College soccer in the United States might not get the same type of recognition as other sports, but it is an excellent pathway for talented individuals to continue their career. Top players that go to the best schools have a legitimate chance at a professional career later in life, not to mention an opportunity to get an excellent education. It certainly does not have the same popularity as American football, but certain schools will bring in pretty good crowds.
The 15 best men’s soccer colleges in the United States are all listed below. Note that all of these are Division I programs, as that is the most competitive division in college. They spend the most money on soccer as well, and have the best facilities.
1. Notre Dame
As a juggernaut program in just about every sport, Notre Dame is always in the mix of best teams in the country. They were only 10-8-1 last season, but they are almost always in the top 25. They have only won one national title in 2013, but they have the facilities and the budget to contend virtually any year.
Support wise, Notre Dame is up there as well. This is pretty surprising to some, given that soccer is during the same time of year as football. Despite its rich tradition in football, there are plenty of fans embracing both.
2. University Of California (UCLA)
The soccer program at UCLA for men and women is truly remarkable. They have four titles in their history, but have struggled a little bit in the last few years. They had a down season in 2019, but they find ways to bring in new talent every single year that can compete.
UCLA has always been well known for being in one of the most ideal overall locations for soccer, or any outdoor sport for that matter. They not only have great facilities for the student-athletes, but they are in the heart of a very fertile recruiting area.
Looking for the most dominant program in recent memory? It is hard to find a better team than Stanford on the men’s side. They never won a national championship in men’s soccer until 2015, but they have been making up for lost time since then. They won three consecutive national championships before Maryland snapped the streak in 2018. They were able to bounce back and make the Final Four in 2019, and they are poised to be one of the best teams in the near future as well.
Jeremy Gunn, their current head coach, is viewed as one of the hottest names in soccer coaching right now. It remains to be seen just how long he will stay at Stanford, or if he will try his options at another college or pro team.
The North Carolina Tar Heels might be known more for women’s soccer than men’s, but the team is pretty impressive just the same. They recently made back-to-back Final Fours in 2016 and 2017, but they were unable to pick up their third national title. Their most dominant run came about a decade ago, when they made three consecutive Final Fours and capped it off with a national championship in 2011.
Soccer culture in Chapel Hill has always been great. They routinely get large crowds for any matchup, making it nearly impossible for road teams to come in and get a result.
The Virginia Cavaliers have the third most team titles in men’s college soccer history. Their most recent championship came in 2014, when they won in a penalty shootout over UCLA. It seems like every single year, they are on the shortlist for making a run at a national championship. They played a thriller against Georgetown in the 2019 finals, losing in a tough penalty shootout.
They seem to be extremely committed to being a top program for years to come, as they have the infrastructure to keep everything rolling by bringing in top recruits each year. They also have no problem landing smart kids wanting to play high level soccer still, as they are one of the most stringent state schools to get into in the USA.
6. St. Louis
Anyone who knows the history of men’s college soccer knows about the St. Louis Billikens. Even though they are no longer a national power, it would be tough to leave them off this list considering they have the most NCAA tournament championships in Division 1 history.
The team became a national power led by Bob Guelker for the first half of the dynasty, and Dan Donigan in the second half. During the 1960s and 1970s, they were the dominant team in college soccer, with no one else particularly close.
So what happened to the team? It mostly comes down to a general lack of funding since they are in a smaller conference, and other teams putting more of a stress on recruiting. They are still very competitive in the Atlantic 10 Conference, but they have not made the NCAA tournament College Cup in over 20 years. Still, they are worthy of a mention on any list for men’s soccer.
Georgetown claimed their first national title in 2019, pulling off a stunning penalty kick victory over Virginia. They are definitely a program on the rise, and it does not seem to be a flash in the pan.
It is not the entire reason why they are good, but investing in excellent facilities is certainly a contributor. Shaw Field is considered one of the top stadiums in college soccer, and it is becoming one of the more popular sports at Georgetown for spectators. It is nestled nicely into the campus, giving it a very unique feel in an urban setting.
Many were surprised roughly a decade ago when Akron evolved into a national power in men soccer. For a team that competes in the Mid-American Conference, they do not get the same type of national recognition that other schools receive on this list.
They started heavily investing in not only the soccer program, but scouting so that they could land top players. It eventually worked, and they made back-to-back national championship games in 2009 and 2010. Instead of being a surprise team, they have had pretty sustained success over the last decade as well. They have made the Final Four in three of the last five years, including a runner up trophy in 2018.
Akron as a college has unfortunately dealt with some tough budget issues recently, so it is unsure whether that will affect the soccer program or not. Considering it is a program that makes money and brings the school national recognition, they might be able to survive everything just fine.
Maryland is one of those soccer programs that has been a contender for a very long time. They won their first national championship way back in 1968, and they made three of the first five Final Fours during the early years. At no time have a truly been down for long, as they remained contenders but fail to win a second national title until 2005. Since then, they have added two more, including a 2018 victory over Akron.
Maryland has outstanding facilities, they spend a lot of money on building up the coaching staff, and they seem to take soccer extremely seriously in any conference they are in. Moving from the ACC to the Big Ten has not slowed them down one bit. In fact, they continue playing one of the toughest overall schedules every single year, which prepares them for the postseason grind.
Speaking of the Big Ten, Maryland knew that they would be going up against a perennial power in Indiana as soon as they made a move. Winners of eight national championships throughout the years, they have titles in each of the last four decades. Take a look at the standings almost every year, and Indiana will be near the top.
11. Wake Forest
Wake Forest is extremely committed to being a soccer contender every single year. It all started with a slow build about 20 years ago, and they peaked with four consecutive Final Four appearances from 2006 to 2009. They won their only national championship in 2007, but they are near the top almost every year since then.
Spry Stadium is one of the best atmospheres in college soccer, routinely packing the stadium and creating a very unique atmosphere. Wake Forest is one of the smallest D1 schools in the country, but the students support the soccer team religiously. They also get quite a bit of local support in the Winston-Salem area.
In a lot of ways, Creighton has replaced St. Louis as the most dominant team in the middle of the country. The team has not found a way to win a national title just yet, but they do have four Final Four appearances in the last 20 years. Not bad for a team that only recently joined the Big East Conference.
The Blue Jays have turned soccer into one of the most popular sports on campus. Morrison Stadium can pack in thousands of fans for a match, and it is one of the toughest places for teams to go into.
Creighton is still looking for its big break, but the program feels like moving to the Big East really helped them out. It will be interesting to see how the next decade goes in Omaha.
13. St. John’s
Located in New York City, St. John’s might not seem like a traditional soccer power to some. They are one of the more consistent programs out there, making the NCAA tournament virtually every season. They have made the College Cup semifinals four times, and appeared in the title match twice. They solidify themselves as a top program in 1986, when they dominated FIU in the final.
Soccer is not quite as popular in the NYC and surrounding area as other parts of the country, but St. John’s puts in work with recruiting. They are not afraid to bring in players from all over the world to give them a shot at competing.
All the focus seems to be on Clemson’s American football team, but the association football team is pretty good in their own right. They have 14 ACC championships, and two NCAA National Championships to their name. They have not won a title since 1987, but they continue to be right there in the mix nationally.
They also just happened to have the best player in men’s soccer last year and Robbie Robinson. He is one of three Hermann trophy winners from Clemson throughout its history. Being able to attract top talent will always give soccer teams a chance to do some amazing things in the tournament.
SMU does not have any national titles in their program’s history, but they are consistent winners at the conference level. Currently in the American Conference, they have made the tournament almost every year in recent memory.
Westcott Field is always packed when the team is solid, and the program seems only to get better and better each year. Now that they have a little more funding, they could turn back into serious contenders. They are considered the premier team in Texas, and more players at the youth level are taking up soccer in the Lone Star State than ever before.
Here is the full list of the best soccer colleges in the United States
- Notre Dame
- St. Louis
- Wake Forest
- St. John’s