UPSL vs NCAA Soccer

The United Premier Soccer League and NCAA cover two completely different areas of soccer. If you’re looking to play at the next level or move to the United States, here’s what you should know.

About the United Premier Soccer League

UPSL is a national affiliate member of the United States Soccer Federation and therefore ultimately a FIFA member. As a national league, it’s in the so-called fourth division.

The concept of the UPSL is similar to the English National League system, but there is no chance of promotion to a fully professional division. UPSL only has promotion and relegation within its own divisions.

In the United States, UPSL is on the same level as the National Premier Soccer League and USL League Two.

About the NCAA

NCAA stands for National College Athletic Association. The NCAA is a completely independent organization that oversees college sports in the United States including soccer.

The NCAA has no affiliation with the United States Soccer Federation or FIFA. Additionally, the NCAA has substantial rule modifications such as count-down clocks that can stop and return substitutions.

Some smaller colleges don’t play under the NCAA but still usually operate under organizations that are separate from FIFA.

Is it better to play in UPSL or the NCAA?

Overall, playing college soccer under the NCAA or even in the lower tiers will usually provide better opportunities than the UPSL. NCAA teams normally have much better facilities, more training sessions, and better training compared to UPSL teams.

Playing for a college team also gives you the opportunity to earn a college scholarship. While most soccer scholarships don’t cover your full cost of attendance at a university, they’re still worth more than the small amount that UPSL clubs pay (if those clubs pay at all).

If your goal is to play professional soccer, the NCAA is the better option. While UPSL markets itself as a pre-professional league, professional scouting is extremely limited, and very few players advance to the next level. Most players with professional potential who are outside of the college system play on the reserve teams of a professional team in MLS Next or USL League One.

In the past, most professional soccer players in the United States played college soccer in NCAA Division I. Today, most pro soccer clubs move players from their youth academies to reserve teams to the first team.

There are fewer pro scouts watching college games, but it’s still generally more than the UPSL. In addition, the better training that NCAA teams provide gives you a better shot at moving to the next level.

On the other hand, the demands of playing on an NCAA team can be too much for players that want to focus on academics and preparing for a non-soccer career. NCAA rules allow teams to conduct athletic activities for up to 20 hours per week, and there are often additional demands beyond that time.

Playing for a UPSL team is a good way to keep playing at a high level with less of a commitment. Most teams practice a few nights per week and have one or two games on the weekend. Many players have full-time jobs, so teams are also more understanding if you need to miss an event.

In short, whether UPSL or NCAA soccer is better depends on what you want to do. NCAA soccer can give you more soccer opportunities, while UPSL soccer can offer a better balance.

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