Ask any college or competitive coach about the level of NCAA soccer at D1, D2 and D3, and you’ll get the same answer: D2 and D3 soccer programs can complete with D1 soccer programs on any given day. It’s true that D1 programs have more money and more national attention, but any serious soccer player with the dream of college soccer should not ignore the benefits that come with non-D1 recruiting.
A little-known fact about D2 recruiting is that D2 is the only NCAA division that allows high school soccer recruits to actually train with the team. Every division is allowed to hold camps, where you may or may not get quality time with the coach and team, but Division 2 coaches are allowed to invite recruits to actually train with the team at a normal team training session — NOT a camp.
The NCAA D2 manual says the following:
A member institution may conduct a tryout of a prospective student-athlete only on its campus or at a site at which it normally conducts practice or competition beginning June 15 immediately preceding the prospective student-athlete’s junior year in high school. … Not more than one tryout per prospective student-athlete per institution per sport shall be permitted. … A tryout may be conducted only for a high school or preparatory school prospective student-athlete outside his or her high school’s or preparatory school’s traditional season in the sport.
The implications of this are huge for soccer athletes: MONTHS before you are allowed to have an official visit to a D1 school, you can visit a D2 school and actually train with the team. As with everything in adult life, there will be paperwork involved. Be sure have a physical on-hand, and prepare to fill out quite a few forms from the college’s athletics department.
In general, it’s best to wait for a coach to invite the athlete to a training session, so avoid being too pushy with a coach. For example, you shouldn’t say or email anything like, “I know I’m allowed to train with the team, since you’re D2. Let’s set that up soon.” However, a little suggestion in an email never hurts. Such as, “I would love the opportunity to train with the team during a future visit.”