Ask The College Coach – What are the Differences Between the NCAA Divisions?

Ask The College Coach – What are the Differences Between the NCAA Divisions?

Welcome to SoccerNation’s “Ask The College Coach” column. In this series we take questions from soccer parents from around the country and have real, currently employed college coaches answer. If you’re interested in having a coach answer your question, please send us an email at with the subject “Ask the College Coach”.

This month’s letter is from a father in Idaho who wants to know the what differences between the divisions of college soccer. We are honored to have Head Coach of Utah Valley State Men’s Program, Greg Maas respond directly:

Dear Coach,

I am writing to ask if you can explain what differences there are in the recruiting process for each Division?  Everyone we talk to and my sons teammates all talk about “D1, D2,D3 and NAIA.” What is the differences of these and is one better than the other to play soccer at?  Your answer is greatly appreciated.

Jack W

Boise, Idaho



A great question with many levels to navigate — I will do my best to simplify the differences between divisions.

NCAA Division I and II soccer is an equivalency sport. This means they are limited in the number of available athletic scholarships. The actual number is different between divisions and both men’s and women’s soccer. It is important to find out how many athletic scholarships are available, as not every university may be fully-funded, and/or may have certain restrictions based on in-state or out-of-state student-athletes.

NCAA Division III institutions do not offer athletic scholarships, but student-athletes can receive academic and financial aid based on cost of attendance, including tuition and fees, room and board, books, etc. The NAIA often offer fewer sports and they are not governed by the NCAA, therefore, there are fewer restrictions specific to the number of athletic scholarships available for prospective student-athletes.

To participate in NCAA Division I or Division II athletics, student-athletes must first register and be certified by the NCAA Eligibility Center. Student-atheltes can get information on registering on the NCAA Eligibility Center website: NCAA Eligibility Center. NCAA Division III student-athletes do not have to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center. To participate in NAIA athletics, student-athletes must register with the NAIA Eligibility Center website.

The identification of prospective student-athletes for each division and governing organization is based on one relatively simple formula: identify prospective student-athletes that will excel in the both the classroom and field. The recruitment process, however, may differ due in part to an institutions recruiting budget, available resources, etc. NCAA Division I and II universities often have the resources to travel to various events, tournaments, etc., whereas, NCAA Division III may have limited financial resources for recruiting. Understand, nobody will knock on your door to offer a scholarship, you must self-recruit and promote yourself to institutions of interest.

Start with personal email of interest to the coaching staff, provide a complete soccer bio with references, attach a short 2-3 minute highlight video, and a full game if possible, so the coaches can get a feel for you as a player on and off of the ball. Identify areas of academic interests and connect personally with each program of interest. Schedule an unofficial visit to tour the school, facilities, and meet the staff and academic advisors to see if it’s “the right fit.”

Narrowing down your choices is never easy. The process can be simplified, however, if you connect with the academic interests, the coaching staff, players, facilities, geographic location, and if there’s a network of support in the area of family and friends as you embark on the next chapter in life — life as a student-athlete.

I wish you the very  best!


Greg Maas

Head Coach | Men’s Soccer
Utah Valley University

WAC Tournament 2014 | 2015 | 2016
WAC Conference Champions 2016
NCAA Tournament 2015