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The process of finding a sports scholarship in America is not straightforward.  Thousands of universities offer student-athletes the chance to play college sports which makes it very difficult to know where to begin. There are tens of thousands of student-athletes worldwide wanting to enroll in a sports scholarship program in America. Soccer better known as football around the world is one of the most competitive sports scholarships to get into. Unfortunately, coaches do not have the resources to find and evaluate every qualified athlete.  Finding the sports-playing university to suit your profile from an athletic, academic, and financial perspective is a challenge in itself; but more so is how to get your profile to stand out in a crowd. If you want to increase your chances of being considered for a soccer scholarship, you need to build a profile that will get plucked out of the tens of thousands these universities get every year.

Give them something of value that others may not have

There’s no doubt about it; you need to be an exceptionally talented player with a very strong track record to even think about being considered for a student-athlete scholarship. But what might make you more interesting than another, is an added bonus that is seen as a valuable experience that another equally talented player doesn’t have. One way of adding value to your profile is a track record playing and competing in Europe. After all the BIG 5 football nations are European: England, Spain, France, Germany, and Italy. If you can and have the means to get yourself in Europe, be it for just a month or a couple of years, you are most definitely adding something special to your profile. Something the decision-makers will consider of great value and that may pluck you out of the tens and thousands of applicants.

How do you get that experience?

One of the best ways is to enroll in a European football (soccer) academy. There are numerous to choose from and narrowing it down to the right one can be daunting remember, you want to enroll in an academy that will be valued by the decision-makers. Here are a few tips to help you find the right European football academy.

  1. Location – One of the best ways to begin your search is by location. Ideally, you want to look at academies located in the most reputable football countries. From the get-go, it places you in a more competitive environment, which automatically brings more value. Leagues in countries like Spain, England, and Germany are much more competitive and the level of play is more demanding even at their lowest tier than in other less renowned football nations.
  2. Reputation – Next narrow your search down to those countries that are best known for their youth development. Clubs in Portugal for example have a great reputation as feeder clubs. Meaning they are known for developing quality players from their grassroots and selling them on to bigger professional clubs across Europe and worldwide. Spain is known for developing exceptionally talented players. Players that move on the field with great precision and agility, known as Tiqui-taca – a style of play in Spain’s football, characterized by short passing and movement, working the ball through various channels, and maintaining possession. Plus, these two countries have the benefit of being located in southern Europe which boasts year-round sunshine and fantastic weather. Definitely, an added bonus when picturing yourself living there for an extended period of time.
  3. Organization – Who is behind the academy? This is perhaps one of the most important aspects when deciding which academy to join. After all, you are not only enrolling to impress the decision-makers regarding your student-athlete scholarship, but you also want to make the most of your experience. You want an academy that is managed by ex-professional football players and coaches who have a history behind them. What you do not want to do is join an academy that is essentially a business owned and managed by people who have no football background themselves. It will make all the difference in the quality and execution of the academy’s football training sessions and coaching.
  4. Educational Support – This is particularly important if you are going to be spending a considerable amount of time enrolled in the academy. You want to evaluate their educational setup and how compatible it is with the requirements of the US sports athlete scholarship curriculum. Do they offer an online program from institutions that are recognized in the US? Or alternatively, if your college provides an online curriculum, do they have an affiliation with organizations like the NCAA or colleges that are officially recognized as offering a relevant curriculum online?  Does the academy have qualified staff, onsite in place to support you locally? It is always an advantage if the supporting staff has got their degree from a reputable US or Canada University. They will be more familiar with the US/ Canada curriculum.
  5. Draft your first list – Make a list of the academies that provide all of the above. Next contact the academies. It is very important to get a feel for the academy. How responsive are they? How do you feel about them and their approach? Which academy makes you feel most confident? Which academy are you least impressed with? Find out about things that are meaningful to you personally and evaluate their responses. Start eliminating those academies whom you do not feel any connection with or are not convinced are the right fit for you after you have spoken to them, asked your questions, and gotten a genuine feel of the organization. Remember you will be spending a lot of time with them, away from home, family, and friends. You want to make sure, you choose the right one for you that will provide you with the support, (sports, academic and emotional) tailored to your needs during your time abroad.
  6. Budget – Finally but not least, compare pricing and compare the pros and cons between them. Remember your choice should not be solely choosing the most economical; rather, choose the academy that meets all of the above requirements, is the one academy you feel is the best fit for you, and equally fits your budget.