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.