20 Best Sports Romance Books Like Kulti (by Mariana Zapata)

Kulti by Mariana Zapata is a sizzling slow-burn sports romance novel about a rising-star soccer player and her legendary new coach. We’ll show you 20 sports romance books like Kulti, bursting with tension and spice.

About Kulti by Mariana Zapata

Women’s soccer, a high-stakes romance, and an athlete who falls in love with her coach, Kulti is a whirlwind of passion and a fan-favorite sports romance for new adults! 

20 Best Romance Books Like Kulti (by Mariana Zapata)

Sal Casillas is the hardest worker you’ll ever meet. She’s lasered in and focused on her professional career. Nothing will stop her from rising to the top as an international women’s soccer player. 

But when she finds out her team’s new coach is the soccer icon she worshiped as a kid, who also happens to be her brother’s rival, everything changes.

Reiner Kulti is sullen. Quiet. And nothing like how Sal imagined. Coaching? Sal’s not even sure he knows the meaning of the word. Now Sal and Kulti are at odds, and it’s not until a rocky relationship blooms into a strong friendship that they both begin to wonder: could this be something more?

Kulti is a standout slow burn for fans of sports romance novels; prepare for your heart to race as you read this book by Mariana Zapata!

About Mariana Zapata

Mariana Zapata is the New York Times bestselling author of multiple books. She specializes in slow-burn new adult sports romances, and notable works include Under Locke, The Wall of Winnipeg and Me, From Lukov With Love, and, of course, Kulti. 

Zapata is a massive bestseller on Amazon, a frequent nominee for Goodreads Choice Awards in the romance category, and a viral sensation on TikTok. 

She resides in Colorado with her husband and their two Great Danes and has a passion for reading romance novels almost as much as she enjoys writing them. You can find all of her books here

20 Best Romance Books Like Kulti

Wrecking Ball by P. Dangelico

Wrecking Ball (Hard to Love)

Calvin Shaw is an NFL quarterback who hires Cam Desantis to be a live-in nanny for his nephew, only to quickly realize his mistake: she finds him intolerable, and he finds her to be a distraction. 

But the fire between them is too hot to ignore. 

For the next three months, they attempt to play a game of avoidance until the electrifying tension finally snaps.  

Wrecking Ball is a sports romance about a football star who prefers to be alone until he meets the woman who changes his entire world. 

You can get the hot romance here!

Waking Olivia by Elizabeth O’Roark

Waking Olivia (The Langstrom Brothers)

A coach and track athlete fall in love in this enemies-to-lovers sports romance novel frequently likened to Kulti. 

Olivia is a transfer student and a massive pain in the ass to Will Langstrom, the coach of the college track team. She keeps secrets, can’t seem to escape her past, and thinks Will is full of himself. 

With his own personal issues, Will can’t bring Olivia into the mix of responsibilities he already carries. Still, undeniable attraction pulls them closer and closer until Will can’t help but feel something profound for Olivia.

You can get this wickedly delicious coach-athlete romance book here!  

The Game Plan by Micalea Smeltzer 

The Game Plan

Bennett James is a one-of-a-kind hockey player with a bad boy reputation threatening his career. Grace Wentworth is a good girl who knows nothing about being ruthless. Together they join forces to better their careers, but two competitive people playing games is a precarious business.

The Game Plan is a good girl, bad boy romance novel starting with a fake relationship that sparks into something passionately real. You can get it here!

Offside: Rules of the Game by Avery Keelan

Offside: Rules of the Game Book 1

Bailey James knows the best revenge on an ex is landing in the arms of their biggest rival. With a reputation as a womanizer and a list of scandals under his belt, Chase needs to avoid all drama to focus on his future in the NHL, but he can’t escape Bailey.

There are rules against fraternizing with the enemy, but the rules know nothing about Bailey and Chase.

This luscious sports romance will please fans who enjoy the forbidden romance aspect of Kulti. You can get Offside: Rules of the Game here!

Scoring Wilder by R. S. Grey

Scoring Wilder

Kinsley Bryant, a future Olympian, puts it all on the line when she seduces and falls for her soccer coach, Liam Wilder. 

Like Kulti, this is a forbidden romance between a bad boy coach and a soccer player who can’t keep their hands off each other. Whereas Kulti is a slow burn, Scoring Wilder moves faster.

You can get this sensual novel here!

Icebreaker by Hannah Grace

Icebreaker: A Novel (The Maple Hills Series)

In Icebreaker, Anastasia Allen is a dedicated figure skater vying for a spot on Team USA. But when her partner is injured, she is forced to skate with Nathan Hawkins, a hockey player she doesn’t even like. 

Soon things are heating up between Nathan and Anastasia on and off the ice as the tension turns hot. Romance readers everywhere will rejoice reading this steamy sports enemies-to-lovers love affair. 

You can get Icebreaker by Hannah Grace here

Iced Out by CE Ricci

Iced Out (Leighton U)

This LGBTQ+ novel about two rival hockey players who hook up while hating each other will send romance readers into a frenzy. 

Though this is an enemies-to-lovers sports romance, Quinton and Oakley quickly form an invigorating bond. Spicy scenes heighten the novel, and CE delivers a bad boy and golden boy romance centered around hockey. 

You can get Iced Out by CE Ricci here

The Deal by Elle Kennedy

The Deal (Off-Campus, 1)

Hannah Wells does not get turned on easily, but that all changes when she meets college bad boy and hockey team captain Garrett Graham. 

To get her crush’s attention and in preparation for things to turn physical, Hannah and Garrett strike up a deal of seduction. But neither is ready for the explosion of chemistry they work up, and soon they have to decide: is this part of the deal, or do they lay it all on the table and do this for real?

You can get The Deal by Elle Kennedy here

The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata

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The Wall of Winnipeg, another sizzling slow burn by Mariana Zapata, was nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award in Best Romance in 2016. 

Once upon a time, Vanessa Mazur worked for the National Football Organization; it was never supposed to be a permanent gig. But then Aiden Graves, who has never said more than two words to her for the entirety of her time working for him, knocks on her door after she quits, pleading for her to return.

 But why? 

And who is this man, the one they call The Wall of Winnipeg? 

You can get this assistant and boss sports love story here!

Blind Side by Kandi Steiner 

Blind Side: Special Edition (Red Zone Rivals: Special Edition)

Giana needs to lose her virginity. Star football athlete Clay Johnson needs to make his ex jealous. Together, they combine forces and strike a deal; Clay will teach Giana lessons on physicality, and Giana will pretend to be his new girlfriend. 

Blindsiding them both is the electrifying chemistry and insanely surreal sex, especially since falling in love was never part of the plan. 

You can get this smut-heavy romance novel taking BookTok by storm here!

Long Shot by Kennedy Ryan

Long Shot: A Forbidden Basketball Standalone Romance (HOOPS)

In this forbidden love basketball romance, Iris is dating an abusive NBA player when she meets her boyfriend’s rival, August. The passion between them is undeniable, and as the years go by, the two grow closer, constantly orbiting each other. 

This powerful story is simultaneously triumphant, heartbreaking, and moving as Iris navigates motherhood and a toxic relationship and comes into the love story she deserves after missed opportunities.  

You can get this moving sports romance novel here!

Hook, Line and Sinker by Tessa Bailey

Hook, Line, and Sinker: A Novel (Bellinger Sisters, 2)

In this award-winning slow-burn romance frequently featured on BookTok, Tessa Bailey writes about a player who falls in love with his best friend while setting her up with another man. 

This funny romance spearheads the friends-to-lovers trope while refreshingly delivering well-liked characters. 

In Kulti, Sal and Kulti eventually start a deep friendship, and if that dynamic appeals to fans, they’ll enjoy the relationship between Hannah and Fox in Hook, Line and Sinker.

You can get this romantic comedy here!

Arrogant Devil by R.S. Grey

Arrogant Devil

Meredith Avery moves to a small town in Texas and forces her way into Jack McKnight’s life for better or worse. 

Fleeing a toxic relationship, Meredith moves to Texas to stay with her sister, only to discover her sister is in Paris with her husband. Jack McKnight, Meredith’s sister’s secretary, reluctantly agrees to Meredith working on the ranch when it becomes clear she has no other options. 

No matter how hard Jack makes her life, Meredith refuses to quit and leave, and it’s not long before Jack has to reconcile the fact that he might not want her to. 

This banter-infused romance handles serious topics in an endearing small town. 

You can get this cowboy love story novel here

The Cheat Sheet by Sarah Adams

The Cheat Sheet: A Novel

Bree Camden, dancer, and Nathan Donelson, famous quarterback, have been best friends for years, neither realizing they have mutual romantic feelings. 

However, after a drunken night in which Bree speaks to a reporter, the dancer enters into a fake relationship with her best friend.

Lines of friendship blur as feelings burst to the surface in this clean romance that went viral on BookTok in 2022. 

You can get The Cheat Sheet by Sarah Adams here!

Consider Me by Becka Mack 

Consider Me (Playing For Keeps)

A National Hockey League bad boy meets and falls for his teammate’s best friend.

Carter is a cocky player who gets everything he wants until he meets Olivia. 

Despite Carter’s attempts at wooing, Olivia rejects him, sending the man who usually gets everything he wants spiraling, especially because he senses something genuine in their connection.

Now he must work to understand his feelings, prove he’s serious about dating, and navigate emotions and situations he’s never experienced. 

You can get Consider Me by Becka Mack here!

First Down by Grace Reilly

First Down: A Fake Dating College Sports Romance (Beyond the Play)

Football star James is failing his writing class and needs a tutor, and Beckett Wood is trying to get rid of a cheating ex. A fake relationship leads to something more in First Down, a romance novel featuring a swoon-worthy football player and a no-nonsense lead. 

You can get this romance that delivers on fan-favorite tropes here!

Playing Hard to Get by Monica Murphy

Playing Hard to Get (The Players)

The shy, quiet girl tutors and falls in love with the star of the college football team in Playing Hard to Get. When things turn physical between Joanna and Knox, JoJo must figure out whether the heat between them is genuine or if she’s getting played by the college’s hottest player. 

Monica Murphy is known for her spicy scenes, and fans of steamy hookup scenes will enjoy Playing Hard to Get. You can get the novel here!

You & Me by Tal Bauer

You & Me: An M|M Single Dads Romance

Two single dads are complete opposites in this MM romance novel. 

Landon Larsen is the perfect, incredible father of the star quarterback, well-loved by everyone, while Luke struggles to connect with his distant son, who also plays for the same team. 

Over the course of the book, Landon and Luke build a strong friendship similar to Kulti and Sal’s and form a long-lasting romantic connection along the way.

You can find this similar slow-burn novel here!

Love In the Red Zone by Love Belvin

Love In the Red Zone (Connecticut Kings)

Given a second chance in his football career, Trent knows it’s now or never and has zero plans on screwing it up. Meanwhile, Jade is a single mother doing her best to protect and provide for her son. 

Two unlikely people come together to grow and save each other in Love In the Red Zone as passion bleeds red hot and favors turn into an unforgettable romance. 

You can get this character-centered romance novel here!

The Muse: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Jessica Evans

The Muse

Elizabeth Bennet is a ballet dancer working with choreographer William Darcy in this modern-day Pride and Prejudice retelling. 

A jaded, brooding choreographer and a stubborn ballerina fall into misunderstandings and eventually love in this sports spin on the Jane Austen classic. 

You can get The Muse: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Jessica Evans here!  

Final Thoughts

Mariana Zapata has changed the game of sports romance novels with her hit soccer romance novel, Kulti

A hot sensation on Amazon and BookTok, Kulti achieves the tropes Zapata weaves into the narrative, such as good girl/bad boy, coach/athlete, crush-to-enemies-to-friends-to-lovers, slow burn, and grumpy/sunshine. 

This romance with solid central characters sets itself apart from others in the genre, and we’re hoping you’ll find your next favorite sports romance among these similar reads.  

Swoon, score, and sigh your way through this list!


What is the age gap between Sal and Kulti?

Sal is 27 years old at the start of Kulti, and Kulti has just turned 40. Their age gap is 13 years.

What does Kulti call Sal?

Sal calls Kulti “Rey,” which means king in Spanish, while Kulti calls Sal “Schnecke,” a term of endearment in German that means snail or attractive woman.

Is Kulti worth reading?

Kulti is considered one of the best slow-burn sports romance books published. Using popular tropes such as coach x athlete, grumpy x sunshine, age gap, and she fell first, but he fell harder, Mariana Zapata writes a deliciously fun book filled with heartwarming moments!

In what order do I read Mariana Zapata’s books?

You can read Mariana Zapata’s books in whatever order, as most are standalone.

However, if you wish to read them in chronological order, here is a list sorted by oldest to newest publication dates as of 2023:

1. Under Locke (2014)
2. Kulti (2015)
3. Lingus (2015)
4. Rhythm, Chord and Malykhin (2015)
5. The Wall of Winnipeg and Me (2016)
6. Wait for It (2016)
7. Dear Aaron (2017)
8. From Lukov with Love (2018)
9. Luna and the Lie (2018)
10. The Best Thing (2019)
11. Hands Down (2020)
12. All Rhodes Lead Here (2021)
13. When Gracie Met the Grump (2022)

Is Kulti a dual POV?

Kulti is told in the first person POV of Sal and is a single-POV sports romance novel.

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Taylor Brazzill