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Win the College Soccer Recruiting Game:
The Guide for Parents and Players

Steve Gans

The college soccer recruiting process is often mysterious, mercurial, and frustrating. Perhaps the ultimate U.S. soccer insider, Steve Gans, provides parents with a roadmap and gameplan for navigating the process from youth club soccer to recruitment to a college soccer program. In this book, Steve explains each step in the college recruiting process as well as the ways that players and parents can best prepare for them. Topics include:

• Engaging recruiting coaches
• Creating highlight videos
• Selecting Identification Camps
• Evaluating Showcase Tournaments
• Considering MLS Next (boys) or ECNL (girls) options
• Weighing MLS Next vs. high school
• Dealing with recruiting coach departures
• Understanding College Draft Boards
• The potential impact of playing out of position for your club
• Recruiting services your club should provide
• The pros and cons of having college coaches at your club
• Dealing with the unpredictability of and within the process

This book includes 7 interviews with top college coaches to help you understand firsthand what these coaches look for in a player and the recruiting approach of each of them.

The book begins, and is interspersed, with the college soccer recruiting journeys of Steve’s sons, Noah and Josh, and the unexpected recruiting developments faced by them. The lessons learned from those experiences are instrumental in Steve paying it forward by providing parents and players with both recruiting tips and traps for the unwary. As Steve will attest, each soccer recruiting story is personal, and by approaching the process armed with knowledge and a sense of what to expect, each player and their family will have the best chance possible for recruiting success for that player.


"The scenarios discussed in Win the College Soccer Recruiting Game absolutely mirror my own personal experiences going through the recruiting experience with my two sons, and I wish there had been a guide like this to reference back then.  If Steve Gans made mistakes in his sons’ recruiting process, just imagine how tough it must be for most Americans to find the right path; and thus, this book is essential reading about an incredibly complicated process that requires help and assistance.  Steve provides the compelling balance of personal experience and best practice advice, in a most useful guide to a most uncertain process."

Robbie Mustoe, NBC Sports Soccer Analyst/Commentator, former Premier League player, and parent of two former college soccer players

"Steve Gans knows American youth soccer based on his own personal and professional experiences, including first hand having seen his own two sons play as youths in competitive clubs advancing on to play at the collegiate level.  His book is an incredibly thorough summary of the issues that ultimately impact how the collegiate soccer recruitment process operates, and the considerations which ultimately determine whether a player is offered a roster spot by the key decisionmakers—coaches and college administrators.    The book combines key facts with Steve’s own family anecdotes to help exemplify the issues and concerns that dedicated youth soccer players and their parents must think about if collegiate soccer is in their plans."

Paul Hattis MD, JD, MPH and parent of two former college soccer players 

"College recruiting is very individualistic to everyone’s own child so parents beware of the process to avoid the disappointment that may follow as a result of not being fully informed of the “how’s and why’s”.  Steve’s personal experiences with his sons can offer insight to any parent or player, irrespective of sport, as they delve into the world of college athletics, the coach/player relationship and the admissions process. Finding a suitable college that matches the wants, needs and values of your student athlete will determine if it’s the right fit!  This book is a must read for the student-athlete. "

Louise Waxler, Executive Director, McLean Youth Soccer

"Steve Gans and I met ten years ago on the sidelines of games as club soccer parents when our boys played together. Having been the beneficiary of his sage advice on a personal 1:1 level many times since then, I am pleased to see Steve’s wisdom brought to a larger audience through his new book. The recruiting process can be opaque, frustrating, and stressful both for parents and players – Steve provides both expert guidance and also personal anecdotes that help highlight the human side of the process. The soccer element aside, college recruiting happens during formative years for the teenage kids going through it, and Steve helps the reader see the process through that multidimensional lens.." 

Chris Lemley, President, Sentry Auto Group, and parent of a current college soccer player

"While Steve advised me during my pro playing career and afterwards, I only wish I knew him or had been armed with this knowledge to guide me and my family through my own earlier college recruitment process. The system is daunting from the perspective of an underprivileged family and its only now, after a career in football, that I understand the impact the education and college choices have had on my career outside of sport. The knowledge, experience and advice that Steve shares will definitely help any prospective athlete. Steve is very virtuous and sincere, and this book is written from the heart with first-hand experience to help families. It’s a must read." 

Paul Keegan, former Major League Soccer and Scottish Premiership player

"When I think back to my personal recruiting journey all those years ago, I remember not understanding how it all worked --- the evaluation/identification process, the rules, timetable and best ways to contact coaches.  Oddly enough, all these years later most prospective student-athletes and parents STILL don’t fully understand how it goes. Steve Gans has participated in virtually every segment of the American ecosystem, including of course the college recruiting process.  His perspective and advice is invaluable for players, parents and even coaches who need to learn and understand the fundamentals, realities and best practices that lead to positive outcomes in the college recruiting process.  A must read for parents and student-athletes looking to better understand the college recruiting landscape, and their personal roles and responsibilities." 

Ted Priestly, founder of Fundraise4U.Net and former Division 1 Men’s Soccer Head Coach

"When I reflect on my own college soccer recruiting experience, I am keenly aware of how lucky I was to sidestep so many of the pitfalls that line the recruiting process. Quite frankly, I was flying blind. A resource like this would have been invaluable. Steve Gans draws on his experience and expertise in the sport to provide a thorough guide for any potential college player. Throughout his career, Gans has dedicated himself, often at personal sacrifice, to bettering all levels of the soccer landscape. This book continues that noble effort by looking to the next generation of college players and providing an indispensable resource for college recruits and their families" 

Connor Tobin, Executive Director of the United Soccer League Players Association and former North American Soccer League and United Soccer League player

"A must-read for prospective soccer recruits trying to navigate the college selection process.  Written from first-hand experience – as a former recruit himself, now as a parent and, crucially, a highly-respected leader in the sport – Gans provides advice that can help readers avoid bumps in the road that could have long-term consequences.  There isn’t a page in this book that doesn’t provide a nugget or two of wisdom you can use when deciding your next step."

    Frank Dell’Apa / The Boston Globe and New England Soccer Journal

"This book is a fascinating insight into a highly competitive element of our sport’s wider eco-system, and one that is very likely to help produce more players for the professional game in Europe as well as in North America. Steve is as knowledgeable and passionate about the game as he is well connected – all attributes that combine to make his book  as valuable for parents as it is interesting for those working in the sport."

Paul Barber, Chief Executive and Deputy Chairman, Brighton Hove & Albion Premier League club

"Steve Gans has written a valuable, first-hand account of college soccer recruiting. As someone who has studied NCAA recruiting and experienced it as a parent, I believe that Steve has covered many of its most important facets from the perspective of someone who has been through the process three times.  Moreover, Steve provides advice in a concise, easy-to-read format that will help those interested in playing college soccer approach recruiting from a realistic perspective that emphasizes the player’s well-being and love for the game. " 

Alfred C. Yen, Professor of Law and Dean’s Distinguished Scholar, Boston College Law School and parent of a former college soccer player

"If you are the parent of a soccer playing college hopeful who is entering the college recruiting process, author Steve Gans feels your pain. In his book “Win the College Soccer Recruiting Game”,  he’s taken the personal experiences of his two highly recruited sons, along with his years of experience and contacts as a soccer player, coach, parent and attorney, and written the how-to book you need right now. Every chapter includes practical advice, real world scenarios and useful insights to keep you and your athlete moving in the right direction.  With limited scholarships, diminishing roster spots and ever increasing pressure on soccer coaches to win to keep their jobs, it may feel like your son or daughter is entering the recruiting Twilight Zone and you wouldn’t be wrong.  Steve thought he knew how the recruiting process worked, until he didn’t.  In the end he was able to help his sons have very positive college soccer experiences, but not at the schools they expected. As a parent Steve helped his sons negotiate the recruiting process and succeed. He can help your family, too. You now have an expert friend to guide you." 

Lynn Berling-Manuel, Managing Director of the Women’s Independent Soccer League (WISL), former CEO of United Soccer Coaches, former CEO & Publisher of Soccer America Communications

"Steve Gans is singularly qualified – earned through his experience as a soccer parent, attorney, club soccer board member and player – to provide insight for athletes and their families into the college soccer recruiting process. This clearly-written guide blends useful, practical tips with sage, ethical advice. At its heart, this is an indispensable handbook based on Gans’ deep understanding of the sport in this country and the desire of young players and their guidance teams to find the best possible academic and playing fit. Read it now, then keep it close by as a reference throughout the process. " 

Brad Feldman, play-by-play announcer and executive producer, New England Revolution 

"In his book Steve explains and illustrates the complicated process of college recruiting through the lens of a parent, sports lawyer and leader in the game. He shares his plethora of knowledge and experience which is invaluable to those looking to help their athlete(s) navigate the complicated business of recruiting. Steve was my representative when I played professionally, and I only wish I had met him sooner. He has his finger on the pulse of the game and has continued to advise me as I help my youth players understand the nuances of the game, the recruiting process and the politics behind crucial decisions. As someone who remembers her own college recruiting experience, it is an incredibly overwhelming time and difficult to navigate. I wish I had been armed with this information, as I would have felt much more confident and empowered throughout the process. When staring down the recruiting process, it can be difficult to know where to start, and easy to get caught up in the sales-pitch of prospective coaches. Steve covers every aspect of the process. He addresses the pros and cons while reflecting on his own personal experiences to give readers all the information they need to make an informed decision based on what is right for their family, athlete and unique circumstances." 

Rachel Wood, former National Women’s Soccer League player, and President of Summit Soccer Academy


  • Preface

  • Introduction

    • My Own Recruiting Story

    • Noah’s Recruiting Story

    • Josh’s Recruiting Story

    • Lessons Learned

  • Get on the Radar of College Coaches

    • Introductory Email

    • Playing and Academic Resume

    • Highlight Video

  • Create the Perfect Highlights Video​​​

    • Securing the Right Video Clips​

    • Producing the Video

    • Length

    • Sequence

  • Identification Camps: A Necessary Evil?​

  • Choosing the Optimal Identification Camps

  • When to Begin Identification Camps

  • Showcases

  • MLS Next, ECNL or Bust?

  • MLS Next vs. High School

  • Coaches Moving/Fired: Unpredictability

  • The Fickle Draft Board

  • Playing Out of Position

    • Bonus Advice​

  • Picking the Right Club: College Recruiting Services​

  • College Coaches in Your Club

  • The Vagaries of the Recruiting Journey

  • Avoid these Mistakes

  • Appendix: Insights from College Coaches

    • Interview 1: Head Coach · Division 1 · Men’s Northeast Conference​

    • Interview 2 · Head Coach · Division 3 · Men’s NESCAC Conference (New England Small College Athletic Conference)

    • Interview 3: Former Recruiting Coach · Division 1 · Men’s Ivy League and ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference)

    • Interview 4: Head Coach · Division 3 · Women’s UAA Conference (University Athletic Association Conference)

    • Interview 5: Head Coach · Division 1 · Men’s Ivy League Conference

    • Interview 6: Head Coach · Division 1 · Women’s Ivy League Conference

    • Interview 7: Head Coach · Division 1 · Men’s Big Ten Conference

  • Epilogue


  • Provides a comprehensive guide for soccer players who aspire to play at the college level and for their parents.

  • Includes engaging, informative stories from the author’s personal experiences and those of his sons.

  • Contains interviews with top college coaches, providing insights into their recruiting processes.


Introduction and Chapter One (Get on the Radar of College Coaches)

About the Author

Steve Gans has unmatched experience in American soccer. He has been a player, pro-soccer front office executive, advisor/consultant to players, clubs, management and owners, and an attorney representing players, coaches, clubs, management, executives, owners, and colleges from youth club soccer, to college, to the pros, to World Cup. He was named one of Soccer America magazine’s Top Personalities of 2017, and he is commonly asked to comment on issues within the sport, including by the New York Times, the Sports Business Journal, the Washington Post, ESPN, The Athletic, Soccer America, the Boston Globe, Sports Illustrated, the BBC and the London Evening Standard.

Listen to Steve on The Goal Podcast

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Let this Book be your College Soccer Recruiting Guide!



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