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COLLEGE SPORT STRUCTURE

THE COLLEGE SPORT STRUCTURE

The college sports structure differs a bit from the structure here in the UK and Ireland, especially at university level. Teams in college sport in the US will continue to stay in the same division year upon year, and unlike football here in Europe, there isn’t promotion and relegation between the divisions. College sport is a big business, that’s no secret. 

Look at the thousands of fans that turn up for games – whether that is American Football, Basketball or even Football. College coaches are given big budgets for scholarships each year, which can range from covering minimal costs right up to a ‘full ride’ - meaning you wouldn’t pay a dime for your tuition, housing and meals.

Below, we take a look at the breakdown of the divisional structure over in the US. For those prospective players looking to gain a scholarship and head over to play college soccer, read below to get a better understanding of the differences between NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) and NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association), and also find your level.

NCAA DIVISION I

When you discuss college soccer with any aspiring student-athlete, this is the first thing they think about. Every prospective player would like to play at this level, but, especially from the UK and Ireland, the majority players coming from professional academies and backgrounds end up going over to the US to play in Division I. Budgets at this level are the largest across the college soccer divisions, and they also provide the most athletic scholarships. A lot of players that go on to play professionally, after college, come from Division I, but that doesn’t mean that pathway is closed off if you go to another division. Players can go to another division, impress both in the classroom and on the pitch, and transfer to a DI school if they wish.

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WOMEN'S

PROGRAMS

310

WOMEN'S

SCHOLARSHIPS

14

PER PROGRAM

MEN'S

PROGRAMS

206

MEN'S

SCHOLARSHIPS

9.9

PER PROGRAM

NCAA DIVISION II

For overseas players going to college to play football, this is probably the most popular division as there aren’t as many regulations on the number of players coming into the roster from outside of the US. Division II schools, generally, are smaller than the ones at Division I, but in terms of levels when it comes to football, there aren’t much difference at all. Going into a DII school will allow a player to flourish in an environment, which provides the opportunity to grow on and off the pitch. There is the opportunity to move to a DI school after a couple of years, but even if your aim is to go and play professionally after college, many players competing for four years in DII go on into the pro game in the US.

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WOMEN'S

PROGRAMS

225

WOMEN'S

SCHOLARSHIPS

9.9

PER PROGRAM

MEN'S

PROGRAMS

207

MEN'S

SCHOLARSHIPS

9

PER PROGRAM

NCAA DIVISION III

Division III is made up of the most schools of any division, with over 800 across both men and women’s programs. Players going to study at this level must know that there aren’t scholarships available on the athletic side, but there are for the academic side. If you are heading to a DIII school, you will be going more for the academic side of things, while also still being a student-athlete, as the reason for going there is more focussed on being provided with a top-quality education, with sports mixed in. Whereas, in Division I and II, the sport is a major part of the student-athlete experience.

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WOMEN'S

PROGRAMS

424

WOMEN'S

SCHOLARSHIPS

NONE

ATHLETIC SCHOLARSHIPS

MEN'S

PROGRAMS

408

MEN'S

SCHOLARSHIPS

NONE

ATHLETIC SCHOLARSHIPS

NAIA

The NAIA is a different governing body, but the level of football is pretty much on par with that of NCAA Division II. With there being less regulations on programs being able to recruit overseas players, it is a really popular pathway for players here in the UK and Ireland. NAIA schools are also similar to those in NCAA DII in terms of the size of the school and scholarships that can be offered to players. Just like at any level, players coming in will generally not be offered a ‘full ride’, but working hard both on and off the pitch will be rewarded with more scholarship money as you progress through your four years at college.

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WOMEN'S

PROGRAMS

198

WOMEN'S

SCHOLARSHIPS

12

PER PROGRAM

MEN'S

PROGRAMS

199

MEN'S

SCHOLARSHIPS

12

PER PROGRAM

NJCAA

The NJCAA route differs from the other divisions as you head there for two years and then transfer into an NCAA or NAIA school. Often, players will use this pathway as a stepping stone to save money in their first two years, improve their grades and aim to get a better scholarship offer when it comes to transferring onto a four-year school. This route is certainly one not to turn away from, especially if you have a lower standard of academics, and looking to taste the US college lifestyle.

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WOMEN'S

PROGRAMS

276

WOMEN'S

SCHOLARSHIPS

18

PER PROGRAM

MEN'S

PROGRAMS

291

MEN'S

SCHOLARSHIPS

18

PER PROGRAM

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