Playing Soccer in College: Intramural, Club, and NCAA Soccer

Find out everything you need to know about college soccer, including the best schools, scholarship information, and how you can get involved.

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In 2010, nearly 25 billion people around the globe watched the FIFA World Cup. What may be surprising, though, is that over 112 million of those people were American. Soccer is definitely the world’s game – but the sport has been gaining more and more popularity in the United States as well.

Ready to hop on the bandwagon? Or perhaps you want to continue a lifelong pursuit of soccer? However many years of footballing you have under your belt, there’s an opportunity for you to play soccer in college. Here’s how…

If you’re looking less for intercollegiate competition and more for a little recreation, you might want to look into intramural soccer.

Soccer History

Soccer was founded in Britain in the mid-1800s, but it quickly spread throughout the world. Today, you can go to any country in nearly any continent and find a variation of the sport.

The United States took some time to catch on to the trend. The United States Soccer Federation was founded in 1913, and while a few schools played in the late 19th century, college soccer didn’t begin to catch on until the 1940s.

Since then, soccer has become a popular sport in colleges throughout the United States. There are currently over 100 conferences.

NCAA Soccer

As with many other college sports, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) oversees varsity soccer play. There are currently three NCAA soccer divisions, for both men’s and women’s soccer.

Even in Division I, there’s plenty of parity. In 2010, the University of Akron won the men’s championship, proving that colleges with smaller athletic programs can succeed in NCAA soccer. While no school or conference is totally dominant in men’s D1, there certainly are standouts. Recent powerhouses in men’s soccer are the University of Indiana (seven championship titles) and the University of Virginia (six titles).

Women’s D1 soccer is a bit more consistent. The University of North Carolina has won 20 titles since the Women’s NCAA Soccer Tournament began in 1982. However, Notre Dame managed to wrestle the title away from them in 2010. Look for the Fighting Irish, as well as top-ranked Stanford, to emerge as women’s NCAA powerhouses in the next few years.

NCAA soccer players are capable of some pretty spectacular feats. The fastest goal in college history was scored by Yael Averbuch. In a match against Yale, the former University of North Carolina midfielder once scored a goal in just four seconds. Many of the US Women’s World Cup team members played soccer at the NCAA level before ascending to the international stage.

NAIA/Club Play

However, not every school can afford a huge NCAA program. This is where club soccer comes into play.

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) organizes non-NCAA programs and competition. There are currently 25 NAIA conferences, in addition to many schools, (such as Voorhees College), that choose not to be affiliated with a conference.

Lee University has swept the past three NAIA Women’s Soccer Championships, making it the first school to three-peat since Westmont College did in 2001 until 2003. By contrast, the Men’s Championship, which is usually dominated by Lindsey Wilson College, went to Hastings College last year, for the first time.

Intramural Opportunities

If you’re looking less for intercollegiate competition and more for a little recreation, you might want to look into intramural soccer. Intramural sports are managed and funded entirely by students, so if you can get enough teams together, you can start an intramural soccer program.

Due to the variety of available facilities and athletic department rules, different campuses have different policies for intramural soccer. Some, like Montgomery County Community College, play indoor, while others may allow co-ed teams.

To find out what your school offers, check out its intramural sports department website. Before you know it, you’ll be managing and playing on your own club.

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