step-by-step guide to becoming a pro player
In this article we are going to breakdown and discuss numerous ways that you can improve as a player, get on a better team, get scouted, and ultimately become a pro player. From personal experience, this is very difficult to do -- but if you stay consistent, focus on improving, stay proactive, and really focus on all of the things outlined in this article, then it will significantly increase your chances of succeeding.
improve as a player individually
Firstly, you have to focus on individual improvement (even if you are playing with a team). Your skill or ability as a player is something you possess within yourself, and improving it only makes you become more valuable to other teams that may be interested in you in the future. You have to improve individually before you can even plan to get on a better team -- individual improvement comes from constantly putting in the time to get quality reps on a consistent basis.
Make sure that you are on a team that trains consistently -- one that is challenging for you. You want to avoid being the best player on the team as this can cause a plateau in development. The goal is to always be pushed so that you can constantly improve both individually and within the team environment.
You need to focus on developing your skillset as a player overall because then you'll be able to attract better and better teams to eventually join in the future. We have multiple professional training programs and an entire pro-level training app where we help players to improve individually -- if you are serious about developing technically, athletically, and mentally, then click on the link below to check out our app: https://nonstoptraining.app/
constantly get on a better team
This is the second phase in the process of becoming a pro. Hopefully by this point you will have improved individually to a point where you are on a decent team, and have improved over the last couple of years. Keep in mind that the timeline/age in which all of these stages occur are different for each player -- this is just a rough outline or framework for what you should try to be doing to keep progressing towards the ultimate goal of becoming a pro player as efficiently as possible.
For this stage, it's time to start looking for a better team. How do you know when it's the right time to start looking? Answer: It's always a good time to be looking. The goal should always be to get into a better set up, a better division, a better league, and just overall higher level team. You always want to be improving in every area--improving the team that you actually play for is no exception.
The simple answer is to join the best team in your area. Basically, find the club team that competes in the highest league and join that team. After you've joined the best team in your area, start focusing on improving in that new set up and then try to play up an age group that are at a higher level. Keep in mind that while this is all happening, you will still be focused on improving individually so that you can continue to play at higher and higher levels. The pursuit to raise the level you can play at never ends--embrace it!
join the best team you can find (preferably an academy)
This is the part in the journey where you really need to commit and be ready to move cities and do what is necessary to give yourself a real chance to chase the dream of becoming a pro. After spending years in the last stage of constantly "upgrading" the team of which you play for, hopefully you will have joined a great travel team in your area that competes against some notable teams from around your city. At this point, you'll likely be around 14-17 years old -- it's time to really find the best team you can find; an academy team is the most ideal.
This is when things start to get a little tricky because luck is involved in meeting certain people and making connections with coaches who can help you get in front of academy teams, scouts, and coaches. Specifically, this article is written from the perspective of a U.S player, so the details I am sharing are more so applicable to U.S players compared to players living elsewhere.
If you are playing on a really good team in your area, hopefully you travel to play in certain tournaments and events where academy coaches are at. If not, you may need to reach out to academy coaches by asking your current club coach if he/she knows of any academy contacts, research academies in your area and see if they have any contact info on their website, research and see if any open tryouts are available to attend, and so on. I joined my first pro academy because I played well against an academy team and their general manager noticed me, and then I joined my second pro academy by reaching out to more than a dozen of them and eventually getting through to a couple of them and going on trial to eventually earn a spot on the team. This does require a proactive person to successfully execute -- it's not easy and does require some creative problem solving to get in touch with academy coaches, scouts, etc.
If you don't join an academy or a high-level youth team at this point, don't worry, there are some options to help you get seen by clubs, keep reading.
what do you do if you can't join an academy or high-level team?
Don't worry, if you can't join an academy or high-level youth team, there are some options for you to still develop and improve (specifically for U.S players). First, some players simply need more years to develop -- going to college and playing in college is a good option to get extra years of development...just make sure you are staying disciplined and focusing on improving & developing. Getting in touch with colleges is likely going to come from your club team, attending camps at different colleges, or from talking to coaches who have seen you play before.
For some players, college isn't a smart decision, and so that leads me to my next point -- joining a UPSL, NPSL, or MPSL team. These teams are essentially "semi-pro", with a couple of them offering a pro-style environment (meaning operating in a way that is similar to a professional team). These clubs are a good option for good players who don't want to go to college are just need some extra time to develop and improve towards getting a pro contract. In terms of joining one of these teams, this also requires some creative outreach -- I recommend looking for open tryouts near you and attending them in order to get seen and be evaluated by the coaches.
constantly be improving and collecting film
The next "stage" in this process is to constantly improve and perform to develop a solid highlight film that you can eventually distribute to professional clubs. This part is very very difficult to do - because at this stage you will likely need to be on a pretty good team which will require you to have made some connections along the way. In my opinion, if you are outgoing and really motivated to make this happen, then you would be walking up to every coach or manager and introducing yourself -- just in case that person may be able to help you later on. That type of mindset is what is one that will open doors for you that most players will never get.
This stage is pretty much universal for all academy players, college players, semi-pro players, and most pro players too -- start collecting film/video of you playing in the highest level matches possible, and start putting clips together in a highlight reel. You can also be constantly updating it with better and better clips as you play in more games. This process will lead into the next phase of eventually reaching out to professional clubs in hopes of being invited in on trial, offered an invitation to join the team in preseason, or offered a straight up pro contract. Hopefully by this point you are either at the pro-level or you are performing a the semi-pro level.
becoming a pro from an academy
If you are a player in a pro academy, collecting film and creating highlights isn't as important since you've done the heavy lifting of getting into a pro club, and now the focus is more so on performing and improving within the club to eventually progress up to the professional team in the club. As an example, if you join a pro academy at 14 years old, you could progress from the 14's up to the 16's then up to the 19's and then eventually get on the pro team -- think of it like a ladder or step-by-step progressive process (this is why it is so valuable to join an academy when you are young).
becoming a pro from college, npsl, upsl, or mpsl
If you are not in a pro academy then becoming a pro will be a bit more difficult. If you chose the college route, you can enter into the draft and see if you can get drafted to a pro club. If not, you will be in the same situation as the UPSL/NPSL/UPSL players -- collecting film to eventually distribute to pro clubs, trying to get an agent to help you reach out to pro clubs, and trying to attend open or invitational combines, invitational or open pro tryouts at different pro clubs, etc.
An agent can help you because they likely already have connections with pro clubs and can reach out to them on your behalf to try and help you get a trial or tryout with a professional team. The most important takeaway from this stage is to be reaching out to agents, coaches, and scouts, and forming your highlights while you are still playing games in college, MPSL, UPSL, NPSL, etc.
If you need an agent and live in the U.S, here is a list of currently registered agents in the U.S (by year): https://www.ussoccer.com/federation-services/intermediaries
the reality of becoming a pro player
This article is strictly meant to be informative -- the details of this article are based on my experience as a current pro in the U.S, and may or may not be applicable to those living outside of the U.S. It is truly extremely hard to execute all of the things I outlined in this article, but for the players who are truly committed to this -- it's definitely doable if you put in the work, focus on the right things, and stay consistent with this process. To be very clear, no one can guarantee anyone will become a pro, but these steps can be taken to increase the odds of it happening.
If you have any questions about this process, my personal experience playing in an academy or signing multiple professional contracts, feel free to reach out to us via email at email@example.com. We are happy to assist in helping players to improve! If you found value in this blog post be sure to share it to whomever it may provide value to. Nonstop.