Is it possible to get a college scholarship playing high school & club soccer?

There is a belief that high school age soccer players must play for The US Development Academy or ECNL in order to have the opportunity to play in college. Many athletes don’t want to go this route, they want to play for their high school; in front of their friends and representing their school. They also want the chance to play in college.

We asked former college head coach & Real Colorado DA coach  Frank Kohlenstein for his opinion on playing high school/club vs playing ECNL or DA.

(StriveFar) “Is it possible to get a college scholarship playing high school & club soccer and NOT playing Development Academy or ECNL?”

(Frank) Yes, absolutely you can get a college scholarship. Is the likelihood of being seen greater playing on a good DA or ECNL team? Yes, obviously because they (college coaches) go to those events a lot more. There are many ways you can play in college but you must be persistent and a realist.

I coached (Colorado School of Mines) a player who never played DA, his name is Tesho Akindele.  Tesho is in his 5th year with Major League Soccer (MLS) team FC Dallas and Tesho never played DA. He always played for his dad, competing on non- DA teams. The teams were not always the best in the state, but his dad did an exceptional job and Tesho did an exceptional job of working & training really hard to get better.


From the age of 10 he always came to soccer camps where I was working, so I knew him very well. He was a really good athlete and loved the sport. Camps helped Tesho to be seen frequently by the coaches from the college he attended (Colorado School of Mines).

People will say if he was in DA he could have done this and this. I think Tesho has done pretty well.

What did he do that allowed him to make it this far in his career?  He has a great passion for the game. He learned a lot by watching the game in person and on television.

One of the great values that young players have now both men and women is they can watch so much soccer. It is such a great tool, without running, you can learn the game, what to do. Let’s say you watch FC Dallas play, you can watch what Tesho does both good and bad. So then you can go out and replicate on your own.  It is like doing repetition in your own mind, and picking up new moves. This is a great value and is available for all players.

If you do not play DA or ECNL, make sure you have a good highlight video (to send to college coaches).  You will need to be persistent promoting your ability.

Video is also a valuable tool for young players to watch themselves playing soccer. In our mind we are doing one thing – when we actually see the video, it is not the same. Regardless of playing DA, ECNL or competitive watch your video, as well as the top leagues and top players. This is an area that athletes do not take advantage of (to help develop their game).

If you are not playing DA or ECNL , be a realist on where you want to play. Is this some place (college) where you can actually go and play? How do you know? One way, watch that college team play. If you want to go play soccer for CU or Stanford’s women’s team; watch them play – know the level you are trying to achieve, and be realistic.

There are non DA and ECNL players that play on every top college team, but understand you have a challenge. Go to their (college) ID camp. Some people say they (college) are only trying to make money with the camp, but that is not always true. They are looking for players to fill out their rosters. If they are looking for players, you must go there (camp) ready to light it up against all of the ECNL and DA players.  Be prepared, don’t go there out of shape, be ready to compete.

There are less expensive paths than DA and ECNL but you have to be ready to work!


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