Soccer ranks as one of the most popular sports in the world. The game's popularity in the U.S. has blossomed at a particularly fast rate, thanks in large part to milestone events like America's hosting of the 1994 World Cup and the establishment of Major League Soccer in 1996. Aspiring soccer coaches face a number of hurdles when entering the field. Education and certification serve as key stepping stones for coaches, both novice and veteran. Of course, the prerequisite qualifications for coaching will depend on the league and level in which coaches want to work.
Most recreational youth leagues require little or no certification for their coaches. Recreational leagues provide an easily accessible option for new coaches looking to gain some experience. In many cases, individuals can obtain a recreational level coaching position simply by volunteering at a local community center. Background checks often apply, but aside from that, there are few standard restrictions for coaches at this basic level.
Competitive Youth Club Level
Coaches will usually need to obtain a license to manage teams at the competitive youth club level. License requirements vary by state and by league. However, the U.S. Soccer Federation, USSF, provides a set of universally accepted licenses for all levels of coaching. Youth club coaches generally need to hold a USSF 'E' license as the bare minimum. This is the baseline license, which involves an 18-hour educational course of study. The USSF also allows 'E' license holders to work their way up gradually and obtain 'D' and 'C' licenses, both of which correspond to coaching in competitive soccer leagues for players up to age 14.
High School and College Level
Coaches at the high school and college levels typically need to possess a 'B' license issued by the USSF. The 'B' license residential course consists of approximately 20 classroom hours and 48 field sessions hours, preparing coaches to train players age 16 and up all the way through the college level. Although no broad standard exists, head coaches at the high school and college level usually must also have a bachelor's degree in addition to their coaching certification, according to the US Department of Labor.
Soccer coaches who hope to make it in the highest levels of competition will generally need to work their way up to an 'A' license from the USSF. Almost all coaches of professional teams in the U.S. and senior developmental teams in the national system must have superior credentials. As such, the 'A' license course is particularly rigorous. It takes nine days to complete, including roughly 30 classroom hours and 40 field session hours.