College soccer

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College soccer is played by teams composed of soccer players who are enrolled in colleges and universities. While it is most widespread in the United States, it is also prominent in Japan, South Korea and Canada. The institutions typically hire full-time professional coaches and staff, although the student athletes are mostly amateur and are not paid. College soccer in the United States is sponsored by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the sports regulatory body for major universities, and by the governing bodies for smaller universities and colleges. This sport is played on a rectangular field of the dimensions of about 70–75 yards sideline to sideline (width), and 115–120 yards goal line to goal line (length). [1]


College soccer teams play a variety of conference and non-conference games throughout the fall season, with the season culminating in the post-season tournament called the College Cup. The St. Louis University Billikens is the most successful men's team, having won 10 College Cups while the North Carolina Tar Heels led by head coach Anson Dorrance is the most successful women's college soccer team with 21 College Cup wins.

The best men's and women's college soccer player each year is awarded the Hermann Trophy. [2]

After their collegiate careers, top men's players often go on to play professionally in Major League Soccer or other professional leagues while top women's players may play professionally in the National Women's Soccer League or in other professional soccer leagues around the world including Division 1 Féminine in France, Damallsvenskan in Sweden, Germany's Frauen-Bundesliga, Australia's W-League, or Japan's Nadeshiko League.

An NCAA tournament game between Indiana University and the University of Tulsa in 2004 College soccer yates iu v tulsa 2004.jpg
An NCAA tournament game between Indiana University and the University of Tulsa in 2004
North Carolina Tar Heels celebrate winning the 2006 Women's College Cup. North Carolina Tar Heels 2006 College Cup Champions.jpg
North Carolina Tar Heels celebrate winning the 2006 Women's College Cup.

Competition format

College soccer is played in the fall from August to December depending on if a team makes the tournament and how long they are in the tournament. Teams play conference and non-conference teams. The NCAA tournament is played in November to early December with the Final Four and Championship game played in December. There are 48 teams in the men's tournament and 64 teams in the women's tournament.

Proposed Division I men's season change

After many months of extended unofficial discussion, on August 22, 2016, NCAA Division I men's coaches and the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) officially began an "informational campaign" to build support for a proposed change of the playing schedule for Division I men's soccer. Under the proposed changes of the "Academic Year Season Model", the number of games on the Fall schedule and the number of mid-week games would be reduced, with games added in the Spring following a Winter break, and the NCAA Division I men's soccer tournament would be moved from November and December to May and June. In addition to more closely matching the professional season, the changes address issues of player health and safety and of the time demands on student-athletes. The proposal concerns only Division I men's soccer. While a large majority of men's coaches and players support the changes, only a small minority of women's coaches and players currently do so.[ citation needed ] At this time, there is only the "informational campaign" " educate our Athletic Directors, NCAA leadership, student athletes, coaches and fans on the advantages of this Academic Year Model," said Sasho Cirovski, NSCAA D1 Men's committee chair and University of Maryland head coach.

A formal proposal was made and a vote was scheduled to take place in April, 2020, [3] but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. [4] During the 2020-2021 NCAA Tournament, rescheduled to the spring of 2021, broadcasters mentioned that the vote will take place in the spring of 2022.


While similar in general appearance, NCAA rules diverge significantly from FIFA Laws of the Game. A manager may make limited substitutions, and each player is allowed one re-entry which must occur in the second half of the match unless the substitution was caused by a player injury resulting from a caution or send-off. All matches have an overtime period if the game remains tied after 90 minutes. As opposed to a regular two-half extra time period, golden goal is applied. If neither team scores in the two ten-minute periods, the match ends in a draw (unless it is a playoff match, then it would go to a penalty shootout). College soccer is played with a clock that can be stopped when signaled to by the referee for injuries, the issuing of cards, or when the referee believes a team is wasting time. The clock is also stopped after goals until play is restarted, and the clock generally counts down from 45:00 to 0:00 in each half. In most professional soccer leagues, there is an up-counting clock with the referee adding stoppage time to the end of each 45-minute half. [5]

Double-jeopardy rule change

In February 2017, the NCAA rules committee met to discuss a proposed rule that would change the double jeopardy rule. If the last player was to foul a player and deny a goal scoring opportunity, this rule would instead give the referee the ability to choose to issue a yellow card, if they were to feel it was a proper attempt to get the ball. [6] The change was approved. [7]

Potential timekeeping change

On March 29, 2018, the NCAA announced that its rules committee had recommended that the organization align itself with FIFA timekeeping rules, with the new rule slated for adoption in the 2018 season. If this proposal had been adopted, [8]

The committee felt that the then-current timekeeping system led to gamesmanship, specifically blatant delaying tactics, at the end of matches.

Potential season change

On January 15, 2020, a change in the time frame of the men's D1 season was proposed.9 Known as the Twenty-first Century Model, the proposal was to distribute the three-month fall season across the full academic year, making it both a fall and spring sport.10

The main motivations for the proposal were to reduce injury and improve the balance academic and other college experiences for athletes.11 In the fall during the regular season, teams may play 18 to 20 games over 10 weeks—an average of one match every 3.6 days—resulting in higher rates of injury compared to players who recovered for 6 or more days. Under the new schedule, there would be only one match per week.

When initially proposed, the changes were supported by the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big Ten Conference, and the Pac-12 Conference. The proposal was to be voted on in April, 2020, but was indefinitely tabled due to NCAA D1 Legislative Committees prioritizing issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. During the 2020-2021 NCAA Tournament, broadcasters mentioned that the vote is scheduled for the spring of 2022.

Attendance leaders


Fans at college soccer games (here at Indiana University in 2004) can number in the thousands between top teams College soccer fans indiana 2004.jpg
Fans at college soccer games (here at Indiana University in 2004) can number in the thousands between top teams
Annual home attendance champions by average attendance [9]
1998 Fresno State Bulldogs WAC 102,716
1999 Saint Louis Billikens C-USA 113,037
2000 Connecticut Huskies [lower-alpha 1] Big East 142,772
2001 Saint Louis Billikens C-USA 122,767
2002 Connecticut Huskies [lower-alpha 1] Big East 112,519
2003 Saint Louis Billikens C-USA 92,779
2004 Indiana Hoosiers Big Ten 112,385
2005 New Mexico Lobos MPSF 103,629
2006 Connecticut Huskies [lower-alpha 1] Big East 112,931
2007 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos Big West 113,435
2008 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos Big West 113,444
2009 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos Big West 124,335
2010 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos Big West 125,873
2011 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos Big West 134,782
2012 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos Big West 95,542
2013 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos Big West 133,707
2014 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos Big West 113,844
2015 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos Big West 123,844
2016 Maryland Terrapins Big Ten 134,014
2017 UConn Huskies American 123,502
2018 UConn Huskies American 123,213
2019 Maryland Terrapins Big Ten 132,311
  1. 1 2 3 Athletically branded as "UConn" since 2013.


Annual home attendance champions by average attendance [10]
1998 North Carolina Tar Heels ACC 83,046
1999 North Carolina Tar Heels ACC 123,196
2000 North Carolina Tar Heels ACC 93,148
2001 North Carolina Tar Heels ACC 103,983
2002 North Carolina Tar Heels ACC 92,048
2003 Texas A&M Aggies Big 12 121,977
2004 Texas A&M Aggies Big 12 142,790
2005 Portland Pilots WCC 123,403
2006 Portland Pilots WCC 93,408
2007 Portland Pilots WCC 103,771
2008 Portland Pilots WCC 133,622
2009 Portland Pilots WCC 133,472
2010 Portland Pilots WCC 133,549
2011 Portland Pilots WCC 103,110
2012 Portland Pilots WCC 133,313
2013 Portland Pilots WCC 122,937
2014 Portland Pilots WCC 82,971
2015 BYU Cougars WCC 113,496
2016 BYU Cougars WCC 102,957
2017 BYU Cougars WCC 113,006
2018 Texas A&M Aggies SEC 132,562
2019 BYU Cougars WCC 12 2,945

History of college soccer in the U.S.

The first de facto college football game held in the U.S. in 1869 between Rutgers University and Princeton was contested, at Rutgers captain John W. Leggett's request, with rules mixing soccer and rugby and loosely based on those of the Football Association in London, England. However most sports historians argue that this was actually the first-ever college gridiron football season in history. But that perception is changing, with Harvard being recognized as a pioneer in gridiron football, along with McGill, Tufts, and Yale.

The NCAA first began holding a men's national soccer championship in 1959. Prior to 1959, the men's national champion had been determined by a national poll instead of through a national tournament. Saint Louis University won the 1959 inaugural championship using mostly local players, defeating a number of teams that were mostly foreign players. [11] Saint Louis continued to dominate the Division I championship for a number of years, appearing in five consecutive finals from 1959 to 1963 and winning four; and appearing in six consecutive finals from 1969 to 1974 and winning four.

College soccer continued growing throughout the 1970s, with the NCAA adding a men's Division III in 1974 to accommodate the growing number of schools. [12] Indiana University's men's soccer program achieved success in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s with 8 national championships, 6 Hermann Trophy winners (national player of the year), and 13 national team players. From 1973 to 2003 no team won more men's national championships or had more NCAA College Cup appearances than Indiana. Virginia won a record four consecutive men's national championships from 1991 to 1994 under head coach Bruce Arena.

The first college women's varsity soccer team was established at Castleton State College, now known as Castleton University, in Vermont in the mid-1960s. A major factor in the growth of women's college soccer was the passage of the Education Amendments of 1972, which included Title IX that mandated equal access and equal spending on athletic programs at college institutions. As a result, college varsity soccer programs for women were established. Since at least 1977, African American and women coaches have been underrepresented and have a significantly shorter tenure as coaches. [13]

By 1981, there were about a 100 varsity programs established in NCAA women's soccer, and even more club teams. The AIAW (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women), was established in the mid 1970s and began sponsoring women's varsity programs. It establishing an informal national championship in 1980, which Cortland State won. A year later in 1981, the tournament was hosted by the University of North Carolina, which ended up winning the tournament as well.

In 1982, the NCAA began to sponsor women's sports and all schools switched into the NCAA. One major difference in the growth of women's college soccer unlike men's college soccer, was that it did not start out primarily in one region of the country and spread through the decades. With help from men's soccer, the women's program was able to take root all over the country at once, and grow from there. The University of North Carolina, coached by Anson Dorrance, immediately stood out as the ones to beat in the women's college game and remain that way up unto today. Of the first 20 NCAA championships, 16 were won by UNC, including nine in a row from 1986 to 1994. [6]

College Cup


The following teams have won the College Cup two or more times.

TeamNumberYears won
Saint Louis 101959, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1967 †, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1973
Indiana 81982, 1983, 1988, 1998, 1999, 2003, 2004, 2012
Virginia 71989 †, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 2009, 2014
Maryland 41968 ‡, 2005, 2008, 2018
San Francisco 41966, 1975, 1976, 1980
UCLA 41985, 1990, 1997, 2002
Stanford 32015, 2016, 2017
Clemson 31984, 1987, 2021
UConn 21981, 2000
Michigan State 21967 †, 1968 ‡
North Carolina 22001, 2011

Side Notes:


The following teams have won the College Cup.

TeamNumberYears won
North Carolina 21 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993,
1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2012
Notre Dame 3 1995, 2004, 2010
Stanford 3 2011, 2017, 2019
Florida State 3 2014, 2018, 2021
Portland 2 2002, 2005
USC 2 2007, 2016
Santa Clara 2 2001, 2020
George Mason 1 1985
Florida 1 1998
Penn State 1 2015
UCLA 1 2013


A number of American college soccer programs have developed players that have gone on to play professionally or for the U.S. national teams. Every year since its inception in 1996, Major League Soccer (MLS) has held a SuperDraft in which MLS teams draft young prospects. The draft picks in the MLS SuperDraft are often U.S.-based college soccer players. A similar format is held each year for the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL): the NWSL College Draft.

The Hermann Trophy is awarded annually by the Missouri Athletic Club to the top male and female college soccer players in the United States.At the start of the college soccer season a list of Hermann Trophy nominees is compiled. Near the end of the college regular season, 15 players are announced as semifinalists. In early December the top three vote-getters for both the men's and women's trophy are announced as finalists. In an annual banquet held at the Missouri Athletic Club of St. Louis, the winners of the two awards are announced. Hermann Trophy winners who have starred for the U.S. national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups include Tony Meola (1989), Alexi Lalas (1991), and Claudio Reyna (1993), Michelle Akers (1988), Shannon Higgins (1989), Kristine Lilly (1991), Mia Hamm (1991–92), Tisha Venturini (1994), Shannon MacMillan (1995), Cindy Parlow (1997–98), Aly Wagner (2002), Kelley O'Hara (2009), Christen Press (2010), Crystal Dunn (2012) and Morgan Brian (2013–14).

Many top American men's college soccer players play for separate teams in the Premier Development League (PDL) during the summer. One college club, the BYU Cougars men's team, has foregone playing in the NCAA or NAIA and instead play all of their games in the PDL. [14]

Several coaches who have won the College Cup have gone on to coach Division I professional soccer or even the U.S. national teams. The most well-known NCAA men's team coaches who have gone on to success in the professional ranks include Bruce Arena (four College Cups with Virginia from 1991 to 1994), and Sigi Schmid (won two College Cups with UCLA in 1985 and 1990). On the women's side, North Carolina coach Anson Dorrance coached the United States women's national soccer team during its early years from 1986 to 1994 and led the team to win the inaugural 1991 FIFA Women's World Cup in China. [15] Former UCLA Bruins coach Jill Ellis led the national team to win its third World Cup at the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada. [16]

Many women's college soccer players take opportunities to play professionally in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) and in Europe, Asia, and Australia. Players are also chosen from college to be a member of the United States women's national soccer team. The NWSL started in 2012 and now consists of 10 teams. This most recent draft in 2017 took place in Los Angeles, California with Rose Lavelle from Wisconsin going in the first round to the Boston Breakers.

Recent winners of the Mac Hermann Trophy include international players such as Kadeisha Buchanan (2016), Raquel Rodríguez (2015), Morgan Brian (2014, 2013) and Crystal Dunn (2012). [6]

Foreign players

Recently, more and more foreign players have been introduced to American college soccer. Getting recruited from overseas, these foreign players are joining teams of many college teams. The year 2015, was the first year that there was a flood of international players joining these teams. According to, these players join in hopes of playing professionally in Major League Soccer and also to get the education that the United States provides. [17]

Divisions and conferences in the United States

There are approximately 800 NCAA men's soccer programs—206 NCAA Division I, 207 Division II, and 408 Division III. [18] There are 959 NCAA women's soccer teams—310 Division I, 225 Division II, and 424 Division III. [19]

The number of men's Division I programs has stayed roughly constant since the mid-1990s, but the number of women's Division I programs has increased from 190 in 1995–96 to 310 in 2008–09. [19]

NCAA Division I

Among Division I all-sports conferences, only the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference does not sponsor soccer at all. All of the remaining 31 conferences sponsor women's soccer, but eight of these do not sponsor men's soccer.

NCAA Division II

Of the 23 Division II all-sports conferences, only the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association and the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference do not sponsor soccer at all. All of the remaining conferences sponsor soccer for both sexes except the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, which sponsors the sport for women only.

NCAA Division III

All Division III all-sports conferences sponsor soccer for both sexes except the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, which sponsors the sport for women only.

  1. 1 2 The MAC Commonwealth and MAC Freedom are two of the three leagues operated by the Middle Atlantic Conferences. Men's and women's soccer are both among the 14 sports that are sponsored by both the Commonwealth and Freedom leagues; an additional 13 sports are organized under the banner of Middle Atlantic Conference (singular).

Divisions and conferences internationally

In the United Kingdom, the BUCS Football League governs association football in colleges and universities. [20]

In South Korea, the university association football competition is called the U-League. [21] Created in 2008, it is the first organized league competition for university association football teams and operates outside of the regular Korean association football league structure.[ citation needed ]

In the Philippines, the UAAP Football Championship is contested by the eight members schools of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines. NCAA Philippines also sponsors a football tournament.

Varsity Football is a yearly tournament contested by South African universities in the intercollegiate league Varsity Sports (South Africa). As of the 2022 season, 8 teams participate in the men's and women's division.

In Vietnam, the university association football competition is called the SV-League, which is held annually among teams of university students.


In Canada, there are two organizations that regulate university and collegiate athletics:

National college soccer awards

See also

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