LICENSES AND DIPLOMAS
Soccer coaching licenses and diplomas are offered by the top two national soccer organizations in the United States, the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF or US Soccer) and United Soccer Coaches (formerly the National Soccer Coaches Association of America). A number of local organizations and clubs also offer coaching schools, instruction and training, some of which are designed as preparation for the national programs.
The US Soccer Federation is the governing body for soccer in the United States as recognized by FIFA. They are not only entrusted with the National teams, but also are the pipeline and foundation of soccer development in the country. They confer the official licenses for soccer coaching in the United States. These start with what is characterized as a “grassroots pathway,” which then progress through the D License, the C License, the B License, and the A License (youth) or A License (seniors). Lastly, there is a professional license.
The grassroots courses are available online or in person and progress up the small-sided game formats from 4v4, to 7v7, and 9v9, finally culminating in the full-sided, 11v11 game. In order to qualify for the US Soccer D course, candidates must meet the pre-requisite of having had an in-person course at the 11v11 level as well as having passed through the other three formats. After that, to take the C, B, or A, and the professional courses, one generally has to have taken the previous-grade course and held the license for six to twelve months. Alternatively, there are waivers that can be used to bypass a lower level. These mainly fall into two categories: having previous experience coaching, or holding a foreign-equivalent certification from another country.
Licenses are granted after satisfactory completion of course requirements and examinations.
What the US Soccer Federation courses cover:
- The D Course facilitates the improvement of the candidates in the “Six Tasks of a Coach” across all four game models (4v4, 7v7, 9v9, 11v11) with an emphasis on Coaching Training Sessions.
- The C Course focuses on the core concepts of coaching.
- The B Course focuses on the principles of long-term player development and developing a team.
- The A-Youth Course focuses on the development of elite youth players as a part of the pathway to becoming a professional player.
- The A-Senior Course focuses on creating a winning team in a high-performance environment, based on the development of attacking, defending, and transitioning of the coach’s own team related to upcoming opponents.
- The primary objectives of the Pro Course are for each coach to develop and improve the habits of a coach learning from one’s own experiences, to work on and improve the individualized needs of each coach’s personal development, and to become more competent and proficient in their coaching tasks.
What to expect from the US Soccer Federation courses:
The course costs are dependent on the hosting organization and escalate as they get more advanced. They are, generally, as follows: $200-$500 for the D course; $1,000-$2,000 for the C course; $3,000 for the B course; $4,000 for either of the A courses, and $10,000 for the Pro course.
The D and C license courses consist of two meetings (held on-site that vary from 2-5 days) that sandwich an at-home development period with course assignments and mentoring. The total time is between two and three months.
The B course is between 4 and 5 months and has a similar structure to the C course of at-home learning and development but there are three, five-day on-site training periods.
The A courses are 5 to 6 months long and include three on-site training periods, as well as a final on-site assessment in the candidate’s home environment. Similar to the other three courses, there is an at-home component and coaches are expected to complete those assignments while coaching a team.
The Pro course is 12 months long and includes in-person instruction, club visits, expert guest speakers, and webinars. The course concludes with a final meeting and individual presentation.
The upper-level courses involve practicals and examinations.
Course applications may be made online and the time commitment, locations for the courses (where applicable), prerequisites, and costs are listed on the US Soccer site: https://learning.ussoccer.com/coach
United Soccer Coaches, previously known as the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, offers a series of national diplomas based on its coaching program. Founded in 1941, it has over 32,000 members and promotes itself as the largest soccer coaching organization in the world. The number of diplomas awarded are broader in scope than those of the USSF, but do not carry the weight of being from the FIFA-recognized organization. United Soccer Coaches diplomas are designed to provide a service to their membership.
What the United Soccer Coaches courses cover:
Using On-Line Resources, Virtual Classroom, In-Person learning, and Video Assessment, the diploma certification program and courses consist of Development, Advanced, and Masters categories.
The Development Courses are:
- 7v7 / 9v9
- Goalkeeper 1
- Goalkeeper 2
- Goalkeeper 3
- Special Topics
All are available online. Each contains four components: 1) An interactive lecture presentation (at the conclusion of the presentation, coaches receive a digital Diploma), 2) A full-color PDF course manual, 3) A 64-page full-color activity guide, and 4) Two 50-minute videos from the United Soccer Coaches Convention.
Advanced Diplomas are:
- Advanced National
- National Youth
- Advanced National GK
- Director of Coaching
- High School
- College Coach
- Coach Developer
- Sport Performance
In addition, United Soccer Coaches has university partners who offer:
- Master Coach Diploma
- Master’s Degree in Soccer Coaching.
What to expect from the United Soccer Coaches courses:
Course registrations can be purchased online and the time commitment, locations for the courses (where applicable), prerequisites, and costs are listed on the United Soccer Coaches site: https://unitedsoccercoaches.org/education/
“United Soccer Coaches Advanced Education is a benefit of membership with the association. If you are not a current member, a one-year membership fee ($125) will be added onto your course registration. If you have any questions, please contact the Member Services Team [via email] at email@example.com.”
Soccer Coaching Tips:
- Coaches taking in-person courses should be physically fit and able to play and perform demonstrations.
- The time requirement, in particular to take upper-level courses, is very real and must be taken seriously before making the commitment to attend.
- To land a position as an upper-level coach, the requirements vary but many schools and clubs are looking for appropriate academic education and successful completion of coaching courses like the ones above. It depends on the type of position for which you are applying and the requirements of the employer.
- A number of organizations offer degrees of accreditation in coaching and while they cost money, they may pay off handsomely in both making you more equipped to coach and giving you greater access to coaching positions.
- US Soccer explains “grassroots soccer” as: “While typically affiliated with younger age groups, grassroots soccer exists at every level. Whether that is a youth environment where players are experiencing organized soccer for the first time, or adults who are looking to learn more and get into the sport, grassroots soccer continues to be the bedrock of the sport.”
(ORRIN KONHEIM contributed to this article.)
© John C. Harves