For the student athlete, choosing a college comes down to far more than academic reputation. In fact, for the competitive and ambitious soccer player, the choice of where to spend the next four years is often dependent upon a college’s sports teams. Whether one is being recruited or has big dreams of walking on the team, we’ve found the 30 colleges with the best women’s soccer teams in hopes of assisting up-and-coming players with this momentous decision.
To come up with the 30 colleges with the best women’s soccer teams, we began by making a list of the top teams as ranked by both the NCAA and the country’s most competitive conferences (including the Southeastern Conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big Ten, and the Pac-12, among others). We then narrowed down our list based on such factors as NCAA Tournament appearances, NCAA Tournament wins, conference titles won, notable alumnae, and awards won for individual players.
Brigham Young University
Consistently ranked in the top 25 of the NCAA, the Cougars of Brigham Young University are one of the only West Coast Conference teams on our list of the 30 colleges with the best women’s soccer teams. Since its official establishment in 1995, this impressive team has made 18 appearances in the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championships. Of those 18 appearances, the Cougars reached the quarterfinals twice. Perhaps even more impressively, BYU has produced a whopping 38 All-American athletes.
Clemson, South Carolina
Despite an unfortunate hazing scandal in 2014, Clemson University’s women’s soccer team is still one of the best in the country. Competitive in both the NCAA Division I and Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), the Clemon Tigers have made 17 appearances in the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championships tournament and have won the ACC conference championship once. Some of Clemson’s notable alumni include Kailen Sheridan (former member of the Canadian national team), Nuria Zufia (former member of the Spain national team), Lydia Vandenbergh, Beth Keller, and Ashley Phillips.
Durham, North Carolina
No matter what sport you’re talking about, Duke University’s Blue Devils tend to rank amongst the best, and the women’s soccer team is no exception. Robbie Church, the team’s head coach, has led the women to three appearances in the NCAA College Cup. This includes the 2015-16 season, during which Duke made it to the final, where they fell to Penn State, 1-0. A number of former Duke players end up playing in the pros, too, including Christina Gibbons, Rebecca Moros, Mollie Pathman, Natasha Anasi, and Kim Decesare.
Florida State University
How are these for records? Florida State University’s women’s soccer team has made it to the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championships a whopping 18 times since the year 2000. Of those 18 appearances, the team advanced to the second round 17 times, and the quarterfinals 12 times. They even won the whole thing in 2014. There is no doubt that the Seminoles are a powerhouse team. Florida State has produced myriad impressive alumnae, and players have consistently been named All-Americans, All-ACC Players, NCAA Player of the Year, Soccer America Women’s Player of the Year, and more.
Greenville, South Carolina
Furman University’s women’s soccer team has a long history of success. The Paladins have had winning seasons nearly every year since 1997. Since welcoming Andrew Burr as head coach, Furman’s team has made three NCAA Tournament appearances, taken home four Southern Conference (SoCon) league titles, and amassed an incredible overall win record of 70%. Nearly every season, members of Furman’s team are honored with SoCon titles, All-American status, or NCAA titles.
Georgetown University may be best known for its strong programs in business, politics, and social sciences, but as it turns out, women’s soccer should be added to that list! Georgetown’s women’s team has been dominating since it was first established in 1991. Since hiring Dave Nolan as head coach in 1999, Georgetown has made two appearances in the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championships (2007 and 2010), making it to the quarterfinals both times. Georgetown has produced a number of successful alumnae, including Ingrid Wells, who was chosen for the U.S. U-23 women’s national soccer team before ultimately becoming a star with Göteborg FC in Sweden.
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Louisiana State University’s women’s soccer team is an NCAA Division I team, and a competitive member of the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Currently coached by Brian Lee, the team has collected an overall win record of 57% since 2005. The team has produced one All-American athlete, and has made five NCAA Tournament appearances, most recently in 2015.
Pennsylvania State University
State College, Pennsylvania
Penn State’s women’s soccer team may not have always been considered one of the best, but the Nittany Lions have proven themselves especially tough in recent years. In 2012, Penn kicked off its reign of dominance by winning 15 straight Big 10 games over the course of the season — an all time record amongst women’s teams. The Nittany Lions then won the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championships in 2015, beating the powerhouse that is University of North Carolina.
New Brunswick, New Jersey
NCAA Division I school Rutgers University is an athletic powerhouse, and their women’s soccer team competes in the highly competitive Big Ten conference. The Scarlet Knights have dominated collegiate soccer since the team was officially established in 1984. Since then, the women have appeared in the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championships eight times.
Santa Clara University
Santa Clara, California
The women’s soccer team of Santa Clara University is no stranger to the top. Indeed, this powerhouse program has ranked among the NCAA’s top 10 teams for 20 consecutive seasons! The team most recently won the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship in 2001, though its been included amongst the finalists multiple times since. Santa Clara has proven itself a launching ground for a number of pros. These include: Julie Johnston, who was part of the winning 2015 Women’s World Cup team; Olympian Aly Wagner; and Brandi Chastain. Chastain went on to play on the 1996 Gold Medal-winning Olympic team and both the 1991 and 1999 World Cup teams. She is also married to the soccer team’s long-time head coach, Jerry Smith.
Southern Methodist University
One of the most competitive women’s soccer teams in collegiate sports hails from Southern Methodist University. The team consistently ranks amongst the top schools in both the NCAA Division I and the American Athletic Conference. Currently led by head coach Chris Petrucelli, who has been named National Coach of the Year twice, the women of SMU have made 13 appearances in the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championships, making it to the Round of 16 twice, and as far as the semifinals once. Some of SMU’s most notable alumnae include Danielle Fotopoulous, Marci Jobson, and Erin McLeod. All of them went on to play for national teams or coach other NCAA collegiate teams.
Palo Alto, California
Stanford University’s women’s soccer team often finds itself topping the rankings of both the Pac-12 Conference and the NCAA Division 1 rankings. Together, the Cardinal has raked in the awards over the years, including nine Pac-12 Player of the Year Awards and 11 Pac-12 Coach of the Year Awards. Six of them have gone to current coach, Paul Ratcliffe. Since 2002, the Stanford Cardinal has won six Pac-12 titles, competed in six College Cup tournaments, and reached the NCAA Division 1 finals three times. It’s twice been named NCAA College Cup Champions.
College Station, Texas
Since it officially became a team in 1993, the Texas A&M women’s soccer team has consistently proven itself a force to be reckoned with in both the NCAA and the Southeastern Conference (SEC). The Aggies have appeared in the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championships a whopping 23 times — every single year since 1995. Of those 23 appearances, the women have made the Round of 16 14 times, and the quarterfinals six times. Aggie players have been named All-American athletes 19 different times and Big 12 Player of the Year three times. Long-time head coach G Guerrieri has been named Big 12 Coach of the Year twice.
University of Alabama
University of Alabama is an absolute powerhouse in sports, and soccer is no exception. Interestingly, the Crimson Tide got off to a rocky start. Despite its establishment in 1986, and a 1987 season record of 9-4-1, the women’s soccer program was suspended from 1989 until 1993. Once re-established, the team had to climb its way back to the top. Currently, the women athletes are coached by Wes Hart, who has led the team to three winning seasons since his inaugural year of 2015.
University of Arkansas
While University of Arkansas is almost always ranked better in its conference (SEC) than it is on the national rankings, this NCAA Division I team is easily one of the country’s best. Led by head coach Colby Hale, the Razorbacks are currently playing in their third straight winning season. The team has made four NCAA Tournament appearances, including in 2016 and 2017. In 2013 UA made it as far as the Round of 16. This young team is surely one to watch in upcoming years.
University of California, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, California
The UCLA Bruins are almost always ranked at the top, or very near the top, of the NCAA Division I rankings. It’s undoubtedly one of the best and most dominant women’s soccer teams in the country. In the six years they’ve been a part of the Pac-12 Conference, the Bruins have won the conference twice and placed second an additional two times. As impressive as this is, it’s not nearly as impressive as the fact the team has made an amazing 21 appearances in the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championships. It’s reached the semifinals of that prestigious tournament 10 times and won once in 2013. The Bruins were runners up three times, in 2000, 2004, and 2017. Furthermore, UCLA has produced a number of impressive alumnae, including Lauren Holiday, Sydney Leroux, Sam Mewis, and Abby Dahlkemper. All of them have gone on to represent the United States on the national team.
University of Connecticut
University of Connecticut’s women’s soccer team has yet to win the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championships, but it’s come mighty close. The Huskies have made 30 tournament appearances — the second most of any women’s team in the country. They’ve finished runners up four times (1984, 1990, 1997, and 2003). University of Connecticut has also produced a number of notable players, including former Olympian Sara Whalen.
University of Denver
In addition to its NCAA Division I status, University of Denver’s women’s soccer team also competes in The Summit League. Led by Jeff Hooker, who has been head coach since 1992, Denver has appeared in six NCAA Tournaments, most recently in 2017. The team also advanced to the Round of 16 in the coveted NCAA Women’s College Cup Tournament.
University of Florida
Like most of the other teams on our list, the women’s soccer team of University of Florida competes in Division I of the NCAA. The Gators also compete in the competitive Southeastern Conference (SEC), in which they nearly always rank in the top 10. The team has been led by Becky Burleigh since its founding in 1994. Since then, the Gators have established an outstanding winning percentage of 77%. They’ve made 21 NCAA Tournament appearances, including a Championship win in 1998.
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Big Ten school University of Michigan is home to one of the best women’s soccer teams in the country. Coached by Greg Ryan since 2008, the Wolverines have made 13 appearances in the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championships tournament. Of those 13 appearances, they’ve advanced to the Round of 16 four times and the quarterfinals twice. Perhaps even more impressively, Michigan has won the highly competitive Big Ten tournament twice!
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Considering the University of North Carolina Tar Heels women’s soccer team has won 22 of the 36 NCAA National Championships, there is no doubt that it belongs on any list of the best women’s soccer teams. Indeed, the athletes who play for UNC are no strangers to winning. In 2017, the team’s overall record was 17-2-3, while the year before the team finished with a very similar 17-4-4. Much of the Tar Heels’ success comes from its long-time coach, Anson Dorrance, who has won National Coach of the Year a whopping seven times and is said to deliver a handwritten note to each player on the morning of every national tournament. Some of UNC’s most notable alumnae include Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Tobin Heath, Heather O’Reilly, Crystal Dunn, Meghan Klingenberg, and Ashlyn Harris.
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, Indiana
No list ranking collegiate sports teams would be complete without mention of the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame’s women’s soccer team is NCAA Division I ranked and competes in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) with some mighty impressive competitors. Of its incredible 29 NCAA Tournament appearances (they’ve appeared every year since 1993), the Fighting Irish has taken home the National Championship three times in 1995, 2004, and 2010. It was also runner-up in 1994, 1996, 1999, 2006, and 2008. These very impressive statistics make Notre Dame one of only three colleges in the country with multiple national titles.
University of South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina
The University of South Carolina Gamecocks is one of the best women’s soccer teams in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) and easily one of the best in the country. It’s under the guidance of head coach Shelley Smith. He’s led since 2001, and the team has boasted a 60% win average. In the last decade, the Gamecocks has never finished the season worse than 5th in its conference. Also worth mentioning is the fact that the lady Gamecocks enjoy a massive fan base. In fact, the team has ranked in the top 3 nationally in total and average attendance every year since 2014.
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, California
Consistently ranked by the NCAA as one of the top 10 collegiate women’s soccer teams in the country, University of Southern California is one of the powerhouse teams of the very competitive Pac 12. The Trojans are no strangers to the Division I Women’s Soccer Championships and have even taken home the big title twice in recent years (2007 and 2016). Much of USC’s current success as one of the best colleges for women’s soccer is due to the team’s head coach, Keidane McAlpine, whose coaching record since 2014 is a whopping 61-19-9.
University of Tennessee
Affectionately known as the Lady Vols (short for Lady Volunteers), the University of Tennessee women’s soccer team consistently ranks as one of the top teams in both the NCAA and the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Led by coach Brian Pensky, the Lady Vols have secured a spot in the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championships 11 times since 2001. Of those 11 appearances, the team has advanced to the Round of 16 five times, the most recent of which was in 2007. Also impressive is the fact that five Volunteers have been named All-American athletes since 2002, including Hannah Wilkinson. She’s the uber-successful New Zealand native who currently plays for Vittsjö GIK in Sweden and the New Zealand women’s national team.
University of Virginia
University of Virginia is home to one of the top women’s soccer teams in the country. The team, which competed for the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship final in 2014, has produced an impressive number of alumnae who have gone on to play for the U.S. Women’s National Team. These include Emily Sonnett, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Morgan Brian, among others. Much of the team’s success stems from the dedication and talent shown by its head coach, Steve Swanson, who you may recognize as the coach of the winning FIFA Women’s World Cup team in 2015.
University of Washington
The University of Washington’s women’s soccer team has produced players like: Veronica Perez, a mid-fielder for Mexico’s national team; Tina Frimpong, former member of the U.S. national team, and Hope Solo, former goalie for the U.S. national team and two-time Olympian. Additionally, the team has produced two Hermann Award nominees, three NCAA All-Americans, 17 NSCAA All-Region athletes, two Pac-12 Players of the Year, a Pac-12 Defender of the Year, and two Pac-12 Medal winners. The team’s long-time coach, Leslie Gallimore, was also named Pac-10 Coach of the Year in 2000.
The Commodores of Vanderbilt University is another team that has proven itself especially tough in recent years. It earned a spot in the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championships at the end of the 2017-18 season–the first time they’d made it since 2006. So far, the 2018-19 season is looking like an even bigger one for the athletes. A 10-game winning streak has all but guaranteed them a spot in the SEC finals, especially since they’ve already beaten some of their toughest opponents. The Commodores’ coach, Darren Ambrose, plays a huge role in the team’s success. He’s well-known for his motivational methods, which include presenting one player from every game with a set of miniature golden boxing gloves.
Wake Forest University
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Wake Forest University’s women’s soccer team has been around since 1994, though most of its success has come since 1998, when current coach Tony da Luz took over as head coach. Since then, the Deacons have been Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) champs (2010) and have made it to the final round of the NCAA Tournament College Cup (2011). These are on top of 19 appearances in the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championships. Coach da Luz was named ACC Coach of the Year in 1998, while three former Deacons have been named ACC Freshman of the Year, five have been named as All-Americans, and 40 have been named All-ACC Players.
West Virginia University
Morgantown, West Virginia
West Virginia University’s women’s soccer team was established in 1996, and since then, they’ve proven themselves a force to be reckoned with. The Mountaineers is an NCAA Division I team, and as such, competes in the Big 12 Conference. Quite impressively, this women’s soccer team has qualified for the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championships in the last 16 consecutive seasons. Though it has yet to take home the big title, the team has twice secured a spot in the quarterfinals (2007 and 2015).