First let’s say that the ECNL provides the opportunity for the best overall female youth soccer players in the United States to compete against each other and maximizing player development. Because the ECNL includes the elite clubs in the country, there are some clubs that shouldn’t be there, barrel scrapers and trophy snatchers, but in the most the clubs are TOP!
ECNL games are very competitive and played at a significantly higher speed and are more technical and tactical. The competition’s demands for a much higher level of soccer imposes more skillful and certainly more focused players.
Member clubs are guaranteed with the opportunity to play the very best clubs in the nation on a regular basis, and by providing an additional identification program within these games. You are more likely going to point out college coaches or staff members at an ECNL tournament/showcase rather that a local league or high school game.
For example I have traveled locally for four years in Central Florida as my son “played” in a league called GCF. While attending my son’s games on the other fields there were other age groups U16’s U19’s from the same league playing. I never once noticed a college coach attending these games EVER!
Local leagues also bring to the games incompetent referees, it is very frequent to see young unexperienced refs conditioning the outcome of a game in a smaller local league.
While there is something cooking in the NWSL for an academy program, the ECNL is the highest level of competition for girls. While for the boys it’s a different story:
The Development Academy (Restricted for Boys) was the most prestigious youth league in the U.S. Basically it was where the best youth clubs used to compete. even though the best youth academies were in this national league there was a lot of variety in club level, and when US Youth Soccer folded this program, the Major League Soccer came in and took over, eliminating the low standard youth soccer clubs from the new program and inviting in new promising clubs and academies. Since US Soccer has no longer control over the new DA “MLS NEXT” the level of clubs competing has drastically improved.
It’s is NOT the same as the U.S. Development Academy. The MLS NEXT offers more precise pick of teams and clubs for the best level of youth soccer possible.
The MLS NEXT is the highest league program in the US. Every Professional MLS club has it’s own “Homegrown“ program. For example in the state of Florida Orlando City SC and Inter Miami FC select players ages 10 and older to be a part of their program. The remaining 9 MLS NEXT clubs in the state are DA and not to be confused with the Homegrown programs.
There is also the USYS – another league on a 50 state scale split up into 13 conferences with 8 to 10 teams in each conference. The USYS is a league within their own conference and if qualified play against the winners of the other conferences until there’s a champion of the whole league. It doesn’t even come close to the ECNL or MLS NEXT, it’s a mediocre youth soccer level.
ODP – To many it is a money grab. The “Olympic development program” name is from the 70’s, outdated and the price tag that comes with it most families can’t afford so that removes 75%+ of the kids that are ultra talented. However we can say that it gives youth soccer players from lower level/league clubs a chance to play at a slightly higher level and meet youths from other parts of the state and in some cases the country.
Very costly: $500 registration, $200+ for each tournament fee. Then if you make the state team another $200+ for regional tournaments, plus $250 for uniforms. At the end of the day you’re paying more than what it would cost you in a higher league program like the ECNL.
Local Youth Soccer Needs a Reality Check – It’s not working and it’s time to start to find solutions and fix the problems, so that all areas in the US that are not covered by ECNL or/and MLS NEXT clubs, get a chance to be seen, discovered, identified by college coaches.
Parents that pay high fees for local soccer deserve a better environment in which they can see results in their child’s soccer experience. Qualified and most of all LICENSED coaches that can deliver the correct development. Coaches need to provide the most life-enriching interactions possible, what is the point of having a 11v11 (E) license coach that thinks he knows it all and claims he can take your child’s soccer to the next level, when he/she has never played at that level!! Clubs need an environment where they are celebrated as the connection point for communities and families everywhere, instead of having ego’s, bickering and fighting with the other 5 team club 10 miles down the road.
All the above is a deeply rooted cultural problem we have in low league and local youth soccer.
This season, our goalkeeper academy started assisting parents (at no cost) in placing as many local youth soccer players into clubs that offer ECNL or MLS NEXT, so that these very talented boys and girls will get a better chance at being identified at a regional and national level, thus drastically raising the chances of these athletes in gaining a college scholarship.