In the minds of young high schoolers aspiring to play in college, one of the most nerve-racking thoughts can be the unclear recruitment timeline. While there is no cookie cutter template regarding the timing of this process, here are a few simple steps and guidelines along the way that should provide some clarity:
Middle School –
While the thought of playing college soccer isn’t usually a focal point, it doesn’t mean that this isn’t a crucial time to prepare. For many, it is a crossroad that forces players to hone in on only one sport full-time. It is important to figure out which club or high school could provide the most opportunity for player development and college exposure, all the while adhering to your style of play and academic goals. This helps strengthen the foundation for what is to come next.
Freshmen Year –
It is unlikely that college coaches are seriously targeting freshmen unless they happen to be one of the best players in the country, such as a national team player. However, this is a great opportunity for talented youngsters to stand out among older players at college ID camps or by playing up in age through their club. Coaches could take note of this and track you in the years to come when recruiting becomes more prominent. It is never too early to showcase your ability to coaches
Sophomore Year –
Towards the end of sophomore year is when high caliber youth teams/players begin to get noticed by coaches. Many of the elite tournaments and league playoffs occur in the spring/summer months, which is the most active time for coaches to venture the country in search of recruits. It is crucial that you develop a player bio earlier in the year so that when coaches do happen to come watch, you are prepared to get your info out there. For a player who wants to play in college, but might not be playing in some of the higher caliber tournaments the summer following their sophomore year (DA showcase/playoff, Dallas Cup, Regional Championships, Surf Cup, Jefferson Cup, etc.), ID camps are a great way to get noticed. It is less likely that many players commit before junior year, but this is the time when you can begin to grab serious attention from top colleges, which helps lead to an offer thereafter.
Junior Year --
Throughout junior year, college coaches will make offers to players who they presume to be the strongest in that class. Another important factor is the SAT score a player gets. Better students have an easier time getting recruited early on whereas some players won’t get an offer until the coach is confident they will be admitted to the school. This year is likely the time when scholarship money is given out, too. It really depends on when the majority of your games/tournaments are set to take place because many coaches will make you an offer somewhere between 2 weeks to 2 months after seeing you for the final time. This time frame depends of course on who else they are currently considering, how much money they have available, how many commits they currently have, and most importantly how much you have impressed them over time.
Senior Year --
While many players commit before their senior year begins, it does not mean coaches aren’t still looking for players, especially for D2 and D3 schools. Even a large number of D1 recruits commit in their senior year whether it be from having a standout high season or shining in tournaments like the Disney Showcase or National League in December. Obviously everyone wants to commit as soon as possible, but sometimes waiting until senior year helps players find a college that best aligns with what they aim to do academically/socially in college. These are factors that shouldn’t be underestimated because the most important key to success in college soccer is enjoying and owning the environment you are in.
Program Variation –
The timeline discussed above relates to the majority of college programs, but if you are aiming to play at one of the notorious powerhouses, such as those in the ACC or Pac12, it may differ. These programs have name recognition so are being bombarded with emails from players around the world who are aspiring to play there. With interest like this, it makes it easier for coaches to recruit players at younger ages, meaning they can confidently offer scholarships to freshmen or sophomores. In contrast, less notable programs would likely hesitate to commit players this young because of how much can change in 3 years. Other coaches, such as those in the Ivy League and Patriot League, recruit later because of the rigorous academic standards set by their admission office. It is nearly impossible to commit a player before they have seen SAT/ACT scores and high GPAs.