College Soccer Recruiting – Everything You Should Know

The college soccer recruiting process is highly competitive. Some college showcase tournaments attract hundreds of college coaches: over 200 NCAA, NAIA, and Junior College coaches registered for the ECNL boys showcase event in Greer, South Carolina, 2023.

What does the process look like, and how can you prepare yourself for finding the perfect fit for you?

College soccer recruiting starts for high school athletes after June 15, before their junior year; college coaches can contact them directly at this point. Recruits can start official visits with Division 1 and 2 schools starting August 1 before their junior year and with Division 3 schools after January 1 during their junior year.

The recruiting process involves a lot, like emailing coaches, creating highlight videos, and visiting schools. If you jump on it early and stick with the process, you can find a school that’s a great fit for you.

Keep reading for more information on the college soccer recruiting process, including a handful of NCAA recruiting rules.

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The college soccer recruiting process

The college soccer recruiting process looks different for everyone. There is a general process to follow, but getting recruited to play college soccer varies individually and is mostly up to you as an athlete and student.

What is the process, and how do you get recruited for college soccer?

Start your recruiting process by narrowing your search to schools based on your athletic and academic expectations and goals. Email, text, or call the coaches at those schools to explain your interest in their program. Send them your upcoming soccer schedule and pertinent athletic and academic information. Apply to the schools on your list before scheduling a visit.

Your initial email to those coaches should include, at the very least, your graduation year, highlight film, upcoming game, tournament, or showcase schedule, your position, GPA or test scores, interested major(s), and your club or high school team name.

Tip: Include this information in your email signature so it is readily available in every email you send.

Including this information in your email makes things easier for the college coach. However, including personal and team accolades with a narrative or story-like background is unnecessary.

There are a few things that could happen after you send your initial email:

  • You won’t get a response;
  • The coach asks for more information or sends you a link to their questionnaire;
  • They tell you they’ll come to a game;
  • They invite you onto campus;
  • They offer you a spot on the team (requires that you send film, and the coach will likely have talked to your club or high school coach about you).

Coaches may or may not respond right away. Understand that we coaches are busy and that some emails or text messages may fall between the cracks.

Contact multiple coaches on the staff, like the assistant or even a volunteer assistant, to ensure someone gets your message promptly. And remember: always follow up.

College coaches like myself receive upwards of 50 emails, sometimes hundreds, a day from prospective recruits, and it becomes arduous reading through paragraph after paragraph of your soccer background when all we need is the information I mentioned above.

The time for sharing that information comes once you’re further along the recruiting process with a school or coach.

Include in your emailDo not include in your email
Graduation year (2025, 2026, etc.)Your life story
On-field position (include at least two)Multiple paragraphs of your soccer journey
GPA and test scores
Upcoming soccer schedule
Club team name and high school
Highlight film
Major(s) of interest
A table listing what and what not to include in your initial email to a college soccer coach for recruiting.

Setting recruiting goals and expectations for yourself

I mentioned above that the first thing you should do to start your recruiting process is narrow your search. Be realistic about what schools, teams, and programs are achievable for you as an athlete and student. Self-reflect on your athletic abilities, and ask your coaches for testimonials.

Set goals and expectations before starting your college soccer recruiting process, and consider whether they’re attainable. If you want to play at the Division 1 level, ask yourself: do I have what it takes? Ask your club and high school coaches for honest evaluations to determine which college level suits you.

At the start of your college soccer recruiting journey, list all the schools you’re interested in based on academics and athletics. Then, start narrowing your search based on schools’ clubs, programs, graduation rates, and costs.

Some athletes want to play Division 1 soccer no matter what, but that’s not feasible for everyone. The competition for roster spots at competitive schools is high, and there are only so many offers to go around.

Related: How Hard is College Soccer? Choose the Best Division for You

This is why setting realistic goals and expectations about your recruiting process is critical: don’t waste your time chasing Division 1 schools if you’re not capable of playing at that level.

Tip: The soccer recruiting process can be harsh; you may get discouraged before finding your perfect fit, but trust the process and keep an open mind.

Some athletes might want a college soccer experience that’s more academic-focused. They might be okay with being a bench player at a talented program while getting a good degree for minimal cost.

Others who might not make the cut for Division 1 could perform highly at a Division 3 program or in a less competitive conference.

Your recruiting process is ongoing, and it’s always good to research the schools you’re interested in and be realistic with your expectations.

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When can you start getting recruited for college soccer?

The college soccer recruiting process starts in high school. However, there are specific rules set forth by the NCAA regarding college soccer recruiting.

You can start getting recruited for college soccer at any time, but NCAA institutions aren’t allowed to communicate with recruits off-campus until June 15, after their sophomore year of high school.

This rule applies to Division 1, 2, and 3 colleges.

Although coaches can’t email, text, call, or send physical letters to prospective student-athletes and recruits until the summer before their junior year, there are ways for coaches and recruits to connect.

NCAA Division 2 and 3 college coaches can contact club or high school coaches expressing interest in a player.

RelatedCan You Play College Soccer Without Playing in High School?

College soccer recruiting rules in Divisions 1, 2 and 3

College soccer recruiting rules vary slightly between each NCAA division. The rules primarily revolve around coach and athlete communication and campus visitation.

College soccer recruiting rules regarding when coaches can directly contact high school athletes, how they contact them, and when athletes can officially visit campus depend on the college’s division. It’s the college coach’s responsibility to adhere to these rules. Division 1 schools have the strictest recruiting rules.

Divisions 1, 2, and 3 each follow rules for those things. In general, Division 1 has the strictest rules, and Division 3 has the most laid-back ones. Also included in these rules are “dead periods,” or periods during which college coaches are not allowed to contact prospective student-athletes in any way.

College coaches are fully responsible for complying with recruiting rules. It’s not up to the athlete to abide by these rules. As an athlete, focus on finding the best school and program for you.

NCAA Division 1 recruiting rules

NCAA Division 1 schools have the strictest rules regarding when coaches can contact recruits.

Coaches can initiate a conversation with recruits after June 15 of the athlete’s sophomore year of high school. At this point, coaches can extend verbal offers, send recruiting brochures and questionnaires, and text, email, call, and direct message recruits.

Furthermore, starting January 1 of an athlete’s junior year of high school, coaches can conduct official visits and off-campus contact and communication with an athlete.

There are two dead periods for Division 1 college soccer recruiting:

  • Monday through Thursday of the week of the National Letter of Intent signing day (in 2023, it was November 8);
  • Friday through Sunday of the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Soccer Championship (the date is different every year, but in 2023, it was December 8-10).

There’s one quiet period for D1 college soccer recruiting from December 23-25 each year, during which college coaches are not permitted to have face-to-face contact with recruits unless it’s on campus. Coaches cannot attend high school or club matches at this time, but they can still make phone calls or write to recruits or their parents.

NCAA Division 2 recruiting rules

Division 2 recruiting rules are a bit more laid back than Division 1.

Division 2 college coaches can send questionnaires, camp brochures, and non-athletic recruiting documents to athletes at any time, as the NCAA does not restrict these materials. However, before initiating direct communication, coaches must wait until after June 15, following an athlete’s sophomore year of high school.

There is one extremely brief dead period for Division 2 college soccer recruiting. The only dead period is 48 hours before 7 a.m. on the National Letter of Intent signing date.

In 2023, the NLI signing date for Division 1 and 2 college soccer was November 8, which meant college coaches couldn’t contact recruits from 7 a.m. on November 6 to 7 a.m. on November 8.

NCAA Division 3 recruiting rules

My experience in Division 3 college coaching involves nonstop recruiting. That being said, I need to know the rules and regulations for D3 recruiting.

NCAA Division 3 recruiting rules state that college coaches can contact recruits immediately following their sophomore year. Official visits can’t occur until after January 1 of the athlete’s junior year of high school. D3 coaches can send recruiting materials to athletes at any time.

Division 3 schools do not have dead periods and can recruit year-round with on-campus visits and direct communications. Athletes can visit Division 3 colleges as often as they want during their recruiting process.

When can you start visiting colleges as a recruit?

Visiting colleges is a critical part of your college soccer recruiting process. It’s a massive step for you as a recruit, as this usually means coaches are very interested in you joining their program. When are you allowed to start scheduling visits to college campuses?

As a recruit, you can visit Division 1 and 2 colleges on official visits starting August 1 before your junior year of high school. Division 3 schools can host official visits after January 1 of your junior year.

Recruits are allowed an unlimited number of official visits to different Division 1 schools but only one per school unless there’s a head coaching change, in which case you’re permitted a second official visit.

Recruits can schedule unofficial visits at any time, but these visits can’t involve recruiting communications with the coaching staff or athletic department and are not funded by the school.

It’s essential to visit all of the schools you’re interested in attending—even the ones you might not initially be interested in! Keep an open mind when making visits because that school you never heard of could be the one you commit to.

Related: When is College Soccer Season? Fall and Spring Rules

What is an official visit?

Official visits are a big deal; you should be proud to receive one! They’re generally reserved for college coaches’ top recruits and include a few perks.

An official visit to a college campus is a visit that the school fully or partially funds, typically including lodging, transportation, and meals.

Even if the school only pays for your lunch, it’s considered an official visit.

Some schools will completely pay for your visit, including gas, flights, and a hotel if necessary.

College coaches usually officially offer after seeing you play in person or via highlight video, and this occurs toward the end of your recruiting process. It’s common for coaches to extend a verbal offer to a recruit after an official visit.

What is an unofficial visit?

Unofficial visits to college campuses are an excellent way to see the school, learn about its academic programs and majors, meet with professors, or sit in on a class.

An unofficial visit is a college visit not funded by the school. Unofficial visits after January 1 of the athlete’s junior year of high school can include conversations with the coaching staff or athletic department.

Although the visit is “unofficial,” it’s still important to contact the college coach beforehand to see if they’re interested in you possibly joining their team. It could turn out that they see you play after your visit and want to offer you a spot. This is uncommon at the Division 1 level, however.

Sean Tinney

I’m Sean Tinney, a lifetime soccer player and Ball At Your Feet owner. This website is a hub for practical soccer advice, information, and insights from one player to another.

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