What Are The Top 10 Best Colleges For Soccer?

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College soccer is becoming an important avenue for players to reach their professional dreams. The best colleges for soccer send players to the MLS and overseas each year to play at the top level. 

This list of colleges will give you a good sense of who the top programs are in America. 

I play college soccer at the club level which means two things- I understand how difficult it can be to get recruited by a D1 program and as a college soccer fan who has done thorough research, I know what colleges are the best for soccer. 

There are different factors that can play into what makes a good soccer college. Some may care more about the game atmosphere and the facilities, while others only care about the skill level and results that a team earns. 

Despite these different factors, I’ll summarize the top colleges with facts that go beyond national championships to give you a good idea of colleges that can help you reach your professional goals.

Key Takeaways

  • College soccer is on the rise in America. Recently, the national champions, Syracuse University, traveled to England and beat some of the top academy teams. The skill level and popularity of college soccer are increasing each year. 
  • The top colleges on this list balance remarkable program history with recent success, specifically in the last decade.

What the list includes:
1- Indiana
2- Stanford
3- Virginia
4- Notre Dame
5- UCLA
6- Clemson
7- Duke
8- Wake Forest
9- Maryland
10- North Carolina
Other Notable Soccer Colleges

1- Indiana

Regarding the best colleges for men’s soccer, Indiana has clinched an astounding eight NCAA national championships, making it one of the most successful programs in collegiate soccer history. These championship victories span from 1982 to 2012, with consistency defining their legacy. 

Under the expert leadership of coaches like Jerry Yeagley and Todd Yeagley, Indiana has dominated the Big Ten Conference, winning numerous conference championships. Recently, they were runners-up in the national championship in 2017, 2020, and 2022.

Indiana’s soccer program is also renowned for producing top talent, with notable alumni like Brad Ring, Todd Dunivant, and Nick Rimando making their mark in professional soccer.

National Championships: 8
Stadium Capacity: 6,500

2- Stanford 

Regarding the best colleges for men’s soccer, Stanford University should be at the top of your list. With a storied program history, Stanford has had a remarkable three NCAA national championships in recent years, triumphing in 2015, 2016, and 2017. Led by renowned coaches like Jeremy Gunn, the team consistently dominates the Pac-12, boasting seven conference championships.

Not stopping there, Stanford’s recent success includes numerous deep runs in NCAA tournaments. Standout players like Jordan Morris, who later played for the Seattle Sounders and the US Men’s National Team, have emerged from their ranks.

National Championships: 3
Stadium Capacity: 2,000

3- Virginia

With an illustrious program history, Virginia has a total of seven NCAA national championships, showcasing their soccer prowess over the years. These championship victories include triumphs in 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 2009, and 2014, with a legacy of consistency and excellence.

Under the guidance of head coach George Gelnovatch, Virginia has consistently excelled in the competitive ACC, winning numerous conference titles. The Cavaliers’ recent success is further highlighted by their deep runs in NCAA tournaments, proving their mettle on the national stage.

Alumni like Tony Meola, Ben Olsen, and D.C. United’s Bill Hamid have proudly represented Virginia in the professional soccer world. Recently, Virginia alumni Daryl Dike got drafted to Orlando City SC and moved to the English Championship side called West Bromwich Albion FC adding to the program’s impressive legacy.

National Championships: 7
Stadium Capacity: 3,600

4- Notre Dame

This storied program has a rich history of success and a reputation for producing top-tier soccer talent. Notre Dame has one NCAA national championship, which they secured in 2013. Under the guidance of head coach Chad Riley, the Fighting Irish continue to excel in the highly competitive ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference). Their numerous conference titles and consistency throughout the years have solidified their status as one of the elite programs in collegiate soccer. 

Notre Dame’s stand-out alumni like Justin Morrow, Harrison Shipp, and Matt Besler, have made significant contributions in Major League Soccer (MLS) and beyond.

National Championships: 1
Stadium Capacity: 2,500

5- UCLA

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), is a name that resonates with excellence. UCLA’s men’s soccer team has consistently been a dominant force in collegiate soccer. The Bruins have an impressive four NCAA national championships, marking their soccer supremacy in 1985, 1990, 1997, and 2002. This history of championship victories speaks volumes about the program structure and the support they receive from the school and community.

Under the expert guidance of head coach Ryan Jorden, UCLA continues to excel in the competitive Pac-12 Conference. They’ve earned eight Pac-12 championships, further cementing their reputation as a soccer powerhouse. 

UCLA’s soccer program has also been a breeding ground for professional talent. Notable alumni like Cobi Jones, Benny Feilhaber, and Carlos Bocanegra have represented the Bruins both in MLS and on the international stage, showcasing the program’s ability to nurture top-level soccer talent.

National Championships: 4
Stadium Capacity: 2,145

6- Clemson

This program has secured three NCAA national championships, showcasing their soccer mastery in 1984, 1987, and 2021. Guided by the seasoned leadership of head coach Mike Noonan, Clemson’s soccer program has excelled in the competitive Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). They’ve won multiple ACC titles, underlining their reputation as a powerful team in the ACC and nationwide.

Clemson’s soccer success extends beyond college as well. Alumni like Stuart Holden, Oguchi Onyewu, and Robbie Robinson have made a significant impact in Major League Soccer (MLS) and on the international stage, highlighting the program’s top-tier soccer talent.

National Championships: 3
Stadium Capacity: 6,500

7- Duke

Duke University, who are ACC rivals with Clemson, has earned one NCAA national championship, showcasing their supremacy in 1986. Under the expert guidance of head coach In recent years, John Kerr has led Duke’s soccer program and consistently excels in the challenging Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). They’ve secured multiple conference titles, solidifying themselves as an ACC powerhouse. 

Duke’s soccer legacy extends to the professional arena as well. Jay Heaps, Zac Whitbread, and Jeremy Ebobisse have made significant contributions in Major League Soccer (MLS) and beyond, demonstrating the program’s ability to nurture top-tier soccer talent.

National Championships: 1
Stadium Capacity: 4,500

8- Wake Forest

By this time, you’re probably realizing that the ACC for men’s soccer is comparable to the SEC in college football as far as having powerhouse programs. Another ACC contender, Wake Forest University, secured an NCAA national championship in 2007. Guided by the experienced leadership of head coach Bobby Muuss, Wake Forest’s soccer program has consistently won the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). 

Furthermore, Wake Forest’s soccer success transcends the collegiate level. Jack Harrison (former Premier League player), Ian Harkes, and Cody Cropper have made significant strides in MLS and the Premier League. 

National Championships: 1
Stadium Capacity: 3,000

9- Maryland

The University of Maryland commands attention in the soccer world. This program, steeped in a rich history, has won four NCAA national championships in 1968, 2005, 2008, and 2018. Their recent success and reputation makes recruiting top talent easy for the program. 

Under the experienced head coach Sasho Cirovski, Maryland’s soccer program consistently excels in the demanding Big Ten Conference. What sets Maryland apart is its remarkable ability to develop soccer talent that finds success on the professional stage. Alumni such as Taylor Twellman, Omar Gonzalez, and Graham Zusi have made substantial contributions in Major League Soccer (MLS) and overseas, showcasing the program’s capacity to nurture top-tier soccer talent. They also have the highest stadium capacity on the list which makes for a remarkable atmosphere at games. 

National Championships: 4
Stadium Capacity: 8,000

10- North Carolina

What may come as a surprise to a lot of people, UNC hasn’t seen much recent success which lowers their position on the list. This program, known for its history, has still earned an impressive total of two NCAA national championships in 2001 and 2011. Although they haven’t been consistently in the top 25 programs the past few years, they are in a re-build phase and their future seems bright. 

Under the expert guidance of head coach Carlos Somoano, UNC’s soccer program plays in the competitive Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). They’ve secured titles in the past reminding us of their potential to dominate the scene once again. 

UNC’s soccer legacy extends beyond the college ranks as well. Notable alumni such as Eddie Pope, Ben Speas, and Walker Zimmerman (USMNT center-back) have made significant impacts in Major League Soccer (MLS) and on the international stage.

National Championships: 2
Stadium Capacity: 5,025

Other Notable Soccer Colleges

It’s hard to pick just 10 colleges out of the wide array of top soccer schools. Here are some honorable mentions that could arguably be on this list:

  • Syracuse (2023 National Champions)
  • Marshall
  • Georgetown
  • Washington
  • Portland
  • Akron

What’s the next step?

Getting recruited by any Division 1 program can be complex and overwhelming, check out our article on how college soccer recruiting works.

Prepare for college soccer by checking out the best soccer drills to get you to the next level.

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Ethan is the owner of Skillful Soccer and has over 20 years of playing experience. He is currently a collegiate soccer player and is thrilled to share his insights for all things related to soccer.

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