Chapter 3: D1, D2, D3 + Associations

Difference between DI / DII / DIII & the various school associations (NCAA / NAIA / NJCAA).


The NCAA was formed in 1906 and is a larger association representing bigger schools and universities. NCAA schools are organized into three divisions, D1, D2, and D3.

Division 1 schools are typically the largest universities, and compete in a minimum of 14 sports for both males and females. These schools often have world-class facilities, attract the top athletes in the country, and receive the most media attention.

Division 2 schools are smaller than D1 schools, and student athletes usually finance their education with a combination of athletic and educational scholarships.

Division 3 schools are the smallest of the NCAA institutions. D3 schools are not allowed to offer athletic scholarships.


The NAIA was established in 1937 and is a smaller association. It is made up of smaller 4-year colleges throughout the United States, and competitive levels are comparable to NCAA D2 schools.

There are equally talented players in the NAIA and NCAA D2 schools, and both have excellent opportunities for education and athletic achievement.


The NJCAA (the National Junior College Athletic Association) is made up of two year and junior colleges. Many of its members are community colleges.

Like the NCAA, it is divided into three divisions. Division I can offer full athletic scholarships. Division II can offer athletic scholarships limited to tuition, fees, and books. Division III may not provide athletically-related financial assistance.

It is important to note that the size or affiliation of a school doesn’t necessarily tell you how competitive the soccer program is. The overall standard at DI can be expected to be higher, but there are some very competitive NAIA programs. Some DIII schools part of the NCAA have a fantastic soccer program and could compete with many DI schools if they were in the same division.

Chapter 4: A Timeline