Since its foundation in 2009, the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) has gone uncontested as the top female youth soccer league in the United States. Their reign at the top looked like it would last indefinitely, but that all changed in February when U.S. Soccer announced the creation of the federation’s new Girls Development Academy.
Not wanting to go down without a fight, ECNL looks ready to take on U.S. Soccer head on and a report on soccerwire.com states that the ECNL is readying itself to formally announce the creation of a boys league, which could begin play as soon as fall 2017.
The official unveiling could still be months away, but for the ECNL to remain relevant it needed to make a big move and the boys league in their mind is a step in the right direction.
Regardless of what the future holds, the ECNL, which is an independent league, should be congratulated for its success. With no direct support from U.S. Soccer, the ECNL has supplied upwards of 80% of the current Youth National Team player pool. The ECNL held a National Showcase Tournament in San Diego just this past weekend. 182 different team from across the country were in attendance at the So Cal Sports Complex in Oceanside. Scouts from dozens of universities were present, looking to identify and recruit top talents from the U-14 to U-18 age groups.
The difference between the ECNL and the Girls’ DA, it that U.S. Soccer does not utilize the pay-to-play model in their Academy system. Additionally, players who play Girls DA are prohibited from playing high school soccer. Presumably, the ECNL Boys division will mirror the existing model that has been in place since the league was initially formed.
The U.S. youth soccer landscape is constantly changing and the battle over which teams stay in ECNL and which teams move over to the Girls DA will be an interesting one to keep an eye on.