soccer player is not an easy one. There are several pathways to professional soccer, each with its own challenges and opportunities. In this section, we will explore some of the most common pathways to professional soccer.
NCAA and the Draft System
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is the governing body for college sports in the United States. The NCAA is responsible for organizing and regulating college soccer, among other sports. The NCAA has a draft system that allows professional soccer teams to select college soccer players to join their teams. The MLS SuperDraft is the most well-known draft in the United States, and it is used to select players for Major League Soccer (MLS) teams.
According to SoccerFeed, only about 1.5% of all college soccer players are drafted into Major League Soccer each year. This means that out of almost 200,000 total collegiate soccer athletes in 2017-18, just 3,000 were selected for further consideration by MLS teams. The competition is fierce, and players need to be at the top of their game to be considered for the draft.
Development Academies and MLS Next
Development academies are another pathway to professional soccer. These academies are designed to develop young soccer players and prepare them for the professional level. The MLS Next is the premier development league in the United States, and it is designed to provide a pathway to the professional level for young soccer players.
Players who participate in development academies and MLS Next have access to top-level coaching, facilities, and competition. They also have the opportunity to be scouted by professional soccer teams. However, the competition is still fierce, and players need to be at the top of their game to be considered for the professional level.
Finally, there are international opportunities for college soccer players who want to become professional soccer players. Europe is the most well-known destination for professional soccer players, and there are many opportunities for American players to play in Europe.
Players who want to play in Europe need to be scouted by European teams, and they need to be able to compete at a high level. The competition is fierce, and players need to be at the top of their game to be considered for a spot on a European team. However, playing in Europe can provide players with exposure to top-level competition and the opportunity to play against some of the best players in the world.
College Soccer Player Numbers
According to NCAA research, there were 456,362 high school soccer players in the United States in 2018-2019. Of those players, only 25,072 went on to play college soccer, which is approximately 5.5% of the high school players. The number of college soccer players is relatively small compared to other college sports like football and basketball.
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) also sponsors soccer programs in the United States. In 2019, there were 204 NAIA men’s soccer programs and 221 NAIA women’s soccer programs. These programs offer opportunities for student-athletes who may not have been recruited by NCAA programs.
Transition Rates to Professional Leagues
The transition rate from college soccer to professional soccer is relatively low. According to Exact Sports, only about 150 male and female college soccer players end up playing professional soccer somewhere around the world after college. This indicates about .03% of high school male and female participants go pro, or 1 in 3,333.
The majority of professional soccer players in the United States play in Major League Soccer (MLS) or the United Soccer League (USL2). MLS is the top professional soccer league in the United States and Canada, while USL2 is a development league for players who are not yet ready for MLS. According to the NCAA, about 1.4% of NCAA men’s soccer players and 2.8% of NCAA women’s soccer players will go on to play professional soccer in the United States.
In conclusion, while the number of college soccer players in the United States is relatively small compared to other college sports, the transition rate to professional soccer is also low. Only a small percentage of college soccer players will go on to play professionally, and the majority of professional soccer players in the United States play in MLS or USL2.
Factors Influencing Professional Transition
There are several factors that can influence a college soccer player’s transition to the professional level. These factors can range from talent and performance to coaching and exposure, as well as education and academic balance.
Talent and Performance
Talent and performance are two of the most important factors that can influence a player’s transition to the professional level. Professional teams are always on the lookout for players who have exceptional talent and can perform at a high level consistently. Players who have a natural talent for the game and who have honed their skills through years of practice and training have a better chance of making it to the professional level.
Coaching and Exposure
Coaching and exposure are also important factors that can influence a player’s transition to the professional level. Good coaching can help players develop their skills and improve their performance on the field. Exposure to professional scouts and coaches can also increase a player’s chances of being noticed and scouted for professional teams. College coaches who have good connections with professional teams can be a valuable asset to players who are looking to make the transition to the professional level.
Education and Academic Balance
Education and academic balance are also important factors that can influence a player’s transition to the professional level. While playing soccer at the college level, players must also balance their academic responsibilities. Players who are able to maintain good grades and earn a degree while playing soccer have an advantage when it comes to making the transition to the professional level. Professional teams are often looking for players who have a good education and are able to handle the demands of both soccer and academics.
In conclusion, there are several factors that can influence a college soccer player’s transition to the professional level. Players who have exceptional talent and performance, good coaching and exposure, and who are able to balance their academic responsibilities have a better chance of making it to the professional level.
Challenges and Considerations
Physical and Mental Demands
Becoming a professional soccer player requires a high level of physical and mental demands. Players need to have exceptional skills in areas such as speed, agility, and endurance, as well as the ability to think quickly and make split-second decisions on the field. The competition is fierce, and only the best of the best make it to the professional level.
Injury Risks and Career Longevity
Injuries are a significant risk for soccer players, and they can have a significant impact on a player’s career longevity. Injuries can range from minor to severe, and they can occur at any time during a game or practice. Players who suffer from injuries may need to take time off to recover, which can affect their performance and their chances of going pro.
Financial and Contractual Aspects
Professional soccer players are typically compensated well for their skills and abilities, but the financial and contractual aspects of going pro can be complex. Players need to negotiate with teams and agents to ensure they receive fair compensation for their work, and they may need to navigate complex legal agreements and contracts.
Overall, becoming a professional soccer player requires a significant amount of hard work, dedication, and talent. Players who are willing to put in the effort and take on the challenges and considerations of going pro may find success in this highly competitive field.
Support Systems for Aspiring Professionals
Becoming a professional soccer player is a dream for many college athletes. While the odds may be slim, there are several support systems in place to help aspiring professionals achieve their goals.
University and College Support
Most universities and colleges with soccer programs provide their student-athletes with access to top-notch coaching, facilities, and resources. These institutions also offer academic support to help student-athletes balance their studies and athletic commitments. Additionally, universities and colleges often have alumni networks that can help connect aspiring professionals with potential opportunities in the soccer industry.
Family and Community Influence
Family and community support can play a significant role in the success of aspiring professional soccer players. Parents and other family members can provide emotional and financial support, as well as help with transportation to games and practices. Community support can come in the form of local soccer clubs, which can provide additional training and playing opportunities.
Professional Guidance and Representation
Aspiring professional soccer players can also benefit from the guidance of experienced professionals. Agents can help negotiate contracts, provide career advice, and connect players with potential teams. Additionally, organizations such as the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) offer resources and networking opportunities for aspiring professionals.
Overall, the road to becoming a professional soccer player is a challenging one, but with the right support systems in place, aspiring professionals can increase their chances of success.
Success Stories and Role Models
Many college soccer players dream of going pro, and while the odds may be against them, there are still plenty of success stories and role models to look up to. Here are a few notable examples:
Major League Soccer (MLS) is the top professional soccer league in the United States, and many college players aspire to play in it. There are several success stories of players who have made the jump from college to MLS, including:
- Cyle Larin: The Canadian striker played for the University of Connecticut before being drafted first overall by Orlando City SC in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft. He went on to score 43 goals in 87 appearances for the club before being sold to Turkish side Besiktas in 2018.
- Jordan Morris: The American forward played for Stanford University and helped lead them to three consecutive NCAA championships. He was then signed by his hometown team, the Seattle Sounders, and has since scored 41 goals in 131 appearances for the club. He has also earned 41 caps for the USMNT.
- DeAndre Yedlin: The American defender played for the University of Akron and was drafted by the Seattle Sounders in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft. He went on to play 62 games for the Sounders before being sold to English club Tottenham Hotspur. He has since played for several other clubs and has earned 62 caps for the USMNT.
- Tim Ream: The American defender played for Saint Louis University and was drafted by the New York Red Bulls in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft. He went on to play 84 games for the Red Bulls before being sold to English club Bolton Wanderers. He has since played for several other clubs and has earned 44 caps for the USMNT.
From College to USMNT
Playing for the US Men’s National Team (USMNT) is the ultimate goal for many American soccer players, and several college players have gone on to represent their country at the highest level. Some notable examples include:
- Jordan Morris: As mentioned above, Morris played for Stanford University before being signed by the Seattle Sounders. He has since earned 41 caps for the USMNT and scored 10 goals, including the game-winner in the 2017 Gold Cup final.
- DeAndre Yedlin: Yedlin also played for the USMNT while still in college, earning his first cap in 2014 while playing for the Seattle Sounders. He has since become a regular for the national team and played in the 2014 and 2018 World Cups.
- Tim Ream: Ream earned his first cap for the USMNT in 2010 while playing for the New York Red Bulls. He has since played in several international tournaments, including the 2019 Gold Cup.
While many college players aspire to play professionally in the United States, some have also gone on to achieve success on the international stage. One notable example is:
- Cyle Larin: After leaving Orlando City SC, Larin signed with Turkish side Besiktas and helped them win the Turkish Cup in 2019. He has also earned 38 caps for the Canadian national team and scored 16 goals, including a hat-trick against Cuba in the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
These success stories and role models can serve as inspiration for college soccer players who dream of going pro. While the odds may be against them, with hard work and dedication, anything is possible.
Preparing for a Career Beyond Soccer
While many college soccer players aspire to become professional soccer players, it is important to prepare for a career beyond soccer. The reality is that only a small percentage of college soccer players go on to play professionally. Therefore, it is crucial for college soccer players to develop life skills, network, and plan for their post-career.
Life Skills and Personal Development
Life skills are important for all individuals, including college soccer players. Life skills such as time management, communication, teamwork, and leadership are essential for success in any career. College soccer players can develop these skills by participating in extracurricular activities, volunteering, and taking on leadership roles in student organizations.
Personal development is also important for college soccer players. Personal development includes developing self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and resilience. College soccer players can develop these skills by attending workshops, working with a mentor, or seeking counseling services.
Networking and Post-Career Planning
Networking is essential for career success. College soccer players can network by attending career fairs, connecting with alumni, and participating in internships. Networking can help college soccer players gain access to job opportunities and develop relationships with professionals in their field.
Post-career planning is also important for college soccer players. College soccer players should consider their interests and skills when planning for their post-career. They can explore different careers by shadowing professionals, attending informational interviews, and researching different industries.
In conclusion, while playing professional soccer may be the dream of many college soccer players, it is important to prepare for a career beyond soccer. College soccer players can develop life skills, network, and plan for their post-career by participating in extracurricular activities, attending workshops, networking, and exploring different career options. By doing so, college soccer players can set themselves up for success in their future careers.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the likelihood of MLS NEXT players signing professional contracts?
According to SoccerFeed, the likelihood of MLS NEXT players signing professional contracts is relatively low. In fact, only a small percentage of college soccer players make it to the professional level. However, the exact percentage varies by league and region.
What proportion of college soccer athletes transition to professional leagues?
As per EXACT Sports, the proportion of college soccer athletes who transition to professional leagues is quite low. The article estimates that only about 1 in 3,333 high school participants end up playing professional soccer somewhere around the world after college. This translates to roughly 0.03% of high school female and male participants going pro.
Is participation in college soccer a prerequisite for a professional career?
While playing college soccer can certainly help aspiring soccer players hone their skills and gain exposure to professional scouts, it is not a prerequisite for a professional career. According to Soccer Training Info, some professional soccer players did not play college soccer at all.
Which notable professional soccer players started their careers in college?
Several notable professional soccer players started their careers in college. For instance, DeAndre Yedlin played at Seattle Sounders FC after attending Akron University. Similarly, Darlington Nagbe played at the University of Akron before joining the Portland Timbers.
What are the odds of a soccer player in Europe making it to the professional level?
The odds of a soccer player in Europe making it to the professional level depend on several factors, including their talent, work ethic, and access to resources. However, according to J Station X, the percentage of college soccer players who make it to the professional level is estimated to be around 1-2%.
Is it feasible to pursue a professional soccer career starting from Division III college soccer?
While it may be more challenging to pursue a professional soccer career starting from Division III college soccer, it is certainly feasible. According to The Conversation, only a small percentage of high school and college soccer players make it to the professional level. However, with hard work, dedication, and a bit of luck, anything is possible.