Becoming a professional football player (or soccer as it is called in the United States, Canada, and Australia), is extremely hard and only achievable by a minority of aspirants.
It’s also quite hard to find relevant information and guidance on what steps to take to achieve that goal.
Or is it?
I have specially built this guide and divided it into 16 steps that you need to follow to increase your chances. This article will help you to get fully prepared for the journey and will answer this simple question: How to become a professional soccer player?
Football is a sport that can be practised at a very young age, nearly anywhere and open to everyone, no matter what your social background is.
While for some, it only looks a group of men or women running around and kicking a ball, for many, this sport is a passion.
“I really loved football from a young age. And my only thought, my only objective in life, was to be a professional footballer.”
This passion often leads people to play for their local clubs, and for the most talented, the professional world can open its doors.
If you are part of the few players that are willing to put in the work that is required to increase your chances of becoming a professional soccer player, here are the keys to your success!
How to Become a Professional Soccer Player - The Blueprint
Step 1: Become a Winner
In order to compete with the very best, you have to adopt a mindset that is focused on winning.
Whatever you do, do it with purpose and always aim high, even during practice you should be willing to win every game, every duel, every race, and every drill.
Be a competitor in everything you do but also remember these key things:
Step 2: Know Everything About Soccer
Football tactics, rules, secrets, and skills; you need to know everything inside out. Do not hesitate to seek guidance from your coach; he will tell you where you can find educational material on the subject.
Read books, rewatch games and analyse them from different perspectives while taking notes. This will sharpen your analytical mind and will also help your game vision on the field.
You want to replicate what works and what is efficient while avoiding the bad plays and mistakes that you have noticed.
Knowledge is power, and successful football players are aware of that. This is why they do not only train on the field, they study the game. They study the teams, the players, the formations and the plays.
Step 3: Stay Motivated
Becoming a professional soccer player is hard. And let me tell you right away that you won’t last long if you’re only in it for the money.
You need passion and absolute love for the game for this project to be viable in the long run.
This passion will fuel your determination and your motivation, every step of the way and will allow you to overcome all the pressure, the stress and the bad moments you will encounter in your career.
Let me give you an example: If I had the chance to play for a big European team like the Real Madrid, Manchester United or FC Bayern Munich, I would not care at all about how much money I am getting.
The mere fact that I would be playing at a top level, with fantastic players, training in state of the art facilities, and playing every weekend in front of big crowds in legendary stadiums would be worth all the money in the world.
Step 4: Practice, Practice, and Practice
Scientists have proven on numerous occasions and on countless studies that in order to be successful in any field, practicing was the critical element.
They even came up with a number: 10 000 hours. That’s what it takes for anyone to become a master. You need to practice 10 000 hours, that’s roughly 5.5 hours a day for 5 years.
Training, both your physical abilities as well as your mental ones, will allow you to improve at a fast rate while gaining confidence. Always make time for practice, this game is amazing, and there are millions of other players like you that have the same dream.
What separates the ones who fail from the ones who succeed is how much work they have put into improving.
You can play soccer outside of your club too. Try to join your school’s team, region, state or even country squads. Attend special training camps during the holidays. These are great as they are usually very intense and run by very competent people.
“I start early and I stay late day after day, year after year. It took me 17 years and 144 days to become an overnight success.”
You can also practice on your own; make up different scenarios in your mind and picture yourself facing opponents, facing the goalkeeper. Practice the dribbles, the shots and the runs you would make in each situation that you have imagined. This will improve your dribbling skills, your reflexes, and your decision making.
Step 5: Commit 100% to the Game
It’s not the hours you put in but what you put in the hours. This is true everywhere but especially for an aspiring professional athlete.
Your passion for the game will be your guide in this journey of becoming a professional football player. It is this very passion that will allow you to overcome even the most challenging and negative experiences that you will encounter.
If this really is your dream and have a burning desire to make a career out of it, give everything you got and commit yourself to the game without holding back. Fear is the enemy of success, getting rid of your fears will liberate your full potential.
Step 6: Increase Your Football IQ
Technical abilities alone can take you very far, but only coupled with great tactical knowledge can it take you to the top.
Understand what your role on the pitch is, how to put your teammates in the best conditions and capitalize on each of their strength.
Learn about football tactics, formations, and their weaknesses, how to exploit a particular archetype and how to counter it. Become a true student of the game of football so that one day you can become a master.
Step 7: Get in Shape
Your physical form is one of the main factors that influence your performances. Work on your cardio to boost your endurance and stamina.
Getting football fit is not as hard as you would think. Focus on a high volume of high-intensity exercises that aim to improve these vital athletic elements:
Regular exercise coupled with quality sleep and a healthy diet will allow you to avoid injuries and to play at your peak physical condition.
Step 8: Eat Healthy
Your diet has an enormous impact on your physical form. Every high-performing professional players have rigorous eating habits that help them push themselves further.
Eating healthy and balanced will significantly reflect on your work on the field. Make sure that everything you eat or drink is part of an athletic diet and is done so in appropriate quantities.
Step 9: Believe in Yourself
I’m not going to lie to you, people will try to put you down, they will tell you that it’s impossible, that you’re not good enough. Coaches, players, friends or even family laugh at your dream to become a football player.
Negativity will come in different shape and form but always remember to believe in yourself, even if no one else does. Confidence is an essential asset that you need to add to your mindset. It comes from positive thinking, proper preparation and success.
Belief, hard work, mental fortitude, humility and a dash of talent can take you to the top. The road to the professional world is a bumpy one, so brace yourself and believe with all your heart that you can do it.
Step 10: Record Your Games
Nowadays, we have straightforward access to high-quality recording devices. Take advantage of this and have someone record your games. This will be helpful for two reasons:
- You can create a promotional video of yourself and attract the interests from scouts, even get trials with several clubs. Did you know that the agent who discovered Lionel Messi did it through a video?
- Having your games on tape will allow you to review your matches and make an in-depth analysis of your plays. What better way there is to spot any weakness in your game? Make sure to take notes and to take action.
Step 11: Create a CV
A football CV is a little different than a standard one. You need to catch the coach, the agent or the club’s attention in 20 seconds. It should display your height and weight as well as your position(s) on the field. Be specific about your skills and abilities and include metrics such as:
Add a full body picture, contact info, and make sure to list your experiences, personal accomplishment, as well as titles won with your teams. Do not hesitate to also include links to articles or videos where you appeared.
Step 12: Gear Up
Safety and performance. That’s what proper gear is all about.
Being properly geared and prepared will have several positive effects. The right equipment will boost your confidence, improve your performances, and prevent injuries.
Step 13: Find Opportunities
A good striker doesn’t wait for opportunities to score, he creates them. This is no different in this situation, you have to get out there and market yourself. Here are a few ways you can increase your chances:
Step 14: Focus
Your football career is nothing else than a string of practice sessions and games. When you’re on the field, you need to be focused and give it all you got.
You need to focus on performing consistently at a high-level. Avoid getting lost in your thoughts or daydreaming about playing for the national team. Also, who knows?
Maybe there’s a scout watching you play. Your focus can make all the difference so take advantage of every second you get to be on a football field.
Last but not least, focus on your relationships. Whether it is with your coaches, the staff or your teammates. If they like you and trust you, it will boost your self-confidence, and your performances on the field will only benefit from that.
Step 15: Know What Recruiters Are Looking For
If you have done everything right up to that point, you should be in a position where scouts are watching your games.
Keep in mind that you will not be judged solely on your football abilities. Your attitude, the way you communicate with your teammates, the way you behave.
You need to show the best side of yourself every time you’re on the field, be a fearless competitor that plays for the team. Show your talent, your ambition and your dedication and great things will happen to you.
Step 16: Thrive During Trials
If you get such an opportunity, the first thing to do is not let it go to your head. While it is indeed a big deal, you have made it this far, and other opportunities such as this one will present themselves.
Get in there pressure free and focus on the basics. Show what you can do with simplicity and initiative.
Players tend to try too hard and attempt things that are just not part of their skill set.
You want to avoid that trap as it can end up messing with your mental state, leading to subpar performance.
Just play the game without thinking about what is at stake. You will appear more natural, and this fact alone will make you stand out and get noticed. You made it there and are well prepared, put those skills into practice and go get that dream kid!
How to Become a Professional Soccer Player - FAQ
One has to be 21 to 22 years old to become a pro soccer player in the US.
Here is how you can start your professional soccer journey:
• 5-9 years – Play in the local team that gives you access to good coaches to make great connections.
• 9-12 years – Join the USSDA team and aim to be the best in the region.
• 12-17 years – Join the high-performance success academics in the USA.
• 15-18 years – Get connected to the college coaches and join the trials and tryouts at college to get recognized.
• 18-21 years – Play at Division 1 universally level with coaches who can help you get into MLS.
• 21-22 years – Attend the MLS SuperDraft and get selected to play professional soccer.
Even with a full scholarship and everything done right, only a mere 1.7 percent get to play professional soccer in the United States. The success ratio is very low.
So you see that the odds are mostly against you. You need to be on the list of the top 3 in your team and require a lot of commitment from your side to fulfill your dream.
In case you want to play soccer in college, the best way would be to combine it with good academic credentials. Many college soccer players play in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and the Major League Soccer (MLS) every year.
Your chances are higher if you are a Division 1 player; however, division 3 players can also go pro. For this, attend the pro tryout offered by MLS, NWSL, and many other pro teams. In case you do well at the tryout, a scout may notice you.
As per data, 50% of the soccer players in college get some kind of a scholarship but only 2.8% go to the D1 and D2 schools and have a chance to earn a scholarship. Of those, only half (that is 1.4%), get a soccer scholarship. So, the chances of getting a soccer scholarship are pretty low.
Though most soccer players playing professionally have a college degree, it is also possible to play only with a GED or high school degree. However, to achieve this:
• Be disciplined and dedicated and put in hours of hard work
• Be committed to the game
• Improve your mental stamina
• Build a network
• Attract attention
Each year a couple of D2 players get drafted in the league. They need to prove themselves to the coaches to play at the next level. The draft gets divided into four rounds, and each club here has a process of selection. The order of selection is determined by the previous season rankings of each team and the regular season position. The team that is placed at the last gets the first pick.
The best age to start playing soccer is between 3 to 5 years. This is the perfect age to let the children build on their soccer skills and develop an interest in the game. It is fun and introduces kids to basics like running, kicking, dribbling, and scoring.
To be a pro, you should practice at least 4 to 6 hours a day for at least 5 days the week. It is essential to be disciplined and follow this routine judiciously every week.