ECNL FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Find out why the Elite Clubs National League is the most comprehensive competitive and college recruiting platform

About ECNL

  • What is the ECNL?

    About ECNL

    The ECNL is an independent, non-profit, member-based 501(c)(3) organization, with an independent governance and leadership structure. The ECNL Board of Directors and staff solely governs all programs and platforms. The ECNL is sanctioned by US Club Soccer.

    MISSION: To “Raise the Game” by elevating standards and experience in all aspects of female youth soccer.

    IMPLEMENTATION: The ECNL four primary platforms to accomplish its mission:

  • What is the ECNL History?

    History

    The ECNL was founded in 2009 by forward-thinking Directors of Coaching across the country who saw a need for change in and special commitment to improving the daily environment for American elite female youth soccer players. These Directors came together and collaborated to build what would become the top female youth development platform in the world. The grass roots leadership and cooperation was unprecedented in American youth soccer, and the ECNL continues to be the most progressive and innovative development platform in the country.

    2009-2010: Inaugural ECNL Season
    The inaugural ECNL season, August 2009 to July 2010, included 40 of the top girls soccer clubs throughout the country, with more than 2,000 players participating in ECNL competition in the U15, U16, and U17 age groups. Teams competed in one of two competitive flights (the “A Flight” or the “B Flight”) for the ECNL National Championship, the ECNL Club National Championship, and promotion and relegation between the flights. Each team played nine regular season games within their division for placement going into the ECNL National Championship. Games were played at five different ECNL National Showcase Events held throughout the country, and all participating teams came together for the first annual ECNL National Championship in Seattle, WA in July 2010.

    2010-2011
    In its second season, 2010-11, the ECNL saw several changes. The ECNL added twelve of the top girls clubs from around the country, bringing the total number of ECNL member clubs to 52, and expanded to include the U18 age group. Each of the 52 member clubs had an ECNL team in the U15 through U18 age groups. In total, each team played roughly 16 games. The ECNL schedule expanded to include regional competition to supplement the existing ECNL National Showcase Events, and the ECNL National Championships were held in Aurora, CO in July. By adding more age groups and more high-quality ECNL games, the ECNL took steps that allowed the member clubs to increase the quality of games played while reducing the overall number of games on their calendar, increase the training time for their players, and expand the developmental opportunities provided by this platform into more age groups.

    2011-2012
    In the third season, 2011-12, the ECNL again expanded to include the nation’s elite 66 female soccer clubs, an enhanced scouting and player identification structure, accessible club administrative, coaching, and scouting education opportunities, and an improved season structure that includes the U14 age group. Most importantly, the ECNL expanded the competition platform to approximately 30 games per team. By focusing solely on the elite competition within the ECNL, these clubs will be able to provide an improved environment with a better training-to-game ratio and more demanding and consistent competition. The 2011-12 ECNL season has three parts which provide the competitive platform for over 5,000 games to be played:

    1- ECNL Conference and Cross-Conference Competitions;
    2- ECNL National Event Competitions; and
    3- ECNL National Championships.

    2012-2013
    In the fourth season of the ECNL, 2012-13, signs began to show that the league was maturing and getting close to its full size. Expansion was limited, as only 7 clubs were added to reach a total of 73 clubs. Conference play became the dominant portion of the ECNL schedule, with conference results determining qualification for the ECNL post-season. This was a change from previous seasons. The top 32 teams in the ECNL, based on conference games and limited wildcards, qualified for the ECNL Champions League post-season playoffs. The next best 32 teams in the ECNL qualified for the ECNL North American Cup play-offs. Both play-offs were contested in Aurora, CO, with the top 8 teams in each competition qualifying for the ECNL Finals. The inaugural ECNL Finals were played in Richmond, VA where the winners of the ECNL Champions League were crowned the ECNL National Champions. The winners of the ECNL North American Cup were crowned Cup Champions.

    2013-2014
    In the fifth season, 2013-14, the ECNL experienced a small expansion, with only 3 clubs added to bring the total number of ECNL member clubs to 76. While there was limited conference re-alignment, the competition structure generally remained the same as the 2012-2013 season. The 2014 ECNL Playoffs (where the Champions League and North American Cup qualifiers will compete) were played in Seattle, WA in late June – bringing the league full circle to its humble beginnings in 2009. The winners of each playoff group advanced to the ECNL Finals, again held in Richmond, VA.

    2014-2015
    In the sixth season, 2014-15, the competition structure changed with the additions of the Showcase Cup, rounding out the ECNL Playoffs with three tiers: Champions League, North American Cup and Showcase Cup. The Champions League structure remained the same as years past, while both the North American Cup and Showcase Cup were set up as knockout style brackets, with 16 teams competing in each for a chance to be crowned champion in Seattle, WA. The winners of each playoff group in the Champions League advanced to the ECNL Finals, held in Richmond, VA for the third year.

    2015-2016
    In the seventh season, 2015-16, the ECNL expanded to 79 member clubs, with limited conference re-alignment. The competition structure remained the same for the ECNL Playoffs with three tiers: Champions League, North American Cup and Showcase Cup. The Champions League structure changed slightly with the addition of the quarterfinal game at the ECNL Playoffs, while both the North American Cup and Showcase Cup stayed the same with knockout style brackets, with 16 teams competing in each for a chance to be crowned champion in Oceanside, CA. The winners of each quarterfinal game in the Champions League advanced to the ECNL Final Four, held in Germantown, MD.

    2016-2017
    In the eighth season, 2016-17, the ECNL expanded to 84 member clubs, with limited conference re-alignment. The competition structure remained the same for the ECNL Playoffs with three tiers: Champions League, North American Cup and Showcase Cup. Both the North American Cup and Showcase Cup stayed the same with knockout style brackets, with 16 teams competing in each for a chance to be crowned champion in Rockford, IL. The winners of each Champions League quarterfinal game advanced to the ECNL Final Four, held in San Diego, CA.

    2017-2018
    In the ninth season, 2017-18, the ECNL consisted of 80 member clubs, with limited conference re-alignment. The competition structure remained the same for the ECNL Playoffs with three tiers: Champions League, North American Cup and Showcase Cup, with the U14 division expanding in the Champions League format to 32 teams in the post season. Both the North American Cup and Showcase Cup stayed the same with knockout style brackets, with 16 teams competing in each for a chance to be crowned champion in Seattle, WA. The winners of each Champions League quarterfinal game advanced to the ECNL Final Four, held in Richmond, VA.

  • What are the ECNL core Values?

  • Who runs the ECNL?

    Staff Directory

    The ECNL is headquartered in Richmond, VA. The national office is managed by ECNL Commissioner, Jen Winnagle.

    ECNL Staff

    ECNL Officers

    • President: Christian Lavers
    • Vice President: Doug Bracken
    • Secretary and Treasurer: Jason Dewhurst

ECNL vs DA

  • Which one is better?

    Each player has their own individual development pathway. Some are looking to become professional players and play for the NWSL or other leagues. For those players the US Soccer Development Academy might be a good fit.

    There are those who want a path that leads to collegiate athletics. For those players, the ECNL might be a better fit.

  • Can I play high school?

    ECNL players can participate in high school soccer, be selected for ODP and Id2, play in different leagues, participate in showcases and tournaments.

    US Soccer Development Academy players can only participate in games and events within the DA. They cannot play high school, state cup or be selected for ODP and ID2.

  • Can I play a different sport?

    ECNL players are encouraged to play other sports and do other forms of cross-training.

    DA players have to specialize in soccer. Because of the volume of training, it is almost impossible to participate in other sports.

  • How many training sessions a week?

    The DA has a mandatory schedule of 4 training sessions a week for the 10 month season.

    ECNL teams train 3 times a week with an optional 4th session that might include film study, injury prevention, technical training or futsal.

  • Which League Helps with College Recruiting?

    Both the ECNL and DA allow for a good level of college exposure.

    But only the ECNL is focused almost entirely on providing its players with a recruiting platform. The ECNL was created for that purpose.

    College Impact

    The ECNL College Impact series catalogs the impact the ECNL has had on college women’s soccer and the various collegiate athletic conferences across the United States. The “ECNL player” has become the epitome of the next generation collegiate soccer player. The ECNL College Impact is measured by the number of ECNL alumni that have moved on to collegiate soccer, and the increase in this number every year since the league’s inception in 2009.

    A look at the ECNL College Impact series:


ECNL Programs

  • Competition Platform

    The competition platform is comprised of regional conferences and tiered levels of national competition to allow the best match-ups across the league. The ECNL also hosts National Events across the country to give member clubs the opportunity to compete against non-conference teams. The ECNL competition platform is includes the following:

    • 610 ECNL Teams
    • 89 ECNL Member Clubs
    • 8 Conferences
    • 33 States
    • 10 PDP events
    • 6 National Events
    • 2 Post-Season Events
    • 1 National Training Camp
  • Player Identification

    Conference Selection Program

    The ECNL Conference Selection events provide an opportunity for the top players within every ECNL conference to play with and against the best players within their region at multiple age groups, and to attend presentations from leading coaches or experts in elite athlete development. The ECNL Conference Selection Programs are created with three primary goals:

    (i) Identify the top players within each ECNL conference at multiple age groups;

    (ii) Provide a developmental experience; and

    (iii) Recognize and reward individual performance and achievement.

    In 2018-2019, there will be ten such programs taking place across the country, with every ECNL Club assigned to one either based upon their conference or their geographic location. The ECNL Conference Selection Programs will bring together the top 60 players within the conference or geographic region for a weekend of training, competition, and education. Each ECNL Conference Selection Program will include approximately 60 players: 30 from the 2002/2003 age groups, and 30 from the 2004/2005 age groups.

    Players are selected for the ECNL Conference Selection Programs based on their performance in ECNL competitions and recommendations from coaches. Each ECNL Conference Selection Programs will occur over two days and will include three training sessions/matches and a presentation for the players. All players will receive Nike training gear. The ECNL will be covering the costs of participation in the ECNL Conference Selection Programs, excluding travel costs for participating players.

  • Do you offer long-term support?

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  • Do I have to pay for updates?

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