With over 1300 men and over 1400 women soccer programs in the United States, there are many opportunities for you to get a scholarship!

Three major organizations regulate the US college sports: the NCAA, the NAIA, and the NJCAA

Each one has its characteristics, rules, and opportunities. The differences between the levels are explained below.

NCAA Division 1

Considered the most competitive level and is made up of mostly large public institutions. They’re known for their amazing facilities, big crowds, and the highest level of competitive play.

NCAA Division 2

Comprised of smaller and midsized public and private institutions. They also have great facilities and accommodations and often have beautiful smaller campuses.

NCAA Division 3

Differs from all other levels because they do not offer athletic scholarships. While slightly less competitive athletically, they are known for high academic standards and excellent education al opportunities. They differ in size from small to massive and are typically among the prettiest and most academically prestigious.


The NAIA is less restrictive in certain respects in its regulations, resulting in teams with higher concentrations of international players. The NAIA is an amazing opportunity for international students because of ample opportunities for scholarships and friendships with other international players.

Most of the member schools are small private institutions offering unique campus atmospheres. Smaller budgets for many NAIA schools often mean less impressive facilities than you find in the NCAA, however.


The NJCAA is a special level. These universities are often very small and are dedicated to only the first two years in your academic career. After two years here you will receive an “associates degree” and then must transfer to a 4-year institution to complete a bachelor’s degree (NCAA/NAIA). This level is often used for younger athletes looking for experience at a place to develop and get noticed.

The NJCAA can lead to players attending bigger universities looking for transfer students because they are already used to the US style of play and have established statistics and an American grade point average. These universities are often significantly cheaper in tuition and fees, as well.


Every division comes with its opportunities. It’s not the case that teams from one level are always better than teams from the others. NCAA Division 1 and 2 universities often have the first picks in players as they have the best facilities, but the low amount of restrictions causes the NAIA and NJCAA to have many more international players, and all of these factors can affect the competitiveness of the various teams.

You need to consider every level, as all of them offer an experience that will stick with you for a lifetime, and all are a potential pathway to pro soccer.

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