Written by Will Parchman

macario

The first time I’d seen the nearly invincible Catarina Macario play, she was already a more or less established club star by the loose definition of the term. Stars don’t exist, or at least as we know them to exist, at the youth level. But within the parameters of elite club soccer, Macario’s light was as bright as anyone’s.

By the time the ECNL playoffs rolled around under a loose overhanging shelf of cloud in Seattle during the summer of 2014, Macario was in the process of polishing one of the most prolific individual seasons in ECNL history. The ECNL playoffs are a mere runway for U15, U16 and U17 teams in advance of the ECNL Finals later each summer, and that particular year Macario’s San Diego Surf U15 team was in the process of qualifying. As the pool where the country’s best girls players ultimately congregate, Macario’s Surf had their work ahead of them.

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Written by The 91st

Believe it or not, the ECNL National Playoffs is bearing down on us. It’s now just two weeks off in Rockford, Ill., and the qualified field from the U14-U19 age ranges is already set. Now we just need the playoff groupings, and we etched those in stone on Thursday night during the ECNL’s live unveil of the draw.

While the U15-U17 ages use this stage as a launch pad to the Finals later in the summer, the U14 and U18 ages will crown champions in Illinois. Which means these groups are of hugely significant importance across the board. And the ECNL streamed the draw, which you can watch in its entirety here. Happy hunting.

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Written by Will Parchman

160404_U20WNT_Lakewood_Ranch_Camp_1

Once the initial shockwaves subsided, we were left wondering exactly how the newly announced Girls Development Academy from U.S. Soccer would divide the elite girls youth soccer landscape in the U.S. And now we might have some semblance of an idea.

The ECNL, of course, has been the top girls club soccer league in the country since its foundation in 2009. It was a spin-off of US Club Soccer’s, an institution that shares a step in the U.S. development pyramid with US Youth Soccer. The ECNL was always a set-apart entity from U.S. Soccer, although USSF did heavily recruit out of its ranks for USYNT players. Pretty much every girls player of record in the current U17 and U20 setups, as well as the vast majority of the top women’s college players in the country, spent more time in the ECNL as teens than anywhere else.

That meant that U.S. Soccer’s Girls DA, which opens its doors to games for the first time this fall, was a direct competitor with ECNL. This, needless to say, did not sit well with everyone.

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Written by Will Parchman

lag

The elite development landscape for girls soccer in the U.S. has never been more muddled. On one side, you have the ECNL, the nationwide league running since 2009 currently churning out around 90 percent of each U.S. Soccer YNT camp roster, on average. On the other, this new DA venture, which has expanded out to around 80 teams and will fling open its gilded doors for the first time next fall.

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Written by Will Parchman

ecnl

The second U.S. Soccer officially announced a girls Development Academy earlier this year, you could almost see the soft battle lines forming.

When the boys version was started in 2007, it was dropped into a soccer landscape desperately pleading for a single, unified national league. The men’s game needed a quality underpinning it patently did not have, and the DA was an answer to a market that actively asked for its help.

The girls DA has basically gone about establishing itself in the same way, which is problematic for some clubs. The ECNL, the national league of record and the girls DA’s immediate competition, can claim it’s doing the hard work of producing quality national teamers already. Around 90 percent of almost every YNT camp over the last few years has been made up of ECNL players, including Mallory Pugh, who moonlighted for the full USWNT while still being a part of Real Colorado’s U18 side.

There’s an argument to be made that the girls DA will be better than the ECNL, but will the margin be large enough to justify an all-out split among the nation’s best clubs? And will all of them even join?

On June 30, U.S. Soccer unveiled the first 25 clubs who came forward to join the new league. Among the entrants, PDA and So Cal Blues led an impressive contingent fringed with the surprise inclusion of 60 percent of the NWSL. It was an impressive haul and confirmed that U.S. Soccer’s resources will simply not allow the league to fail or even falter. Whatever it looks like, it’ll succeed in some measure.

A day later, Cincinnati-based club Ohio Elite offered its response. It is not joining the new girls DA.

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Written by Will Parchman

US-Soccer-Development-Academy-Flag-on-GoalNation

When the newfound girls Development Academy was officially set in stone earlier this year, there was a thin, barely concealed line scrawled in the sand.

U.S. Soccer entered into a club space with an already operational girls club league, the ECNL, and clubs suddenly had a decision to make. Some are big enough to have offerings in multiple leagues – PDA, for example, has 41 different girls teams, and obviously not all of them play in the ECNL – but some smaller clubs would have to choose between the two leagues outright.

The lines, it would appear, have begun to form.

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Written by Will Parchman

players

College coaches stretched along the sideline in their prim white scouting chairs and flapping track suits like a overextended supply chain. A few sat clustered together, huddled over their notepads, trading player impressions and gabbing about life on the road. As ever, dutiful parents patrolled this thin line of scholarship connection, passing out rosters with player GPAs, extracurricular activities, soccer accomplishments, interests.

As it is most days, it is all very cordial this day. Dozens and dozens of college coaches from across the country had flocked to a north Houston suburb to watch ECNL’s Texas showcase, featuring some of the very best girls club players from the U14 to U17 age groups. A concurrent U17 girls youth national team camp had knocked a handful of the country’s best players from the showcase, and some of the country’s best teams opted to skip it entirely. For most, that has more to do with travel expenses than exposure, since the latter is an almost impossibly enormous benefit at any of ECNL’s five massive national showcase events.

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Written by Will Parchman

ECNL

The ECNL season is a 10-month grind that inevitably leads to here. After the ECNL Playoffs concludes in Seattle in late June every year, there’s only one event left on the season calendar: the Finals. Those start in Richmond on July 14 (THAT’S TUESDAY) and run through the 18th.

If you hadn’t heard (and we’re here to tell you), the finals are U15, U16 and U17 teams vying to hoist the national title trophy. And the groups were unveiled on Monday. A glimpse of what the board looked like.

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Written by Will Parchman

snow

Snow in Texas? Yes.

In fact, a lot of snow in Texas. A fangs-out winter storm hit Fort Worth on Friday just as the door opened for the anticipated ECNL Texas event. Plunging temperatures and frosted fields didn’t stop the event from launching, however, which made for hazardous on-field conditions during the showcase’s initial spate of games.

You feel for the attendees. These occasional showcase events are meant as a primary recruiting tool for college programs, and players can turn a positive performance spread over a weekend into a scholarship offer. With this much snow on the ground, those hopes were dampened considerably on Friday.

In any case, fun pictures. Here’s a selection of some of the best.

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Written by Reshad Bahadori

Christen Press

The 2014-15 ECNL season is dedicated to celebrating the Amazing Young Women that have helped mold this league into the top female youth soccer platform in the world. As part of the campaign, ECNL is encouraging amazing young women to share their stories. Christen Press, current member of the US Women’s National Team, professional women’s soccer player for the Chicago Red Stars, alum of ECNL Member Club Slammers FC and could be on the cover of the next Wheaties Box! But, she needs your help to win Wheaties NEXT!

Let’s celebrate and support this amazing young woman by helping her get on the cover of the next Wheaties Box where she can represent all #ECNLAYW! Below is an open letter from Christen!

Fellow Amazing Young Women:

My name is Christen Press and I am a professional women’s soccer player for the United States Women’s National team and the Chicago Red Stars. It is with great excitement that I introduce you to Wheaties NEXT—a first of its kind competition. I am privileged to announce that I am competing in this challenge and have an opportunity to earn a coveted spot on the front of the next Wheaties box. But I need your help!

Supporters can vote for their athlete of choice by logging workouts on the following website: mapmyfitness.com/wheatiesnext. The competition runs from July 1st- to August 31st. Most importantly, for every workout logged for Team Press, General Mills will make a generous donation to Grass Roots Soccer- a non-profit organization that uses the power of soccer to educate, inspire, and mobilize communities to stop the spread of HIV. //www.grassrootsoccer.org

Find out more about the rules of the competition by logging on to wheaties.com, visiting facebook, or youtube.

Here’s how you can help:

Sign up for the Wheaties NEXT challenge at mapmyfitness.com/wheatiesnext and start logging!
Rally your friends and your network, by sharing the above link.
I look forward to having your support, and feel free to reach out with any questions: footballschristenpress@gmail.com.

Thanks for supporting,

Christen

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