Growing up I wanted to play pro soccer or American football. I love both sports and really I love all sports, but these are my two favorite. My dream was to play pro soccer and I ended up doing it for 7 years. I never thought I would have experienced 17 countries as a professional footballer. Most pro players got there by playing well their whole life from a youth, to high school and college. But there are many who blossomed late. I can give you many stories. I was one of them, so I know you can do it with the right knowledge and help. Note: This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
So many different pro soccer leagues worldwide
When most Americans hear pro soccer they think of only big clubs like Real Madrid or Manchester United. Or they think of local MLS clubs like FC Dallas or LA Galaxy. Almost every country in the world has a pro league. The larger countries usually have 3 leagues that all pay good money.
Top paying leagues pay an average of 1 million per year. England, Germany, Italy, Spain, France are the top 5 highest paying leagues. Behind them are Russia, Turkey, Mexico, Brazil and even the Championship league [England 2nd div] are all big money leagues. Most of the best America players never make it as far as England, Spain or Italy. A few US national players play in Germany and do well. Just in the last year China has been paying players more in their league than the top players in Spain and England.
Middle size leagues are Denmark, Belgium, Ukraine, Argentina, Japan, USA. These leagues average $150,000 – $200,000 per year.
Smaller size leagues like NASL [US 2nd tier], Singapore, Malaysia, Israel, Croatia, Australia, Chile, Iceland and most leagues pay like $30,000 – $90,000 average. Goal .com shows that former Liverpool player ‘Pennant to be the highest paid player in Singapore‘ making about $45,000 per month USD, which is about $500,000 year.
Pro soccer leagues in America
The top tier league is MLS, second tier is NASL and then 3rd tier is USL. The USL used to be 2nd tier and 10 years ago was called the A-League before they changed the name. If you are think about trying out for a club then you should choose NASL or USL. You have a much better chance and can prove yourself there. MLS pays $55,000 minimum, average $150,000 to some earning 4+ million yearly salary. The NASL pays $40,000 salary to an above average player, while some get up to $100,000. Then the USL pays $1,500 – $3,000 per month and a Spring – Fall contract.
The time frame to play pro soccer
We all know you can’t play professional sports forever or even for more than 20 years. Yes, there have been a few in each sport who played more than 20 years, but not many. A 10 year career is amazing on it’s own and last time I read, the average pro athlete only plays for 2 years. If this is surprising to you, it’s because you think and see all the star players who play for 10+ years. Most people I talk to think like this and to be honest, it’s really easy to forget about all the pro’s who didn’t make it. The ones who got injured or the ones who made it, but could’t keep it going for whatever reasons.
A pro athletes prime age
The prime age for a pro soccer player is age 27-28. This is about the same for other sports like basketball, football and most sports. There are certain sports and positions who can play longer like golfers or goal keepers. They can play longer, because they are not required to run as much. Many people think that age 30 is young in sports, but that’s only because they see the few superstars in each sport who play in their 30’s. But notice, once they hit 30-32 they usually start to go downhill. Age 28 is a great age, because you are still young enough to feel good and run fast, but also you have lots of experience.
How to get a tryout to play pro soccer
There are many ways to get a tryout, but some are better than others. One of the easiest ways is going to big open/public tryout that teams offer. Example: MLS clubs will have open tryouts every year and they cost about $500 last I saw. This is an opportunity for you, but more than anything it’s a great way for the club to make easy money. Two hundred players paying $500 is 100K! WOW! In these tryouts, there might be 1 or 2 players that get asked to come back.
A better way to get noticed is by having a college coach, scout or friend of a pro coach to refer you. This way you are coming from someone that is trusted by the coach. Also these tryouts are usually when you get to come play with the actual pro team. The open tryouts that I mentioned earlier are not with the pro team, but instead with a bunch of random players.
The average cost per tryout
You are looking at travel [flight or driving], hotel, food and that’s pretty much it. But often times you can get the housing and food for free, which I cover below. If you are invited by the club to come tryout with the team, there is usually no cost. These tryouts usually last 1 or 2 days, sometimes 1 or 2 weeks or even longer. Some clubs will drag it out, if they like you but are not sure if they want to sign you. This is when they see potential, but aren’t ready to pull the trigger.
When I was on trial in Denmark for several week, they ended up sending me to Singapore for 1 month. The club in Denmark liked me, but the coach was new and wanted to let the season end before releasing players that he didn’t want, because he still had to pay them. So to keep me in their sight, they worked out a deal with a club in Asia that put me up in housing for free. The Asian club [Geylang United] also took care of my flight and also gave me per-diem for my food and any small sight seeing or travel I wanted to do. Per-diem for clubs is like $300+ per week, which is more than you will use to eat.
How to save money when trying out for pro
Everyone has a budget, which means they only have so much money to spend. Both the player and the clubs. So with so many players in the world to choose from, clubs will often say they don’t have the budget for certain things. Things like your travel, hotel, food. Most clubs big and small will take care of your stay and food. You are responsible for getting there and often times a ride to practice. What you can do is ask if there are any players who could put you up for a few days and give you a ride to practice. This will save you hundreds of dollars!
Many clubs also have deals with restaurants, so ask if the club has any extra coupons or ways you can get a free breakfast or dinner. You can get everything paid for, but plan on saving money for your flight or gas to drive across the country. It’s a gamble, but it’s the soccer/football world.
Communication with pro club or coach
One common thing that I saw with clubs, coaches, managers was that when they say they will bring you in they will bring you in. The hard part is the waiting game, because often times for me it was a deal where you speak with them at the end of the season, and then they say they will bring you in during pre-season of the next season. In this 2-4 weeks or more, you wonder if they forgot about you because they won’t contact you in the meantime. They will contact you like a day or so before you report, so you have to be ready. So just know that if you don’t hear from them in a few weeks it’s normal. Don’t contact them in this time, because they are super busy and don’t want to hear from you about nothing.
How to speed up process with highlight video
If you can make a good highlight video that shows your talent in a very short amount of time, you can draw interest from coaches. This will help save you hundreds or thousands of dollars on not having to travel to them. If they don’t like your style, they will tell you or not contact you back. This is better than going and being told in person, after spending tons of money on the travel. Things not to do are adding replay or slow motion. Believe me they don’t want to see it in slow motion.
Choose to work hard for you and others
I give thanks to all my family, coaches and friends who believed in me and helped me. I couldn’t have done it without them and I will tell you why. There are several things you need to do in a long period of time for this to work. Making the right choices to work hard and listening to your coaches and know that you need to always improve technically. In the end coaches will be asking all the coaches that know you about your character. You have to be able to deal with pressure and believe in yourself.
Make sure your soccer skills are clean
The biggest difference in each level of these pro leagues is the 1st touch & passing skills. Not the running speed or body size. Yes, you have to be a good quick player, but not anything special. The main thing is your first touch, comfort on the ball and your passing skills. Coaches can see this in just a few seconds. So many players are fancy on the ball nowadays, but pro coaches don’t want to see that. One of the best things you can do to improve your first touch and passing is training in a racquetball court. If you want to make sure your ball control skills are clean, get my online courses like so many do.