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Popular Misconceptions about College Soccer, and NCAA Divisions I, II, III and NAIA

MYTH: "I only want to play NCAA Division 1 Soccer because I'm an 'elite' player and NCAA Division's 2 & 3 (and NAIA) are just not competitive enough, because they are not D1.”

Without getting too deep about the comparative level of play between the 3 NCAA divisions, it can best be understood like this.

The D1 schools, having more $$$ because of the sheer size of the program, are simply more visible. But, there are plenty of D2 & D3 schools whose soccer programs are much smaller in terms of $$$, but remain very competitive. Furthermore, it is a fact that the top D2 & D3 soccer teams in both mens and women's soccer, are easily capable of playing head to head with the best D1 schools. A good number of D1 school soccer teams are extraordinarily mediocre and even a poor level soccer.

When looking at schools, don't rule out D2 or D3. You could end up playing every minute in your freshman year and enjoying great soccer instead of sitting on the bench with a huge roster, waiting for a junior or senior to graduate.

 

Common Misunderstandings

Based on numerous experiences/conversations and stories over the past 15 years, and when talking with teenage players and their parents about the 'next level' (college soccer) there exists a most unfortunate but quite understandable confusion between the numerical division's in NCAA soccer leagues (D1, 2 & 3) and the quality of their respective soccer/sports programs.

Colleges are in one of the 3 NCAA Divisions, because they either are, or are not, able to field a minimum number of teams in both men's & women's intercollegiate sports. There is no promotion or relegation between divisions, unless a college changes it's number of intercollegiate teams. There seems to be a disconnect between the realities of aspiring young soccer players (parents included) and their choice of colleges. And the anxiety caused by the pursuit of 'D1' sports is palpitating..

One of the ways in which youth soccer coaches can and should help, is by directly 'educating' young players or at the very least, encouraging them (and parents) to research the differences that exist even with the NCAA's own Divisional structure. Either youth soccer coaches themselves do not know enough about the NCAA & NAIA or the same youth coaches fail to educate, because the result is that so many kids are conditioned to a state of maniacal determination to be recruited exclusively to a top D1 school.

This pressure often amounts to much anxiety & disappointment and has reached a new zenith among young players & parents in the US. The culmination of which is countless hours of tournament play, flights and hotels ($$$) across the country to 'be seen', and the stigma of 'failure to make a select, travel or ODP team', instead of productively improving and developing their skills.

Players really just want to continue to play the game they have been playing all their life. So, why not explore the many legitimate options that do exist at college level, rather than focus singularly on one.

After all is said and done, it is COLLEGE. 99.9% of college players go there to get an education. For the majority, it is logical to decide on a college of preference for its academics and location/environment first, and then evaluate the soccer team at that institution.

What is the difference between the Divisions in level of play, i.e. NCAA Divisions I, II, III?

 

Without getting too deep about the comparative level of play between the 3 NCAA divisions, it can best be understood like this.

The D1 schools, having more $$$ because of the sheer size of the program, are simply more visible. But, there are plenty of D2 & D3 schools whose soccer programs are much smaller in terms of $$$, but remain very competitive. Furthermore, it is a fact that the top D2 & D3 soccer teams in both mens and women's soccer, are easily capable of playing head to head with the best D1 schools. A good number of D1 school soccer teams are extraordinarily mediocre and even a poor level soccer.

When looking at schools, don't rule out D2 or D3. You could end up playing every minute in your freshman year and enjoying great soccer instead of sitting on the bench with a huge roster, waiting for a junior or senior to graduate.

Take a look for yourself. The text below is from the NCAA's own website. It clearly explains the differences between 'Divisions' and states:

 

  • Yes, there are a few other 'requirements', such as financial aid (scholarships) etc.....to see more information regarding Division 1 visit their website listed below..
  • To be a 'Division 1 College', the college must have a number of 'required sports':
  • Division I members must offer at least 14 sports (at least seven for men and seven for women, or six for men and eight for women).
  • The institution must sponsor at least two team sports (for example, football, basketball or volleyball) for each gender.
  • The school also must have participating male and female teams or participants in the fall, winter and spring seasons.
  • Colleges and universities determine the level at which they will compete, and new members must petition to join the division they choose. 

 

From the link, you can also access the Division 2 & 3 web pages.