How do the USA university sport seasons work?

Have you noticed USA student athletes mention the season being over? 

Wondering what that means for your university sport and the rest of the year?

In the USA, the academic year at universities is divided into two main semesters: the Fall semester and the Spring semester.

For sports the academic calendar plays a crucial role in organizing seasons. Sports are divided into two main categories:

  • Fall Sports include soccer, field hockey, American football, water polo and indoor track and field
  • Spring Sports include basketball, baseball, softball, golf, rowing, track and field

Here’s a general overview of how semesters work for sports at USA universities:

Fall Semester (late August – December)

Fall Sports, encompassing soccer, field hockey, American football, water polo, and indoor track and field, primarily operate during the Fall Semester. Athletes often undergo pre-season training before the semester commences. The season entails intense weekly games, involving both in-state and out-of-state travel, culminating in Nationals held in November/December. Meanwhile, Spring Sports focus on off-season training and non-conference games.

Winter Break (December – Christmas/New Years)

Moving into the winter break, there might be some training or conditioning, but the competitive season for most sports is on hiatus.

Spring Semester (January – May)

Next is the Spring Semester. Spring Sports will have their primary competitive seasons during this semester including preseason training, an intense game schedule and travel. The season will culminate in Nationals. Fall Sports will continue off season training and may play postseason games, tournaments and championships.

Summer (June – August)

After a long 10 month academic year, the summer is primarily an off-season with students leaving campus for the holiday. There are summer leagues allowing university students to join sides and continue to play their sports such as soccer, baseball, basketball, softball and volleyball.


It’s important to note that athletic conferences have the responsibility to ensure that overall students are there to receive a degree. They have specific rules to ensure a balance between academics and athletics. The split seasons allows students to stagger their classes, often taking the more difficult ones during their slower sports semesters.


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