|The ECNL 2011-2012 Championship Teams. From top: Arsenal GU-14, Colorado Rush GU-15, Slammers FC GU-16, CASL Chelsea Ladies GU-17 and Michigan Hawks GU-18. Photos courtesy of ECNL
Youth Soccer News: Elite Clubs National League Crowns 2011-12 National Champions in Waukegan, Ill.
Country's best Under-14 through U-18 girls’ soccer teams step up at National Finals event
The Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) concluded its 2011-12 season with a slate of dramatic national championship matches at the Waukegan SportsPark on Saturday, capping a week of top-caliber girls' soccer action which drew nearly 300 teams and thousands of spectators from across the country as well as millions of dollars in economic impact.
"We're delighted to wrap up another successful season with an amazing National Finals, featuring seven days of fantastic soccer at a beautiful venue," said ECNL commissioner Sarah Kate Noftsinger. "On behalf of our entire league, I'd like to thank the Waukegan SportsPark and the entire community for their warm hospitality, not to mention the ECNL players, coaches and families who made this the best ECNL event to date."
The ECNL National Finals kicked off last Sunday, June 24 with matches in the Under-14 and U-15 age groups, and after three days of knockout competition, Arsenal FC (based in Temecula, Calif.) defeated San Diego Surf 2-0 to claim the U-14 ECNL national championship and Colorado Rush edged past Dallas Sting 1-0 to earn the title of U-15 ECNL national champs.
Wednesday also marked the onset of U-16, U-17 and U-18 play. The leading ECNL teams in those age levels competed in four days of elimination play to determine who would vie for national titles at week's end, performing at a very high level despite a scorching summer heat wave.
After falling behind 2-0 in the first half, Newport Beach, Calif. club Slammers FC conjured up a stirring comeback to defeat their counterparts from Dallas Sting 3-2 in overtime, winning the U-16 ECNL championship.
The U-17 ECNL national championship was an equally dramatic affair, as a hard-fought match between CASL Chelsea Ladies (Charlotte, N.C.) and Michigan Hawks ended in a 1-1 draw which had to be decided via a penalty-kick shootout.
Though it required seven gripping rounds of spot kicks, CASL Chelsea prevailed to claim the title in front of a capacity crowd. That game will be televised nationwide on GolTV at 8 p.m. ET this Thursday. Michigan Hawks had better luck in the U-18 championship game, where their oldest squad defeated Slammers 4-0.
Beyond the championship brackets, hundreds of other matches took place over the week as teams in the ECNL's "Flight B" groups battled for top honors. Others played consolation matches to determine final standings placement while displaying their talents in front of some 300 NCAA coaches, as well as U.S. Soccer scouts in attendance to identify and evaluate players for possible inclusion in United States Youth National Teams.
In just its third year of existence, the ECNL has established a strong reputation as the premier girls' soccer league in North America, offering high-level competition and unparalleled coaching expertise in a club-centered environment designed to prioritize player development over results. ECNL play will resume later this summer when the 2012-13 ECNL season kicks off in late August.
In addition to National Finals, the league stages five National Showcase Events per season to bring together the nation's best players and teams. Similar to this season's other showcases in Phoenix, Sanford, Fla., San Antonio, San Diego and Zarephath, N.J., the National Finals contributed an estimated $3 million in economic impact to Waukegan and its neighboring communities.
Final ECNL Results - A Flight
U-14: Champions – Arsenal FC; Finalists – San Diego Surf
U-15: Champions – Colorado Rush; Finalists – Dallas Sting
U-16: Champions – Slammers FC; Finalists – Dallas Sting
U-17: Champions – CASL Chelsea Ladies; Finalists – Michigan Hawks
U-18: Champions – Michigan Hawks; Finalists – Slammers FC
Final ECNL Results - B Flight
U-15: Champions – Washington Premier; Finalists – Minnesota Thunder
U-16: Champions – Real So Cal; Finalists – Heat FC
U-17: Champions – McClean Youth Soccer; Finalists – Minnesota Thunder Academy
Learn more at the official website of the ECNL National Finals
About The ECNL: The Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) is a registered 501(c)3 tax-exempt, non-profit organization. The ECNL was founded in 2009 to enhance the developmental experience of female youth soccer players in the United States. ECNL seeks to improve the competitive environment through the creation of a true national competitive league with multiple flights, augmented by a systematic scouting and identification program and an improved daily training environment at top female youth soccer clubs.
The goal of the ECNL is to change the landscape for elite female soccer players in the United States through innovative, player-centered programming and to enhance the overall experience by creating a better, more enjoyable, and more successful player, coach, and club development model. Follow ECNL on Twitter @theECNL and Facebook: Elite Clubs National League. Visit the official ECNL website for more information: http://www.eliteclubsnationalleague.com. The ECNL is sanctioned by US Club Soccer and sponsored by Nike.