While soccer remains disappointing as a spectator sport in the U.S., the sport is wildly popular with youth players and college programs. NCAA Division I and II colleges and universities offer full or partial scholarships to men and women soccer players. Unlike football and basketball, soccer scholarships can be "shared" among a larger number of players to give more student-athletes financial aid.
Division I Scholarship Limits
The NCAA allows Division I schools 9.9 scholarships for men and 12 scholarships for women for the sport of soccer. These are annual allotments for all Division I schools free of any NCAA probation or penalty limitations. Division I head coaches can allocate these on a "head count" basis, with one scholarship to one student, or on an "equivalency" basis, spreading these awards among more athletes. For example, a Division I head coach could award six full scholarships to six players and 50 percent scholarships to 12 other student-athletes, totaling 12 full scholarships.
Division II Scholarships
Division II schools, free of probation or penalty, can award nine men's scholarships and 9.9 women's scholarships annually to varsity soccer players. These are also "equivalency" awards. Division II head coaches can "split and share" these scholarships among more players than there are permitted awards. This ability is a win-win for coaches and student-athletes. More quality players can be attracted to each school by using this scholarship-sharing feature.
"Head Count" Sports
Head count sports are the typical revenue generators for colleges. Primarily football and basketball fall into this category. These high profile sports typically offer full scholarships to those players they want on a one-to-one basis. At some Division I schools, baseball and ice hockey rise to become head count sports since they compete at the highest levels and generate strong revenue. Except for football and basketball, Division II schools treats most sports as equivalency sports, with scholarship-sharing features.
Most sports programs at Division I and II are treated as equivalency sports. Soccer is almost always in this category, since revenue generation is rare. Only the absolute best collegiate soccer players receive full athletic scholarships. Therefore, most soccer student-athletes receive partial scholarships. Some players may also receive partial academic scholarships to further aid tuition, room and board payment.
Division III Schools
NCAA Division III schools do not offer athletic scholarships. Like the Division I Ivy League and a few other schools, Division III colleges decided years ago that schools in their division would all eliminate athletic scholarships to keep all member schools on a level playing field, so to speak. Interestingly, community colleges do offer some athletic scholarships even though Division III schools do not.