Top Colleges for Student Soccer Players

Top schools with the best soccer programs.

Soccer is one of the popular sports of the NCAA, ranking in at just #4 of all sports by viewership this past year. Because of this, you will find that many colleges can be competitors when it comes to their soccer program, especially if it is a division 1 school. While there may be a bit of competitiveness when it comes to being able to play soccer in college, there is also enough variation of a couple decent schools.

NCAA Division One

NCAA division one is the highest level of intercollegiate athletics. You will find that most schools classified as division one are much larger and often a lot more competitive. The benefit of division one schools as an athlete is that there are usually very solid sports programs all around. Check out the best colleges in the U.S. to play soccer at based on the top NCAA division! 

Wake Forest University

Wake Forest University, founded in 1980, is located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Wake Forest has phenomenal soccer programs for both the men’s and women’s teams, with a list of notable achievements throughout the years. 

Men’s Soccer Team

The men’s soccer team at Wake Forest have won a total of seven ACC regular season titles, along with winning the regular ACC tournament in 1989, 2016, and 2017. 

However, the most successful year to date for the team occurred in 2007 when they won the NCAA division one championship:

  • The team defeated Furman, West Virginia, and Notre Dame in order to be able to reach the college cup.
  • In the semifinals, team player Marcus Tracy scored twice winning 2-0 over Virginia tech.
  • Wake Forest managed to beat Ohio State 2-1 in the final and win the National Championship.

Current technical staff: 

  • Head Coach: Bobby Muuss
  • Associate Head Coach: Steve Armas
  • Associate Head Coach: Dane Brenner
  • Assistant Coach: Jonathan Lagos

Players who have gone on to pursue professional soccer after college:

  • Luis Argudo plays for the Columbus Crew
  • Jon Bakero plays for Phoenix Rising FC
  • Corben Bone plays for FC Cincinnati
  • Sam Cronin plays for Minnesota United FC
  • Austin da Luz plays for North Carolina FC

Women’s Soccer Team

Along with the men’s team, the women’s soccer team at Wake Forest has also accomplished some impressive successes throughout the years.

  • In 2011, the team reached the college cup. 
  • In 2020, the team received an invite to the NCAA tournament after qualifying to the ACC tournament shortly before.
  • The team posted a whopping number of 16 wins, which was the highest it has ever been since 2011.

Current technical staff:

  • Head Coach: Tony Da Luz
  • Assistant Coach: Courtney Owen
  • Assistant Coach: Brittany Cameron

Aside from Wake Forest having a variety of strong athletic programs such as the soccer program, the school is currently ranked 28th overall among almost 400 national universities. Because of this, Wake Forest has more of a slim acceptance rate at just 32%. 

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

UNC at Chapel Hill campus
Photo courtesy of UNC’s website, where you can learn more about the academics at the school along with more details about the soccer teams. UNC is a very competitive school overall, with an acceptance rate of just 25%. 

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) is a public research university located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The soccer teams at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are among the strongest in the entire country. 

Men’s Soccer Team

Since the UNC soccer program was founded back in 1947, the men’s soccer team has only ever had two losses. The team won national titles both in 2001 and 2011. In 2001, the team had a record of 21-4, while in 2011 the team had a final record of 21-2-3. 

Notable awards:

  • Kirk Urso Heart Award
  • Tom Evins Jr. Most Improved Player Award
  • Mercer Reynolds “Tar Heel” Award
  • Mike Thompson Most Valuable Player Award
  • Nicholas Douglass Potter Coaches Award

Current technical staff:

  • Head Coach: Carlos Somoano 
  • Assistant Coach: Jeff Negalha
  • Assistant Coach: Grant Porter

Women’s Soccer Team

The women’s soccer team at UNC have had a number of impressive achievements along with the men. The team has won 23 of 27 Atlantic Conference Championships and 21 of 40 NCAA national championships.

Current technical staff: 

  • Head Coach: Anson Dorrance
  • Assistant Coach: Chris Ducar
  • Assistant Coach: Damon Nahas
  •  Assistant Coach: Heather O'Reilly
  • Director of Operations: Tom Sander

 Notable women’s soccer alumni from UNC:

  • Tisha Venturini 
  • Mia Hamm
  • Sarina Wiegman
  • Kristine Lilly
  • Heather O’Reilly

Stanford University

Stanford University is a private research institution located in Stanford, California. While Stanford University is one of the best options to pursue college soccer, it’s important to keep in mind that this school is one of the top universities in the whole entire world. 

Men’s Soccer Team

The men’s soccer team at Stanford University is quite impressive, with 17 wins in the NCAA Division one Men’s Soccer Tournament since 1973. 

 Current technical staff:

  • Head Coach: Jeremy Gunn
  • Associate Head Coach: Oige Kennedy
  • Assistant Coach: Charles Rodriguez 

 Notable honors:

  • California Intercollegiate Soccer Conference 
  • Pac-12 Conference

 The men’s team have made five total appearances in the College Cup, along with winning the national championships three times in 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Women’s Soccer Team

As the men’s soccer team has had lots of success at Stanford, the women’s soccer team have almost managed to get a number of significant achievements under their belt.

  • The team has won the NCAA Division 1 Women’s Soccer Tournament in 2011, 2017, and 2019.
  • Nine College Cup tournaments won.
  • FIve NCAA Division 1 finals. 

 The women’s soccer team originally started out as a club team before they ever were able to reach varsity level. The first three NCAA championships in  soccer ever competed were won each time by the women at Stanford! 

Clemson University

Clemson University soccer game
The Historic Riggs Field at Clemson University where soccer games take place, image courtesy of the school’s website

Clemson University is a public land grant research university in Clemson, South Carolina founded in 1889. Clemson also has the second largest university population in the entire state of South Carolina. 

Men’s Soccer Team

The men’s soccer team at Clemson has made some pretty impressive strides throughout their entire career. 

 Here are some of the most notable achievements:

  • 3 NCAA National Championships 
  • 14 Atlantic Coast Conference Championships 
  • 3 Hermann Trophy Winners

 Clemson University’s soccer team has had a long history, dating all the way back to 1934. The university started sponsoring a soccer team, which played a hybrid schedule of various schools. Unfortunately, the team was discontinued in 1939 following the season. However, In 1967, the university restarted the sport and appointed chemistry professor Dr. Ibrahim as the main coach. During the team's first season, the Tigers had 6–5 as their overall record. From 1967 to 1971 they had four winning seasons. However, the team knew it was unfair that they always happened to fall in the bottom half of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

 In 2010, the university first got the opportunity to truly shine when Mike Noonan became named as the new head coach of the soccer team. Under his leadership, the team became more prominent and even got the chance to participate in the NCAA tournament in 2013. In 2015, the team advanced to the College Cup finals, but unfortunately they lost to Stanford. Under his leadership, the team had also won 14 consecutive ACC championships.

 Current technical staff:

  • Athletic Director: Graham Neff
  • Head Coach: Mike Noonan
  • Associate Head Coach: Phillip Jones
  • Assistant Coach: Camilo Rodriguez
  • Director of Operations: Rob Thompson

Women’s Soccer Team

Just like the men’s soccer team, the women’s soccer team at Clemson University represents the school in the Atlantic Coast Conference of NCAA Division 1. 

Notable achievements:

  • Winning one Atlantic Coast Conference regular season championship
  • 1 regular season title
  • Advanced to NCAA women’s soccer tournament almost 20 times 

 Current technical staff:

  • Athletic Director: Dan Radakovich
  • Head Coach: Eddie Radwanski
  • Associate Head Coach: Jeff Robbins
  • Assistant Coach: Siri Mullinix
  • Director of Operations: Julie Carson

Options

Even though oftentimes most competitive, you’ll find some of the strongest athletic programs such as soccer in division one schools. When looking for schools with good soccer teams, take the time to do the research into what the teams have accomplished in the past versus how they have been holding up in past years. Good luck!

Matt Lyons
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