If you’re wondering how to become a professional soccer player, doing so requires more than natural talent and motivation. You’ll need connections, support, feedback regarding your performance, knowledge about your opportunities, and probably a bit of luck.
Fortunately, if you’re serious about becoming a pro soccer player, you can take action to increase your odds. For example, you can play for a successful soccer university in the US, or you can play for a great high performance soccer academy in Europe (or the US) where coaches have connections and knowledge about how to become a professional soccer player.
Of course, to be accepted onto these successful college teams or to be accepted into these prestigious soccer academies, you’ll need to already play at an advanced level.
You can test your chances of becoming a pro soccer player using our fun new tool below. Click the links below for more information regarding:
INDEX: Click below to explore various topics regarding how to become a professional soccer player
- What are your chances of becoming a pro soccer player – Calculate yours!
- How to become a professional soccer player – General info
- How to become a professional soccer player – Europe vs. USA
- Which is a better system for how to become a professional soccer player – Europe or USA?
- What are High Performance Academies? Your best chance to becoming a pro soccer player
- Getting into High Performance Academies – WINTER CAMPS, TRY-OUTS & ENTRANCE TRIALS
- How to become a professional soccer player in Europe
- Steps to become a professional soccer player in Europe
- Living with an official youth team and attending private school
- Training with an official youth team and living at home
- The problem with youth teams of official football clubs
- The solution to the problem with youth teams – High Performance Soccer Academies
- How to get into the MLS – Being selected for the Superdraft
- What is Generation Adidas?
- How to be signed by Generation Adidas – Joining the USSDA
- Being nominated by an MLS team to attend the MLS Superdraft
- Steps to becoming a pro soccer player in the US – Increasing your chances
- Can Americans attend a high performance academy in Europe?
- Can Europeans attend a high performance academy in the US?
- Final thoughts on how to become a professional soccer player
- How Ertheo Sports and Education Agency can help
What are the chances of becoming a pro soccer player?
Only 1.4% of soccer players who play in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) go on to become pro soccer players (NCAA).
Less than 1% of all the boys who enter a European soccer school by the age of 9 will achieve their dreams of becoming a professional footballer (Business Insider UK).
The odds are low and the risk for injury is high. High school athletes in the US suffer an estimated 2 million injuries every year. Of those 2 million, 500,000 injured players visit the doctor, and 30,000 wind up in the hospital. About 446,715 (14.9%) per year are severe enough to result in the loss of 21 or more days of sports participation, and almost 60% of injured players are forced to sit out for the remainder of the season.
Use our tool below to test your odds of becoming a pro soccer player.
How to become a professional soccer player
The journey to becoming a pro soccer player is quite different in the United States and in Europe.
Americans typically play on their school teams and local travel teams until they graduate from high school and either do or don’t have to ability to be accepted into top soccer universities in the US. Then, they can be drafted into the MLS (Major League Soccer).
European soccer, on the other hand, is not as present in the education system. Instead Europeans typically begin playing on their local teams or on official youth teams for professional football clubs. Then, they continue to play for better and better teams until they are eventually contracted… or not.
Which system for becoming a pro soccer player is better? The USA or Europe
Both paths have their advantages and disadvantages. In America, players have the opportunity to receive a college education while training to become a professional soccer player. However, if they aren’t lucky enough to play on a great high school team, or if the travel teams/USSDA teams in the area aren’t famously great, they could miss out on this opportunity to play soccer in college. They either won’t be recognized, or, without great competition, they simply won’t reach the advanced level that collegiate soccer demands.
In Europe, on the other hand, players have more opportunities to play advanced football at a younger age. However, if players aren’t careful, they can be easily taken advantage of, and their education can be highly neglected.
In Europe, players who are serious about becoming professional soccer players typically join official youth teams for professional football clubs. The most successful professional football clubs provide their youth teams with residences so that students from all around the world can live, study, and train with the club’s official youth team.
These professional football clubs, however, always consider their own club’s success before they consider the success or ultimate satisfaction of their students. In most cases, clubs invite a large quantity of young players to play with the younger official youth teams. Then, they simply release students when they are no longer considered advantageous to the club, leaving students devastated and with no knowledge of their options as semi-professionals or otherwise.
Very few reach the ultimate goal of signing a professional soccer contract with an official football club, and even fewer re-sign. In fact, 5 out of 6 signed players are dropped before the age of 21.
Although in the European system there might be more opportunities to become a better soccer player, most young players on this journey wind up not only heartbroken but also without a solid education to keep them on their feet.
Fortunately, both American players and European players can join High Performance Soccer Academies (in Europe or the U.S.) where they can train to become professional soccer players while learning about their best options in professional football and continuing their education.
What are High Performance Soccer academies? - Your best chance at becoming a pro soccer player
Fortunately, both Americans and Europeans have the option to join high performance soccer academies (in the U.S. or Europe) where they can highly increase their chances of becoming a professional soccer player without neglecting their education.
These high performance academies are essentially boarding schools that are highly focused on professional soccer training. Unlike professional football clubs with official youth teams, high performance academies work in the best interest of all their students.
Since they are not affiliated with any official football clubs, they evaluate the students’ skills honestly and educate the students about their best options in professional soccer according to their individual level of play.
Some students simply don’t have the skills to earn a living from playing professional football. However, unlike professional football clubs, high performance academies match their students with semi-professional teams so that they can still make money playing soccer.
Attending such an academy can be quite costly. However, attending these academies not only increases players’ chances of becoming a professional soccer player, but also provides students with a world-class education and a unique multicultural experience that can lead to countless opportunities beyond the world of professional football.
TRENDING: Getting into High Performance Academies – WINTER CAMPS, TRY-OUTS & ENTRANCE TRIALS
There are three main types of entrance trials for high performance academies – summer camps, one week as a student winter camps, and day trials. Some academies are more flexible than others regarding entrance trials offering full academy trial programs and day trials all year round. Other academies hold trials on a few specific dates throughout the year.
Like summer camps, the full academy trial programs last for one or two weeks and serve as entrance trials for the full-year professional soccer player training programs at the academies. Unlike summer camps, however, they take place during the academic year, which means players get the chance to train with current full-year academy students and experience what life would be like as a full-time student at the academy.
The full academy trial programs vary slightly from one academy to the next. Some academies, like the high performance academy in Barcelona, and the high performance academy in the UK are extremely flexible with their starting dates and offer very personalized programs. Other academies, like the high performance academy in Valencia, offer specific starting dates in April and May when students can participate in a full academy trial program. Regardless, these entrance trials offer the same overall benefits for the students.
Soccer players who attend full academy trial programs get the chance to experience exactly what life would be like as an academy student. Students meet their future teammates and classmates and train with them on the pitch during typical training hours. They live in the same residence, eat the same foods, etc.
Students at these programs receive more personalized coaching and attention than participants at summer camps for two reasons. First, fewer participants attend these programs, so coaches can pay more attention to each participant both in terms of evaluating their skills and in terms of offering advice to improve their performance.
Secondly, coaches know that every soccer player who participates in a full academy trial program is highly considering joining the academy as a full-time student. This means, coaches know that they’re not wasting time evaluating students who aren’t even considering attending the academy as full-time students.
These full academy trial programs tend to cost between 1,000€ – 2,000€ per week. For more information about the specific full academy trial programs that each high performance academy offers, visit the links below:
How to become a professional soccer player in Europe
There is not one answer to the question regarding how to become a professional soccer player in Europe. Of course, all professional players have their unique paths and each individual country may have its own unique requirements to become a professional soccer player.
That being said, these are the general steps to become a professional soccer player in Europe.
How to become a professional soccer player in Europe: Step 1 (Ages 6 – 11)
Europeans typically begin their journey to become a professional soccer player in Europe by playing on their local teams or playing for local official youth teams of professional soccer clubs. The next few sections discuss youth teams in greater detail.
During this young age, talented young players with the potential to become great soccer players tend to attend summer soccer camps affiliated with great club teams to improve their skills and expand their knowledge of the game.
How to become a professional soccer player in Europe: Step 2 (Ages 11 - 15)
As players reach adolescence, they usually continue to play for better and better official youth teams by getting scouted by soccer coaches and/or attending soccer tryouts.
From 11 – 15 years old, players can either continue to play on smaller local youth teams without residences, or they can join larger youth teams at more successful football clubs that have residence options. However, youth teams with official soccer clubs below might not be the best option for talented young soccer players.
Fortunately, students from about 13 to 18 years old also have the opportunity to join high performance soccer academies. Although more costly, high performance academies are the safest and best option for students who have the potential to become professional soccer players.
Option 1: Living with an official youth team and attending private school
The most successful football clubs in Europe provide accommodation for their youth teams so they can accept young players from all around the world. Additionally, they have agreements with good private international schools so that students can continue their education while living and training with the club’s youth team.
These youth teams are more competitive, and more talent is required to pass the soccer tryouts and be accepted. Players as young as 9 or 10 can join. They train on the youth team while living at the residence provided by the football club and receiving an education at an international private school until they can sign professional soccer contracts at age 16.
For international soccer players younger than 15, due to FIFA regulations, their parents must also move to the player’s destination country for the child to live at the residence with the youth team.
Few reach this ultimate goal of signing a professional soccer contract at 16, and even fewer re-sign. In fact, 5 out of 6 signed players are released before the age of 21.
Option 2: Training with an official youth team and living at home
Other official football clubs in Europe have youth teams but don’t provide accommodation or schools for their students.
Since these football clubs don’t offer accommodation for their students, the student’s family must live nearby in order to be able to attend. In some cases, families of dedicated and talented young players move so that their children can play for these youth teams.
These youth teams are made up of mostly local students and are less competitive. Therefore, although still unlikely, students on these youth teams have a greater chance of being directly signed onto the first team of the club.
That being said, the first team of a football club without a residence and a school for their students is probably less successful.
How to become a professional soccer player in Europe: Step 3 (Ages 16 - 21)
At the age of 16, players are eligible to sign professional contracts. Football clubs sign professional soccer contracts with players on their youth teams because they believe that they can either play on the club’s first team or because they believe that they can rent or sell these players to other clubs for a decent profit.
Even after signing a professional contract, competition is fierce. Five out of six signed players are released before the age of 21. That is, even after signing professional contracts, less than 17% of players actually become successful playing football. Despite these odds, players who don’t make it are left heartbroken and usually without any education to fall back on.
The problem with youth teams of official football clubs
Although playing with youth teams (especially playing with youth teams that offer schools and accommodation) may seem like a great opportunity for players who have the potential to become professional soccer players, it’s important to recognize that football clubs operate in their own best interest, placing little importance on the success of their players and students.
First and foremost, football clubs often neglect the importance of education. In most cases, students are required to attend classes, but academic performance is overlooked. After classes, students attend training and/or matches and are too physically overworked to focus on their studies. Students this age need encouragement and guidance to be able to perform academically, and football clubs simply don’t provide this academic encouragement.
Furthermore, in some European education systems, students are not required to receive an education beyond the age of 16. Since most students on these youth teams believe that they’ll make a living as professional soccer players, at age 16, many young players choose not to continue their education.
Since only one out of every six players with professional contracts at the age of 16 actually becomes a successful professional soccer player, the decision not to continue school is usually a terrible mistake. When these students learn the sad truth that they won’t make it as professional players, they simply don’t know where to turn or what to do.
Moreover, when football clubs release students from their youth teams, they offer little to no guidance to students regarding their future opportunities. Some students might have the chance to play semi-professionally, playing on a division II team for example. However, if football clubs don’t see the opportunity to make money off of a player, they simply won’t waste their time exploring a player’s opportunities.
In conclusion, most official football clubs accept a large quantity of students and train them in the hopes that a select few players will make it to the top. For the few that make it, youth teams of official football clubs are great opportunities. For the rest of the players, youth teams (especially youth teams with schools and accommodation) are brutally competitive, tiring, and full of false hope.
The solution to the problem with youth teams – High Performance Soccer Academies
Fortunately, players who are serious about becoming professional soccer players can join high performance academies in Europe or the U.S. where they attend elite, professional soccer training while receiving a world-class education.
Like some students who play on youth teams of official football clubs, students live at the high performance academies in student residences. However, unlike trainers and teachers at football clubs, teachers and trainers at high performance academies place great importance on academic performance and encourage students to perform in the classroom.
Additionally, unlike youth teams of official football clubs, high performance academies always work in the best interest of their students. That’s because while youth teams receive funding from their respective football clubs, high performance academies receive funding directly from their students.
In other words, football clubs and youth teams are looking for return from their investment, signing, renting, selling, or simply releasing their students without any concern for their students’ best interests. High performance academies, on the other hand, earn their profit from the cost of the students’ tuition. Therefore, students at these academies always receive completely impartial advice about their futures both on and off the soccer field.
Prepared for the real world, students who graduate from high performance academies sign professional soccer contracts, continue their education at the university, or chose to enter the workforce. As a European, you can even attend a high performance academy in the U.S. and earn a scholarship to attend a prestigious university while experience life as an American college student.
Regardless of their ultimate decision upon graduating, all students at high performance academies are well-informed regarding their options both on the soccer field as professional players and off the soccer field as professionals in the workplace.
Academies are usually targeted toward high school students ages 13 to 18 although some academies do offer university education options for older students ages 18 to 21. The specific educational academy offers highly depends on the country in which the academy is located. Therefore, education options at high performance academies vary quite a bit.
If you’re thinking about attending one of the these soccer academies to increase your chances of becoming a pro soccer player, it’s a good idea to compare and contrast the best football academies in the world in terms of their training, education options, accommodation, price, etc.
How to become a pro soccer player in America (How to get into the MLS)
The path to becoming a professional soccer player in the US (getting into the MLS) is a bit simpler and easier to follow because all players are drafted by MLS teams during one grand event known as the MLS Superdraft.
However, there are three different paths to eventually be invited to the MLS Superdraft. And, in some cases, these paths overlap which can make the journey to becoming a pro soccer player seem quite complicated.
The following sections discuss the three paths to get into the MLS Superdraft. Thus, players must meet at least one of these three requirements to be a professional soccer player in the USA.
To be invited to the MLS Superdraft, players must:
What is the MLS combine and how to play in the MLS combine
The MLS combine is a four day annual showcase where college seniors from Division I schools perform physical and mental tests as well as compete in matches in the hopes of impressing scouts and coaches. If they impress enough coaches and scouts, they’ll be invited to the MLS Superdraft where they’ll have the opportunity to be drafted by MLS teams.
College players must be nominated by NCAA (National Collegiate Athletics Association) and MLS coaches and scouts to be invited to the MLS combine. Although the MLS combine mostly features players from Division I schools, occasionally, players from Division II schools are invited into the draft.
TIP: Since played must be invited to the combine/nominated by college coaches and MLS coaches, networking is key to getting noticed and winning an invitation.
What is Generation Adidas?
Generation Adidas is a joint venture between the MLS and US Soccer designed to accelerate the pace at which highly talented young soccer players can play professionally. The MLS offers Generation Adidas contracts to underclassmen that they feel could make an impact in the league.
The young contracted players are paid by the Adidas league sponsorship and are often paid more than players who first receive their college education. The idea is to contract these players early so they can dedicate their prime athletic years to playing professional soccer and return to college later to complete their education with the money they earned playing professionally.
How to be signed as a Generation Adidas player – First joining the USSDA
The MLS offers Generation Adidas contracts to the most talented underclassmen who they believe could make an impact on the professional soccer league. As a general rule, most players that are eventually signed as Generation Adidas players play or have played for the USSDA (U.S. Soccer Development Academy).
The USSDA consists of close to 200 teams/academies all across America and is expanding. In fact, one of the most successful USSDAs in the United States, the Grande Sports Academy in Casa Grande, Arizona, has recently partnered with FC Barcelona to create the High Performance Soccer Barca Academy – the only USSDA in the US with a full-time residential program partnered with a top international professional team.
Every Grande Sports Academy graduate has earned a college scholarship or signed a professional contract. Therefore if you’re wondering about how to get into the MLS, joining the full-time residential program at the FC Barcelona High Performance Soccer Academy in Arizona USA could be your ticket to greatly increasing your chances of becoming a pro soccer player.
Being nominating by an MLS team to attend the MLS Superdraft
MLS teams can nominate a player to attend the MLS Superdraft. This option is reserved for players that have not been signed by Generation Adidas. Just because a player is nominated by a specific team does not mean that they player must be drafted by the same team. Players are eligible to be drafted by any MLS team at the draft.
Steps to becoming a pro soccer player in the US – Increasing your chances
Ages 5 – 9: Join local travel teams with good coaches and good connections.
Ages 9 – 12: Join your first USSDA team and work hard to become one of the best in your region. Attend soccer camps abroad to broaden your knowledge of the game.
Ages 12 – 17: Join the FC Barcelona High Performance Soccer Academy in Arizona USA for 1 – 4 years.
Ages 15 – 18: Connect to college coaches and join college try-outs and trials to gain recognition. Consider training at a High Performance Soccer Academy in Europe for 1 – 4 years to broaden your knowledge of the game.
Ages 18 – 21: Play at a Division I university with coaches who know how to get into the MLS and have a history of producing professional players. Prepare to be invited to the MLS Combine (make connections with college coaches and MLS coaches). Or prepare to be signed by Generation Adidas to play professionally early and then eventually attend the MLS Superdraft.
Ages 21 – 22 (perhaps earlier): Attend the MLS Superdraft and get selected to play professionally.
Can Americans attend a high performance academy in Europe
Yes. Many high performance academies in Europe offer flexible education options that accommodate American students. The high performance academy in Barcelona even offers distance learning options so that Americans can continue learning with their American high school while receiving support for the academy’s academic tutors.
American students have many options in terms of studying at a high performance academy in Europe. They can attend an academy abroad for all four high school years and, if they play well enough continue to play professionally in Europe. Or they can choose to study abroad for one or two years while training at an advanced level and learning about another culture. When they return to the United States, they’ll be prepared to enter the university and/or be signed by Generation Adidas.
In conclusion, not only is it possible for Americans to join a high performance academy in Europe, but it’s also a great way for Americans to get to know other European cultures while training at an advanced level. High performance academies in Europe are flexible with American students and combine well with both the American education system and the journey to become a professional soccer player in both Europe and the United States.
Can Europeans attend a high performance academy in the USA
Yes. The FC Barcelona High Performance Academy in Casa, Grande Arizona does accept international students.
Education at the academy is overseen by Arizona State University, one of the finest universities in the United States, and academics are highly focused on college preparation. This is because, as mentioned, most elite soccer players in the U.S. first attend college and train with university teams. Then, upon graduating from the university, they sign professional contracts.
Therefore, the FC Barcelona High Performance Academy in Arizona, USA is the perfect opportunity for Europeans who would be interested in attending an American university while continuing to train at an advanced level.
Additionally, all students from the FC Barcelona academy either sign professional contracts or receive scholarships for American universities. Attending the academy is a great way for Europeans to use their skills on the soccer field to earn a significant discount at an American university and earn a degree with living a fantastic American college experience.
Final thoughts about how to become a professional soccer player
Whether you’re training to become a professional soccer player in the United States or in Europe, it’s important to explore your options for attending advanced professional level training while continuing your education.
High performance football academies in Europe or the FC Barcelona USSDA high performance academy are your absolute best options to earn a world-class education while highly increasing your chances of becoming a professional soccer player.
While it’s true that only 1.4% of soccer players who play in the NCAA go on to become pro soccer players (NCAA), and less than 1% of all the boys who enter a European soccer youth academies become professional soccer players, don’t forget that every graduate from the FC Barcelona USSDA high performance academy has earned a college scholarship or signed a professional contract.
You won’t regret your decision to invest in your future on the soccer field, in the classroom, and eventually in the workplace.
How Ertheo Sports and Education Agency can help
We know all about how to become a professional soccer player, and we also collaborate with world-famous football clubs and offer soccer summer camps with clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City, Liverpool, AC Milan, Arsenal, Paris Saint Germain, Atletico Madrid, and Chelsea.
We are well-informed about the details about each camp and each academy we offer from training, to staff, to coaches, to accommodation, to education, and we can help you choose the best option for you and your personal needs as you continue your journey to becoming a professional soccer player.
For more information about any of these programs or advice about which summer camp or high performance academy is best suited to your needs, don’t hesitate to contact us.
You can also send us an email directly to [email protected] or you can give us a call at: