By Joan Grey
Don’t make the mistake of thinking United States university soccer scholarships are only for highly talented young New Zealand footballers.
That’s the advice of coach and former US college player Dylan Morris, now head coach for the Ricki Herbert Football Academy’s Auckland region and founder of Apex Sportswear.
“You don’t have to be an elite player to earn a US university soccer scholarship if you know how,” Morris says.
Main photo: Dylan Morris … speaks from experience. Photo: Rick Herbert Football Academy.
Morris played four years of NCAA Division I soccer, the highest tier of US collegiate football, at Georgia State University in Atlanta.
Now, he’s back in New Zealand and helping other young Kiwis take advantage of the footballing opportunities to earn a US university education.
“I think there is a misconception in New Zealand that the US is just for top-tier players who have represented their age group at World Cup level, but that’s just not the case.”
He explains that playing football for a US university is attainable for any young Kiwi footballer, and here’s why.
There are more than 1,000 US universities that offer soccer programmes and there’s a wide range of levels
There are five main collegiate soccer divisions and within them a variety of levels.
The highest division, NCAA Division I, attracts future pro-footballers but there’s an abundance of other universities competing in lower divisions offering scholarships for well-rounded footballers.
“I know of high school players who weren’t the strongest in their first XI but were strong academically and got scholarships to NCAA Division III schools.
“They don’t play at the top level but they grow and experience the world through an avenue that they would never experience otherwise,” Morris says.
Academic strength can boost your football scholarship chances
A footballer’s academic profile influences scholarship decisions. Every player, no matter how extraordinary they are at football, must meet academic requirements throughout the college year. A player with strong academic scores and prospects has definite appeal.
Take, for instance, NCAA Division I universities. They are governed by the Academic Progress Rate (APR), a team-based metric that monitors student-athletes academic performance. Teams must meet a minimum APR to be eligible to play in the league, and if not maintained each term, they can face penalties.
“Coaches must balance football and academic strengths when selecting their team, and will look favourably at recruits that can boost their overall APR,” Morris says.
Being a New Zealander appeals to US universities
Being fluent in English gives New Zealanders an advantage over non-English-speaking applicants. Coaches need their players to succeed in the classroom as well as on the field, and English fluency makes this easier.
“If you look at the difference between a Brazilian and a Kiwi going to the US, the transition is typically easier for a Kiwi because they speak the same language. If someone couldn’t speak English well it may affect their academic life which could change everything,’ Morris explains.
“It also helps that kiwis are seen as hard workers and good people.”
The process when broken down is easier than it appears
Applying for a US college scholarship is a substantial undertaking, but if you break it down into the manageable components required and get the right advice it’s very achievable.
“I think many Kiwi kids don’t recognize how attainable it is if you work through the process and get started with it early,” Morris says.
Three key steps to help young Kiwis into US college soccer
Morris is often asked about college soccer in the US.
“If anybody has questions, they can contact me.” [email protected]