Can You Play College Soccer if You Play UPSL?

Current and future college soccer players have two main rules to worry about if they want to play in the UPSL — amateurism and playing in outside competitions.

Is the UPSL a semi-professional or professional league?

First, it’s important to understand the status of the United Premier Soccer League. It sits in kind of a weird place in the American soccer pyramid.

The UPSL is not a member of the United States Adult Soccer Association. Most local adult leagues are, and USASA competitions are strictly amateur.

The United Premier Soccer League is a national league that’s directly affiliated with the United States Soccer Federation. It is not considered a professional league, because it’s not in the first, second, or third pro divisions.

However, leagues in the unofficial fourth division, where UPSL is, generally don’t have any restrictions on paying players. Individual leagues can make rules, but the UPSL doesn’t have any requirements to pay or not pay players.

NCAA Eligibility Amateurism Rules

The NCAA rules require that student-athletes be amateurs. There are a few components to this rule.

First, it’s generally expected that you move directly from high school or youth soccer to college soccer. If you delay enrolling in college to play a sport, you may not be eligible to play in college.

For example, remaining in the academy of a professional team after high school or playing in a league like the UPSL while trying to make a professional team could make you ineligible.

If you delay college for other reasons, such as pursuing non-soccer work, you can probably safely continue to play soccer. However, you may need to show additional proof to confirm your NCAA eligibility.

Second, you can’t be paid to play soccer. There is an exception where you can be reimbursed for travel costs or other necessary costs to compete in a competition.

There is also a distinction between current NCAA players and future student-athletes.

Before you enroll in college, it generally won’t affect your college soccer eligibility if you played on a professional team as long as you personally never got paid more than your expenses.

Once you’re an active student-athlete, you may not be able to play on a pro team (as defined by the NCAA) even if you’re not getting paid. This part can make things tricky for UPSL players.

While the USL League Two generally has strict rules to ensure its players remain NCAA eligible, the UPSL does not. If you play in the UPSL, you need to find out how an individual team operates. Additionally, if a team says one thing on paper but pays players under the table, that could also affect your eligibility.

NCAA Outside Competition Rules

The thing that will block most college soccer players from playing UPSL is the length of the UPSL season. The NCAA rules generally don’t allow you to play for other teams during a semester your college sport plays.

While college soccer is primarily a fall sport, the spring season means you’re also generally not allowed to play UPSL during the spring semester. You can join a UPSL team in May, but in many conferences, the spring season is almost done by then, and many teams won’t want to add players.

Talk to your college coach.

Remember, the NCAA rules are very complicated, and this post is only a general overview. Before you play in the UPSL, USL League Two, National Premier Soccer League, or any other league, talk to your college coach or someone in your college’s athletic department.

You should also carefully consider the outside team you’re playing for. Some do a great job making sure that they can keep their players eligible for college soccer.

Other teams might just see you as a good player to add to their team without understanding the rules you have to follow as a college player. Some do know there are rules but play fast and loose in a way that can cost you your eligibility.

Ultimately, it’s your responsibility to make sure you stay eligible, and the only people you can really rely on to help you are your University athletic staff.

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