Sixty-seven college coaches watched one game.
In how many places could that statement be factual and relevant?
An ECNL Event is one of the few. As the top girls club soccer league in the country, ECNL puts on five National Events per season and college coaches from across the country grab their portable chairs and notebooks to take a place on sideline during the three-day spectacle.
Last weekend in Sanford, Florida was no exception with a heavy contingent of college coaches lined up to watch some of the best players in the nation in action.
TopDrawerSoccer.com was also in attendance. Check out our recaps from the play.
Below are three overarching thoughts from the play from Sanford, which was the second of the 2012-13 ECNL season.
1. The rise of the attacking midfielder
The most successful teams at the ECNL Event (predominantly Texas clubs) had a skillful attacking midfielder pulling the strings for the side. It is not an astute observation, but rather an indication of where girls club soccer continues to evolve.
The hustle and bustle style of play has been slowly disappearing for the elite level of club soccer and replaced by a more visually pleasing, technical-driven style that puts the pressure on the number 10 to be the creative force.
In Sanford, a number of players excelled in that role including a few that made the Top XI from the Event.
2. Depth is key
In these Events with three games in three days, the depth of the bench is the key factor for a good team. Multiple teams used mass substitutions during the games to keep fresh legs on the field, and also to give a chance for players on the bench to get time in front of the college coaches that were watching.
Three games does not seem like much for players and parents who are used to the tournament format with five-six games in a weekend, but the elite level of competition means each of those three games takes a toll on the player.
The very best teams showed very little drop off from one player to the next when the benches were cleared, which made for a successful weekend for teams like Eclipse Select Soccer Club U16, Sporting Blue Valley U17, and CASL Chelsea Ladies U18.
3. College recruiting moves fast
The feedback from many parents about college recruiting in girls soccer was the same – it all happens way too early. A top U17 team in the ECNL handed out a roster to college coaches that showed nine of the 11 starters were already committed (and most had been for over a year).
That puts a lot of pressure on the players on the U15 teams to already start thinking about the next step in their playing careers. Obviously, this is a two-way street, but college coaches are the ones that drive the offers and early looks at players who are just starting high school soccer.
For more on recruiting, check out an interview with Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum on early recruiting and why he thinks it should change.