College soccer is competitive by nature. What’s even more competitive is the battle for roster spots. Making your way onto a college soccer team could boil down to the number of players the team has or is willing to have. That’s why knowing how many players are on a college soccer team is essential.
There are eleven players on a college soccer team on the field at once, but there is no limit to the number of permitted rostered players. The average roster size of a college soccer team is 30 players. As a result, the average team has 19 potential substitutes for games.
Find out more about college soccer team roster sizes and team composition by reading the rest of this article, which covers everything from college team sizes to the number of players allowed to travel with the team.
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How many players are on a college soccer team?
The roster cap for college soccer teams is unlimited–that’s right, NCAA soccer roster sizes can get pretty big. That being said, how many players are on a team at each level? The answer, surprisingly, is about the same across Divisions 1, 2, and 3.
There are 30 players on a college soccer team roster, on average, across Division 1, 2, and 3 institutions and NAIA schools. There are 11 players on the field for each team during a college soccer game. There is no limit on the number of players allowed to play in a game.
Although all 30 players on a college soccer team are allowed to dress for a game, it’s doubtful that each will get minutes. Coaches want to use their best players for as long as possible during a game, even if it means most of them play a full 90 minutes without a substitution.
Related: How Long is a College Soccer Game?
The number of players on a college soccer team does not correlate to the number of different players who step onto the field during a game.
As for the total roster size, the sky is the limit. Teams generally keep numbers below 30 as a higher number of players becomes unnecessary and difficult to manage.
Furthermore, it makes traveling difficult. Coaches either have to leave players behind for away trips or use additional budget space for more transportation.
The food situation is another predicament; teams usually stop for a bite to eat after away games, and more players mean more people eating away at the food budget (pun intended).
How many players can be rostered on a college soccer team?
Roster caps for men’s and women’s college soccer don’t exist. Teams are permitted to onboard as many players as they want.
There is no limit to the number of players rostered on a college soccer team. The number of rostered players is at the coaching staff’s discretion, but the average across all college soccer is 30 players per team.
This means some teams have more than 30 players on the roster, and some have fewer. Highly-funded programs typically have more players than programs with less funding.
Some college soccer teams have varsity and reserve teams or second teams. The second team comprises players that don’t start or generally don’t see playing time in the first team.
These players are still considered rostered, even if they don’t get consistent playing time.
How many players are on the field at once in college soccer?
College soccer rules are the most similar to professional regulations compared to other lower levels. This includes the number of players on the field at a time.
There are 11 players on the field at once in college soccer for each team, totaling 22 players. Each team has one goalie and ten field players positioned according to the teams’ formations. For example, the traditional 4-3-3 formation has 5-6 defensive players and 5-6 offensive players, plus the goalie.
The standard number of players on the field for each team is 11, but that number can decrease if a player from a team gets a red card, at which point they are ejected from the game.
As you can see from the diagram above, the players numbered 1-8 are defensive players (goalie included), and the rest are attacking players. That doesn’t mean, however, that the center-back can’t go as far up the field as they want.
Players can go wherever they want on the field, including the goalkeeper, who can even score goals.
Holding midfielders and the attacking midfielder are generally tasked with tracking back to help on defense as needed. As a result, and because substitutions for individual players in college soccer are limited, players in these positions require high fitness levels.
Other soccer formations have more or fewer defensive and attacking players, but all comprise ten field players and a keeper.
How many players can travel to away games in college soccer?
Coaches don’t typically need to pick and choose which players to bring to an away game. As long as everyone fits on the bus, there’s no limit.
All players on a team’s roster can travel to away games in college soccer. Teams generally travel via coach bus, with the average bus seating around 56 people, more than enough to fit each player, staff member, and equipment.
There is no limit on the number of players permitted to travel to a regular-season game. Coaches may decide, however, to only travel with some players and not the entire team. This is uncommon, as it would make the most sense to bring your full squad to a game if you’re permitted.
Reasons a player might not travel with the team include:
- Redshirt for the season
- Disciplinary reasons from the coaching staff
- Red card suspension
- The coaches made a strategic decision to take select players
- A team is in the College Cup and can only roster 24 players for a game
For NCAA tournament games, there’s a roster size limit for how many players coaches can bring to “the dance.”
NCAA College Cup travel roster size limitations
Roster sizes for the NCAA College Cup are limited to a specific number of players.
College soccer teams can roster up to 24 players for the NCAA College Cup tournament at the end of the season. Only the submitted list of rostered players can participate in a match as a starter or substitute. Coaches can change the roster for each match of the tournament.
Coaches can bring reserve players and other staff members, including media personnel, but only the 24 rostered players can play during a game. This limitation regulates competition and standardizes college soccer roster sizes to make the tournament fair.
For example, it would be unfair for one team to bring 35 players and another to bring 25 players because an additional ten could be too great of an advantage for the team with more players.
The concrete rationale behind the NCAA’s decision to limit roster sizes is unclear, as regular-season roster caps are nonexistent. I think, though, that it makes the tournament a fairer one.