Beginning in the 2016-17 season, the US Youth Soccer National League will expand from 16 to 32 teams in each of the Under-15, Under-16 and Under-17 gender age groups.
The National League will continue with the same two-event format, as each gender age group will be split into eight-team divisions, with each side playing seven games. The increase in teams will allow for more qualification opportunities for the top performers from the four US Youth Soccer Regional Leagues, as the automatic qualifying spots for each Regional League doubles from two to four teams for the Under-15, Under-16 and Under-17 age groups.
“We have received feedback from club leaders in support of expanding the National League based on their positive experiences in the league,” National League commissioner Paul Luchowski said. “We value the input of those in the league and look forward to welcoming even more proven, top-level teams to the league.”
The National League is designed to reward teams for developing elite talent and earning success in US Youth Soccer Regional Leagues and Regional Championships, as the top finishing teams in these competitions directly qualify for the National League. Once in the National League, the top teams from each age group division also secure a spot to return to National League play the following season.
The league’s qualification format provides teams with an opportunity to test themselves against some of the most talented competition in the country, as each team has to earn its place in the National League based on league or cup success. With meaningful matchups against proven competition from across the country, the National League provides an avenue for continued development and opportunities for exposure at the collegiate, professional and National Team levels.
The 32 teams that qualify for the 2016-17 National League in the expanded age groups are expected to come from the following:
-- 4 top returning 2015-16 National League teams (a total of 4 teams)
-- 4 top teams from each of the four Regional Leagues (a total of 16 teams)
-- 4 Regional Championship Representatives to the 2016 National Championships (a total of 4 teams)
-- 8 additional teams to come from either Regional League, Regional Championship or National League play yet to be determined (a total of 8 teams)
In addition to recruiting opportunities, the top National League teams earn a ticket to the US Youth Soccer National Championships, making each match valuable and creating an added element of pressure as players compete for a chance to play for the National Championship.
Beginning in the 2016-17 season, the Under-15, Under-16 and Under-17 gender age groups will be split into four divisions of eight teams, with the top finisher in each division earning an automatic berth to the National Championships. The National League’s automatic qualifiers will retain the current structure for the Under-14 and Under-18 age groups, with the top two teams from each of the two divisions advancing to Nationals.
Since its inception, National League teams have captured a combined 31 of 48 possible National Championships. For a list of past National League champions and history, click here.
Entering its ninth season in 2015-16, the National League’s alumni have gone on to prove themselves at the collegiate and professional levels, with former players competing in NCAA Division I, II and III, Major League Soccer, National Women’s Soccer League, English Premier League and the UEFA Champions League.
This summer, National League alum Morgan Brian will add the FIFA Women’s World Cup to the list when she competes in Canada with the U.S. Women’s National Team.
The National League is an extension of the highly successful US Youth Soccer Regional Leagues (US Youth Soccer Region I Champions League, Midwest Regional League, Southern Regional Premier League and Far West Regional League). For more information on the National League, visit USYouthSoccer.org/National_League/.