The ECNL is a national youth soccer league founded in 2009 for U-14 through U-18 girls' teams for the purpose of providing the highest level of competition and the best developmental environment for American female youth soccer players, as well as an identification and development program, which will seek to include players in US Soccer's National Teams.
MISSION: The Elite Clubs National League, Inc. (“ECNL”) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit member-based organization founded in 2009 to enhance the developmental experience of the female youth soccer players in the United States through:
- Improving the competitive environment through creation of a true national competitive league with multiple flights;
- Improving the process for identifying elite female soccer players for the U.S. Soccer youth national teams through a systematic scouting and identification program based on national competitions; and
- Improving the daily training environment at top female youth soccer clubs through developing best practices and training and organizational guidelines for its member clubs.
GOAL: The goal of the Elite Clubs National League (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.
ACTION PLAN (Summary): The ECNL is led by a Board of Directors elected by the member clubs. Day-to-day operations are managed by the ECNL Executive Director and ECNL Commissioner. The ECNL has four primary platforms:
The Competition Platform;
- ECNL Conference & Cross-Conference Games: Every ECNL Member Club has been placed into one of eight regional conferences for regular season play. All five ECNL age groups will play every team in their conference both home and away, and then will also play 2-4 cross-conference games against other regional opponents. In total, each team in the ECNL is scheduled to play 15-18 conference or cross-conference games per year.
- ECNL National Showcase Event Games: In addition to the conference and cross-conference games, there are five ECNL National Showcase Events throughout the year where participating teams play 3 games at each event. Each team at the U15 and U18 age groups will participate in two of these events, while each team at the U16 and U17 age groups will participate in three of these events. These games are key to determining the ECNL National Champions at each age group. ECNL National Showcase Events are the largest collegiate recruiting events in the country (drawing more than 200 different colleges to each event), and are scouted by US Soccer National Staff.
- ECNL National Championships Games: All ECNL Member Clubs participate in the National Championships. Roughly 500 games will be played spanning the 5-day period with over 6,000 participants
The Player Identification Platform;
The ECNL Player Identification Platform (ECNL Player ID) was launched in 2009 to provide a better, more efficient, and streamlined process for identifying players with the potential to play with the US Youth National Teams. The ECNL Player ID Platform provides opportunities to identify the top players in the ECNL and provides opportunities for these players to be seen and trained by U.S. Soccer National Team staff. The ECNL Player ID Platform was created with the following assumptions:
- Players should be scouted and evaluated in their regular environment;
- There should be no additional cost to players for scouting and identification;
- To insure accurate evaluations, players should be evaluated by multiple people over multiple events; and
- To insure accurate evaluations, the coaches that train and develop the identified players should be consulted as the best source of information regarding overall ability, mentality, and current form.
By scouting players in their regular team environment, while they are competing against the best players in the country, the ECNL Player ID Platform increases opportunities for identified players at no additional cost to the players.
The Club and Coach Development Platform;
In the 2012-2013 season, the ECNL launched the ECNL Coaching Development Initiative (CDI) in conjunction with the Coaching Education department of US Soccer. The CDIs were held at 4 different ECNL National Events, and featured a full day of coaching education in the class-room and on the field for ECNL Directors and staff. Presenters included US Soccer Director of Coaching Education Dave Chesler, US Soccer Director of Development Jill Ellis, US Soccer U18 National Team Head Coach April Heinrichs, and more. The purpose of the CDIs are to share best practices in youth development across all ECNL clubs, align training methodologies with US Soccer curriculum, and improve the level of coaching within the United States.
The HER Platform (a female-specific health, wellness, and rejuvenation platform)
By launching a female-specific health, wellness and rejuvenation platform, HER Platform (or HER Experience), the ECNL is showing its continued commitment to creating the best environment for developing the next generation of American elite female soccer players. HERS is a high-impact delivery mechanism tool designed to extend the reach of critical sport-science based research, education, and resource dispersal. It includes live activation at all ECNL National Events, an online component, supported by a social media push and online portal. The goals are:
- Develop the most superior, comprehensive, and accessible health, wellness, and rejuvenation experience and resource for the nation’s elite female youth soccer players; and
- Inspire female athletes to perform at their best everyday.
The HER Platform includes:
- HER Health, Wellness, Rejuvenation Advisory Council: The ECNL had a vision and the HER Advisory Council will help bring clarity and guidance on HER platform growth, direction, and development. The ECNL is identifying and engaging the top experts within the Sports-Science vertical, in hopes of bringing together the field’s best as the founding HERS Advisory Council. The Advisory Council will have an impactful role in matters pertaining to the strategic development, direction, and implementation of HER Platform.
- HER Event Activation through ECNL Player Rejuvenation Centers: Player Rejuvenation Centers will be onsite at all ECNL National Event Competitions, offering a huge benefit to the players. Player Rejuvenation Centers are a unique concept; no other league in any sport offers this platform. Envision an area, onsite at an ECNL National Event Competition, where ECNL teams progress through immediate nutrition / hydration replacement, stretching session, cold pool and out, etc. The idea is to create an irresistible atmosphere, where such a unique experience is had that participants go home and further interact with the online component.
- HER Online Resource Center (Education & Best Practices Center: In a world where information is abundant, it is often difficult to delineate good information from bad. The general concept is to provide an interactive, engaging experience offering baseline information, that educates elite female athletes on what it takes to be the best and inspiring them to become the best.
- Data Gathering and Research.
2009-2010: Inaugural ECNL Season
The inaugural ECNL season (August 2009 - 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, competing in two divisions for the ECNL National Championship, the ECNL Club National Championship, and promotion and relegation between the divisions. 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.
In its second year, the 2010-11 ECNL season, 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 (in each age groups) played roughly 16 games. 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.
Entering its third year, the 2011-12 ECNL season, the ECNL has again expanded, now 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.
The 2012-2013 season saw limited expansion in the ECNL to 73 clubs. Conference play became the dominant portion of the ECNL schedule, with conference results determining qualification for the ECNL post-season. The top 32 teams in the ECNL, based on conference games and limited wildcards, qualified for the ECNL Champions League post-season play-offs. 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.
The 2013-2014 season has the smallest expansion to-date, 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 remains the same as the 2012-2013 season. The 2014 ECNL Play-Offs (where the Champions League and North American Cup qualifiers will compete) will be played in Seattle, WA in late June. The winners of each play-off group will advance to the ECNL Finals.