Protists are ubiquitous members of soil microbial communities, but the structure of these communities, and the factors that influence their diversity, are poorly understood. We used barcoded pyrosequencing to survey comprehensively the diversity of soil protists from 40 sites across a broad geographic range that represent a variety of biome types, from tropical forests to deserts. In addition to taxa known to be dominant in soil, including Cercozoa and Ciliophora, we found high relative abundances of groups such as Apicomplexa and Dinophyceae that have not previously been recognized as being important components of soil microbial communities. Soil protistan communities were highly diverse, approaching the extreme diversity of their bacterial counterparts across the same sites. Like bacterial taxa, protistan taxa were not globally distributed, and the composition of these communities diverged considerably across large geographic distances. However, soil protistan and bacterial communities exhibit very different global-scale biogeographical patterns, with protistan communities strongly structured by climatic conditions that regulate annual soil moisture availability.