The major difference between high school and college athletics is the same as the main discrepancy found between male and female athletes, speed. The ball moves faster in the college game, regardless of the sport, and provides a key obstacle in athletes adapting to the next level. This same challenge is even more pronounced in females. In a study out of the University of South Carolina by William Barfield, leg kicking speed and the resultant ball velocity were found to be much larger in male soccer players.
So if male athletes move faster, then all their games must be more explosive. Contradicting this notion is a recent study by Dr. Torre at the University of Milan that found female soccer matches cover less distance, and therefore depend more on high intensity movements than males (i.e. they jog less and sprint more often).
Fortunately, the foundation for building speed is the same attribute that underlies injury prevention, muscular strength (see SpartaPoint 10/14/09). The stronger athletes are, the more force can be applied into the ground, which is one of the prime determinants of running speed. The most efficient exercise to build the lower body strength required for greater force is the squat. As an athlete gets comfortable squatting, and under the supervision of a trained coach, increasing the amount of weight will make the improvements even more relevant to sprinting as the forces are very high and of short duration.
The other prime characteristic of speed is skill. At Sparta, we have video cameras on our athletes and example videos playing of professionals performing that same movement to reinforce ideal skill execution. After an athlete completes a sprint, and we provide feedback on their movement, the big screen TV displays the run on about a 30 second delay for the athlete to actually see themselves. By practicing short sprints and agility runs, similar to the game of soccer, the athlete will be come more skillful at running fast, much like their previous skill refinement of dribbling a soccer ball.