Soccer is undoubtedly the biggest sport in the world, drawing in an estimated 4 billion fans across the globe. The MLS, America's soccer league, doesn't come into the footballing conversation as much as the European leagues. However, with the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney playing in the MLS, and the launch of David Beckham's Inter Miami team, American soccer has joined the conversation in a serious way. This is backed up by the emergence of some world-class talent from the USA, like Christian Pulisic. In the same way, the college game is gaining ground internationally. We've seen the emergence of some college stars onto the European scene recently, such as Leeds United's Jack Harrison and Barnsley's Daryl Dike.
Women's soccer, on the other hand, is a completely different story. The US Women's National Team are the most successful team of all time, and the current World Champions! Women's soccer at college level is extremely competitive, and routinely produces excellent players. Stanford's Catarina Macario is a good recent example of this, and almost the entire USWNT played high profile college soccer.
Soccer is the third most played sport in the USA, behind basketball and American football. The MLS has grown from 10 to 30 teams since its establishment, and is now ranked 8th in the world - just behind Ligue 1 in France and Italy’s Serie A - in average stadium attendance.
There are approximately 2981 universities and colleges that have both men's and women's soccer programs, and the college game becomes more competitive every year. So, with stiff competition for places, how do you become a scholarship contender? Here are some tips on the best way to win a soccer scholarship to a USA university.
4 Tips To Improve Your Chances Of Winning a Soccer Scholarship
- Start Early
- There are three Athletic Associations in College Sport (NCAA, NAIA, NJCAA) which have different athletic and academic requirements. Starting to prepare for your application as early as your Grade 9 year allows you to make better subject choices which can affect your eligibility for the respective Athletic Associations. It also allows you to set attainable goals both academically and athletically that can get you into your dream school.
- Video Footage
- Great video footage can make all the difference in the recruiting process. Coaches want to see players in competitive game situations. The video footage should highlight your skills, ability, and overall soccer IQ. Keep the highlight video short and sweet, with your best plays at the beginning, in order to make a statement!
- Club Participation
- Playing club soccer exposes players to more competitive soccer than what is played at school level. Players who are looking to be top scholarship contenders need to have played soccer for their provincial and national teams. Joining a club can help you improve and be noticed by selectors.
- Be Proactive
- Assess your own targets based on your academic and athletic ability, and the eligibility requirements you meet. Put together a list of universities and colleges that you think you can get into. With over 4,000 universities and colleges across the USA, you want to refine that list to your own specific needs. To whittle it down, take into consideration your field of study, division level, location, and cost of living.
Putting it all together
To win a Soccer Scholarship to a USA University, you have to consider all of the above. Many students only start to enquire about scholarships in their Grade 11 year or Matric year. While this does leave you with enough time to find a scholarship, it may be slightly late in the recruitment process. Coaches in the USA start recruiting as early as your Sophomore (Grade 10) year. Getting on coaches' radars early allows them to track both your academic and athletic progression over the years. It also ensures you are top of mind when they are deciding on who to award scholarships to.
Marco Afonso: The GCU Star
Marco Afonso is one of Aspire Atlantic's first students. He has blazed a great path to success over his time at college in the USA! From his freshman year to playing in the youth setup at an MLS team, here is Marco's story.
A star soccer player from St David's Marist College in Johannesburg, Marco got in touch with Aspire Atlantic when he decided he wanted to play in the USA. Marco had plenty of great highlights and a strong resume, and with Aspire Atlantic's help, was able to secure a scholarship to play for the Grand Canyon University's Antelopes. Super excited about his future as a Division I soccer player, Marco set off on his new adventure in August 2017.
Marco had a great first season with the Lopes, notching the most assists on the team for the year. This success carried straight through to his second season, where Marco was one of only 3 players to start all 21 games. His creative play made him a consistent standout for the Lopes, and he provided the assist for the winning goal in the WAC Championship match. This sealed a tournament berth in the NCAA championship for GCU.
However, it wasn't going to all be plain sailing for Marco. Following an injury, Marco missed his junior season. After rehabbing hard to get back on to the field, Marco was able to return for the Covid-19 shutdown-delayed 2020 season. He slowly returned to full pace, building up minutes and getting his rhythm back. By the end of the season, Marco was playing at full throttle, and led the team back to the NCAA Championship tournament.
Taking The Step Up
His exceptional performances caused people to take notice of his talent. In May this year, Marco was signed to the Portland Timbers U/23 squad. This step was just reward for his talent and hard work. Marco has since turned in a number of top performances for the Timbers U/23 team, winning Team MVP for the 2021 season. In the next year, Marco will complete his final semester at GCU, and continue his soccer journey in Portland. We can't wait to see what he does next!
Marco gives a great example of how to win a soccer scholarship to a USA university. He has also done exceptionally well after starting college, putting in the hours to give himself the chance to shine. This attitude of hard work will continue to serve Marco well throughout his soccer career.
Marco's achievements show what can be done with a USA university sports scholarship, dedication, and perseverance. He is an excellent role model and we are so proud to have had him in our program!
Remember, it’s always the perfect time to begin your journey towards studying at the university of your dreams. Sign up here for a free consultation with one of our recruitment experts. You could join over 300 student-athletes already placed in the USA, competing at the highest level and earning a world-class degree!