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College soccer is played by teams composed of soccer players who are enrolled in colleges and universities. It is very prominent in United States, Japan, South Korea, Canada, and as well as in South Africa and the Philippines. The United Kingdom also has a university league. The institutions typically hire full-time professional coaches and staff, although the student athletes are mostly amateur and are not paid.


See also: History of soccer in the United States

"The Foot-Ball Match", Chronicle of the Rutgers v Princeton game on The Targum, Nov 1869
"The Foot-Ball Match", Chronicle of the Rutgers v Princeton game on The Targum, Nov 1869

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.[1][2][3] As a result, it is considered the first collegiate soccer match and the birth of soccer in the United States.[4][5][6]

However other sports historians argue that this was actually the first-ever college gridiron football season in history.[7] But that perception is changing, with Harvard being recognized as a pioneer in gridiron football, along with McGill, Tufts, and Yale.[8][9]

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.[10] 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.

Duke (in white) v Maryland game in 1968
Duke (in white) v Maryland game in 1968

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.[11] 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.[12]

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.[13]

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,[14] but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[15] 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. Since 2022, all playoff matches have an overtime period if the game remains tied after 90 minutes, but not the regular season. It consists of a regular two-half extra time period, but no golden goal. During playoff games, if neither team scores in the two ten-minute periods, 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.[16]

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.[13] The change was approved.[17]

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,[18]

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
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[19]
Year School Conference Home
1998 Fresno State Bulldogs WAC 10 2,716
1999 Saint Louis Billikens C-USA 11 3,037
2000 Connecticut Huskies[n1 1] Big East 14 2,772
2001 Saint Louis Billikens C-USA 12 2,767
2002 Connecticut Huskies[n1 1] Big East 11 2,519
2003 Saint Louis Billikens C-USA 9 2,779
2004 Indiana Hoosiers Big Ten 11 2,385
2005 New Mexico Lobos MPSF 10 3,629
2006 Connecticut Huskies[n1 1] Big East 11 2,931
2007 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos Big West 11 3,435
2008 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos Big West 11 3,444
2009 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos Big West 12 4,335
2010 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos Big West 12 5,873
2011 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos Big West 13 4,782
2012 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos Big West 9 5,542
2013 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos Big West 13 3,707
2014 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos Big West 11 3,844
2015 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos Big West 12 3,844
2016 Maryland Terrapins Big Ten 13 4,014
2017 UConn Huskies American 12 3,502
2018 UConn Huskies American 12 3,213
2019 Maryland Terrapins Big Ten 13 2,311
  1. ^ a b c Athletically branded as "UConn" since 2013.


Annual home attendance champions by average attendance[20]
Year School Conference Home
1998 North Carolina Tar Heels ACC 8 3,046
1999 North Carolina Tar Heels ACC 12 3,196
2000 North Carolina Tar Heels ACC 9 3,148
2001 North Carolina Tar Heels ACC 10 3,983
2002 North Carolina Tar Heels ACC 9 2,048
2003 Texas A&M Aggies Big 12 12 1,977
2004 Texas A&M Aggies Big 12 14 2,790
2005 Portland Pilots WCC 12 3,403
2006 Portland Pilots WCC 9 3,408
2007 Portland Pilots WCC 10 3,771
2008 Portland Pilots WCC 13 3,622
2009 Portland Pilots WCC 13 3,472
2010 Portland Pilots WCC 13 3,549
2011 Portland Pilots WCC 10 3,110
2012 Portland Pilots WCC 13 3,313
2013 Portland Pilots WCC 12 2,937
2014 Portland Pilots WCC 8 2,971
2015 BYU Cougars WCC 11 3,496
2016 BYU Cougars WCC 10 2,957
2017 BYU Cougars WCC 11 3,006
2018 Texas A&M Aggies SEC 13 2,562
2019 BYU Cougars WCC 12 2,945

College Cup


Main article: NCAA Division I men's soccer tournament

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

Team Number Years won
Saint Louis 10 1959, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1967 †, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1973
Indiana 8 1982, 1983, 1988, 1998, 1999, 2003, 2004, 2012
Virginia 7 1989 †, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 2009, 2014
Maryland 4 1968 ‡, 2005, 2008, 2018
San Francisco 4 1966, 1975, 1976, 1980
UCLA 4 1985, 1990, 1997, 2002
Stanford 3 2015, 2016, 2017
Clemson 3 1984, 1987, 2021
UConn 2 1981, 2000
Michigan State 2 1967 †, 1968 ‡
North Carolina 2 2001, 2011

Side Notes:


Main article: NCAA Division I Women's Soccer Championship

The following teams have won the College Cup.

North Carolina Tar Heels celebrate winning the 2006 Women's College Cup
North Carolina Tar Heels celebrate winning the 2006 Women's College Cup
Team Number Years 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
UCLA 2 2013, 2022
George Mason 1 1985
Florida 1 1998
Penn State 1 2015


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.[21]

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.[22] 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.[23]

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).[13]

College soccer players outside the United States

Due to its proximity to the United States, 19 out of the 22 Canada women's national under-20 soccer team players at the 2022 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup play in the NCAA. Christine Sinclair, captain of the Canada women's national soccer team, played for the Portland Pilots women's soccer team from 2001 to 2005.

Many college soccer players in Japan and South Korea have gone on to represent their national teams. These two countries have a similar "college soccer to national team" pipeline found in the United States. Historically, a majority of players of have represented the South Korea national under-20 football team has played soccer in college.[24] The team's most successful result was reaching the finals of the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup. Similarly, the South Korea women's national under-20 football team also has players from college soccer. In the 2022 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup, 16 players of the 21-woman squad were in college.[25] Nine players of the Japan national football team at the 2022 FIFA World Cup have a college soccer background.[26]

Foreign players in the United States

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. 2015 was the first year that there was a flood of international players joining these teams. These players are said to join college soccer in hopes of playing professionally in Major League Soccer and also to get the education that the United States provides, with uncertanties raised about the playing time and type of education they would receive in their countries.[27]

College soccer in the United States

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).[28]

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.[29]

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.[30] There are 959 NCAA women's soccer teams—310 Division I, 225 Division II, and 424 Division III.[31]

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.[31]

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. One conference that participated in the 2022 season will no longer sponsor men's soccer after that season.

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h (Women only).
  2. ^ Dropping men's soccer after the 2022 season.

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.

  1. ^ 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. ^ a b 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).
  2. ^ Women only.

Divisions and Conferences internationally

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the BUCS Football League governs association football in colleges and universities.[32] There are currently 450 teams spread across the league.


In South Korea, the university association football competition is called the U-League.[33] 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 Japan, the All Japan University Football Championship and the All Japan Women's University Football Championship are the main tournaments for universities across Japan. Both of them are played annually with 24 participating universities and distinct qualification series. The 2022 edition of both men's and women's tournaments are taking place between December 2022 and January 2023.[34][35]

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.

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:

South Africa

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 each of the men's and women's divisions.

National college soccer awards

See also: Category:College soccer trophies and awards in the United States

See also



  1. ^ Best of the 1870s: The defining players and teams of college football’s first decade by Matt Brown on The Athletic, 28 Jan 2019
  2. ^ First ever college soccer football game on Pro Football Hall of Fame
  3. ^ First college football game played at Rutgers in 1869 by Shaunna Stuck, The Pitt News, 20 Sep 2002
  4. ^ "U.S. Soccer Timeline". U.S. Soccer. Retrieved June 23, 2020.
  5. ^ Wangerin, David (2008). Soccer in a football world : the story of America's forgotten game. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Retrieved June 23, 2020.
  6. ^ 1st college football game ever was New Jersey vs. Rutgers in 1869 at
  7. ^ 1869 November 06: Rutgers beats Princeton in first college football game at
  8. ^ "THE FOOTBALL H: A CRIMSON H ON A BLACK SWEATER The H Book Of Harvard Athletics 1852 1922 (archived, 21 Ago 2010)
  9. ^ THE BOSTON GAME article by Michael T. Geary at
  10. ^ The Year in American Soccer – 1959, David Litterer, Archived July 30, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ The Year in American Soccer – 1974, Steve Holoyd, Archived November 5, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Nesseler, Cornel; Carlos, Gomez-Gonzalez; Gasparetto, Thadeu (2020). "Head coach tenure in college women's soccer. Do race, gender, and career background matter?". Sport in Society. 24 (6): 972–989. doi:10.1080/17430437.2019.1710133. hdl:11250/2650054. S2CID 213386796.
  13. ^ a b c "College soccer". Weebly. April 16, 2017. Retrieved April 16, 2017.
  14. ^ "Historic vote for 21st Century Model looms | College Soccer". Retrieved September 29, 2021.
  15. ^ "21st Century Model vote put on hold | College Soccer". Retrieved September 29, 2021.
  16. ^ "NCAA SOCCER 2014 AND 2015 RULES AND INTERPRETATIONS". NCAA. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  17. ^ "College soccer: Double jeopardy rule in soccer adjusted". NCAA & Turner Sports Interactive, Inc. March 8, 2017. Retrieved August 12, 2017.
  18. ^ "Soccer referees could start keeping official time" (Press release). NCAA. March 29, 2018. Retrieved March 29, 2018.
  19. ^ "Men's Soccer Attendance Records" (PDF). National Collegiate Athletic Association. 2020. Archived (PDF) from the original on February 25, 2021. Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  20. ^ "Women's Soccer Attendance Records" (PDF). National Collegiate Athletic Association. 2019. Archived (PDF) from the original on November 11, 2019. Retrieved November 10, 2019.
  21. ^ "ESPNFC: Soccer BYU far from a traditional college soccer program". Retrieved March 12, 2018.
  22. ^ "The Women's Soccer Dynasty of Anson Dorrance". U.S. Soccer. January 29, 2016. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
  23. ^ "Jill Ellis '88 and U.S. World Cup champions inspire another generation". William & Mary University. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
  24. ^ "FIFA U-20 월드컵 속의 대학축구". (in Korean). Retrieved December 18, 2022.
  25. ^ 이의진 (July 14, 2022). "여자축구 대표팀, 20세 이하 월드컵 출전 선수 21명 확정". 연합뉴스 (in Korean). Retrieved December 18, 2022.
  26. ^ "W杯日本代表、なぜ"大学経由"選手が急増? 02年大会以降で最多9人の背景にある事情(THE ANSWER)". Yahoo!ニュース (in Japanese). Retrieved December 18, 2022.
  27. ^ "International Clearance".
  28. ^ "DII Championships Committee addresses soccer field size". - The Official Site of the NCAA. June 9, 2015. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  29. ^ "College soccer". Weebly. April 16, 2017. Retrieved April 16, 2017.
  30. ^[dead link]
  31. ^ a b Soccer, Archived August 10, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, College Sports Council.
  32. ^ "Home - BUSA". Archived from the original on June 12, 2007. Retrieved October 23, 2011.
  33. ^ "KFA". (in Korean). Retrieved March 12, 2018.
  34. ^ "歴代優勝チーム一覧|MCCスポーツpresents 2022年度 第71回 全日本大学サッカー選手権大会|". JFA|公益財団法人日本サッカー協会 (in Japanese). Retrieved December 13, 2022.
  35. ^ "第31回全日本大学女子サッカー選手権大会". JFA|公益財団法人日本サッカー協会 (in Japanese). Retrieved December 13, 2022.