Soccer scholarships are incredibly competitive, and colleges will only award them to the best soccer players. But you may be wondering whether you actually need one and if it’s possible to play college soccer without a scholarship.
You can play college soccer without a scholarship. If a player enlists in a walk-on tryout and impresses the coach enough, the coach could offer the player the chance to play college-level soccer without a scholarship.
In this article, I will discuss in detail why you don’t always need a scholarship to play college soccer and precisely what you need to do to walk on the soccer team at your chosen college.
So stick around to get the inside scoop!
Do You Need a Scholarship To Play College Soccer?
Soccer is quickly becoming one of the most popular sports in the United States. From neighborhood games to high school, soccer is attracting more and more players each year.
Just like football and basketball, college-level soccer has a tremendous following in the U.S, and schools are always on the lookout for exceptional talent to bring on their campuses.
For outstanding soccer players, this often means valuable scholarships.
If you ask any serious high school athlete, you will find that they all share a common dream for the next phase of their athletic lives – to get recruited and play their chosen sport in college.
If things go exceptionally well, a college may even offer an athlete some kind of a scholarship. But the truth is that making our dreams a reality is never quite as simple as we want it to be.
Participating in college soccer is a huge step up from high school and club soccer. Only the absolute best take part in intercollege soccer.
Whether it’s due to a lack of exposure, a badly timed injury, or a combination of factors, you may not always get recruited to play college soccer in the way you were hoping.
If this happens, one question that usually lingers in most student athletes’ minds is whether they need the scholarship to play college soccer.
You don’t need a scholarship to play college soccer. Many players are able to impress the coach enough during a walk-on tryout that they are then offered an opportunity to play college soccer without a scholarship.
For the most part, getting a college soccer scholarship is hard, but you need not worry if you miss out on this chance. There is another option.
If you don’t get recruited at all, or if a college has recruited you, but you simply don’t want to attend, you still have the option to try and walk on as a non-scholarship player at a school of your choosing.
Don’t think this is an easy route, however!
Walk-on tryouts also demand a lot of time and effort. You will be required to demonstrate your skills and convince a coach that you are worthy of a place on their team.
But with realistic goals and enough dedication, walking on to a college soccer team could be one of the most rewarding moments in your soccer development.
Check out this inspiring story of how one player went from high school soccer player to D1 soccer college walk on.
Let’s look at how to achieve your goal of playing college soccer even without a scholarship.
How to Play College Soccer Without a Scholarship
Almost every college soccer team includes some players that are walk-ons. It may surprise you that this is as true for D1 soccer as it is for junior college soccer.
Anyone can walk on in D1 soccer if they are invited to by the coach. For this to take place, a player must convince the coach they are worthy of the opportunity and be available when the time comes.
To increase your chances of being offered the opportunity to walk on and play college soccer without a scholarship, there are 7 steps you must follow.
Communicate with the coach
Communicating with the college soccer coach is the most critical step in this process.
If the coach doesn’t know you exist, then they won’t invite you to walk on even if you are the best player in the country!
Every year coaches and their staff talk to hundreds of people interested in playing college soccer. If you are going to have any chance of making the team, you must stand out from the crowd.
There are several ways to do this:
- Email the coaching staff regularly
- Ask them what they are looking for in a player
- Ask your current high school or club coach to contact the college coach
- Send the college a highlight video of your skills and abilities
- Attend any camps or tryouts the college is offering
- Make an official or unofficial visit to the college
- Arrange to meet a member of the coaching staff or current player
If you are interested in playing college soccer, communicating with the coach early and showing your interest is vital. I recommend starting this communication as early as tenth grade to give the coaches time to get to know you and see your progress.
The coach will probably want to see your statistics and accomplishments before offering you a chance to try out.
Communicating early with the coach will give you the best shot at success. Ultimately they are on your side. They want good players on their team, and if you can show them you fit that criteria, they will want you.
Invest in your fitness and skills
The next step you should take is to invest in your fitness and skills seriously.
Once a college coach knows about you, they are going to make a judgment about your ability on the soccer field.
If they think you have what it takes, they will be interested, but they will quickly move on if not.
Learn everything you can from your high school or club soccer coaches. Practice every opportunity you get and devour any advice you can find online.
It’s also paramount that you consistently work on your fitness. You can’t be a great player without being a fit player.
For this very reason, I created a 30 Day Soccer Fitness program to guide you to a greater level of fitness that will see you running rings around the opposition.
It follows the exact same training plans that the professionals use and is custom designed for soccer players and the demands that a soccer game puts on a player.
If you want to stand out from the crowd, then you need to follow this step-by-step plan.
Focus on your grades
The third step is to keep your academic performance a priority.
There are too many players out there that have missed out on playing college soccer because they did not meet the academic requirement.
The academic standing of a college team is very important to the coaching staff. If you can demonstrate that you can increase a team’s overall GPA and academic standing, then you will stand out from the other players competing with you for a spot on the team.
The coaches already have to maintain the GPA of their scholarship players. They won’t have much patience for worrying about a walk-on player’s academic performance as well.
Attend a college soccer camp
Attending a college soccer camp is a perfect way to position yourself in front of the people that need to notice you.
Many colleges offer soccer camps, and you can see in my article – Are Soccer Camps Worth it? – that if you have what it takes to play college soccer, then I believe these camps can set you apart from the competition.
Soccer camps allow you to train and perform in front of recruiters and coaching staff from the college hosting the event.
They will be on the lookout for the top players to recruit for their team.
Although there will be some players they offer scholarships to, they will also notice players who are good, but they need convincing are worth a place on the team.
A college soccer camp is a perfect way to put yourself on the radar of the people that need to notice you.
Research the requirements of the individual colleges
Every college is unique.
It’s essential to research what college you would like to attend and the requirements to be offered a place there.
The last thing you need is to be working towards the wrong goals. Know what the college you want to attend expects and aim to reach that standard.
This will require good communication with your chosen colleges as well as searching their website for information.
If you can, visit the campus and ask lots of questions.
Try and contact anyone that has attended that college with or without a scholarship and learn from their experience.
The more research you undertake, the more prepared you will be. The more prepared you are, the more likely you are to achieve your goal of playing college soccer with or without a scholarship.
Attend a tryout
If you are offered the opportunity to try out for the college soccer team, grab the opportunity with both hands.
Being offered a tryout is a good sign that the coach is interested in you. They have seen something about you that they like and just need you to convince them during a tryout.
The critical thing to remember here is that they want to be convinced.
If they didn’t think you had anything to offer, they would never have presented you with this opportunity.
College soccer tryouts consist of:
- A warm-up
- A series of different exercises
- Specific soccer drills
- A practice game
Although every college runs these 5 sections slightly differently, this is the format you should expect.
However, to be sure of the tryout format, contact your chosen college for a detailed schedule.
Grab the opportunity to walk on
If you are successful in your tryouts, you will be invited to walk on.
This is your opportunity to show you deserve your place on the team. You’ll have the chance to participate in training and games and show the coach how much value you can add to their team.
Although you’ll be part of the team, you should be aware that you likely won’t initially get priority over athletes who have scholarships.
These players are the cream of the crop, and the coaches have already decided that they are good enough. To equal their position in your coach’s eyes, you’ll have to attend practice and work even harder to gain more recognition.
Don’t be put off by this.
Most soccer players who walk on improve considerably over time and end up playing more in their sophomore and junior years. All in all, you will have to work hard in practice to show your coach that you deserve to play.
And remember that the coach is on your side. They want the best players in their team, and if you can show them that is you, they’ll want to put you in.
Playing college soccer without a scholarship is an achievable goal for any player.
If you are willing to put in the hard work, you could soon be competing with the best college soccer players in the country.
I highly recommend you get hold of my 30-Day Soccer Program that comes with my Soccer Fitness Guide. It will set you up to be the best player and convince the coaches you are the player they need.
To further increase your chances of playing college soccer, check out one of my related articles: