Where Did American World Cup Stars Go to College?

Find out where US national team members – both men and women - played soccer in college.

Photo: Thinkstock

While soccer still takes a backseat to football, basketball and baseball in the United States, the ranks of fans and players at every level continue to grow.

You might think that this would translate to strong college soccer programs. While the NCAA has a highly developed soccer program, not many World Cup-level athletes – at least on the men’s team - attend college. The US women’s team is a different story.

As the United States seeks to compete on the world stage in soccer, it has developed a similar model to other countries in attempting to develop players.

Read on to find out where some of the most-famous US soccer start went to college.

Why Do So Few Soccer Players Go to College?

As the United States seeks to compete on the world stage in soccer, it has developed a similar model to other countries in attempting to develop players. In this model, the players are less focused on education and begin their soccer training at an early age.

Foreign players are accepted into training academies as teenagers in order to prepare them for professional careers. While obviously not every player in these academies will play professionally, they devote most of their time to practice, often giving them very little time to focus on college.

As the US has attempted to improve its soccer training programs compared to the rest of the world, more and more American players have gone to foreign training academies - or joined those in the United States – giving them a chance to earn their degree.

Playing Soccer In College

However, this is a relatively recent trend. Players can still play soccer in college, though, and some professional players do come from the college system.

  • Clint Dempsey, one of the United States’ top players who also plays professionally in England, attended Furman University in South Carolina.
  • Carlos Bocanegra, the captain of the US national team, played for UCLA.
  • Stuart Holden played for Clemson University and went on to play with the US Team in the last Olympics and World Cup.
  • Former US team member Alexi Lalas, now a broadcaster for ESPN, attended Rutgers University.

Landon Donovan, the leading scorer in US soccer history, did not attend college, going directly into the US soccer academy after high school.

US Women’s Soccer Team and College

On the women’s side, things are quite different. Many of the players on the US women’s team that came in second to Japan in the World Cup in 2011 played soccer in college.

  • Goal scorer Abby Wambach was a Florida Gator and won a national championship in 1998.
  • US goalie Hope Solo player her college soccer at the University of Washington. She only began playing goalkeeper in college. She had formerly been a goal scoring threat at forward during her high school career.
  • Megan Rapinoe, who crossed the ball to set up Wambach’s dramatic goal in overtime to help the US defeat Brazil in the 2011 World Cup, played her college soccer at the University of Portland.
  • Mia Hamm, one of the most famous female soccer players, played at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and graduated with a degree in Political Science.


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