Christian Lavers on ECNL Teams Playing Barcelona, PSG, Man City, and Atletico Madrid at ICC
Youth Soccer Players at the International Champions Cup Futures Tournament Challenged the World’s Biggest Clubs. This groundbreaking tournament gave American ECNL female youth soccer players the chance to compete against Europe’s famous giants. The results? Read what Christian Lavers, President of ECNL thinks …
America is on top of the women’s soccer world. As reigning champs of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, it is hard to dispute our country’s success on the international women’s soccer stage, but will we be able to compete successfully in the future? That has been a major concern.
The Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) partnered with the International Champions Cup (ICC) by supporting the 2019 International Champions Cup Futures Tournament held last December 10-16, 2019 at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL.
This event was an opportunity to test our young female soccer players against great international competition.
The prestigious youth soccer event known as the ICC Futures Tournament featured a new U15 girls age group with twelve U15 girls teams; four of the top U15 teams in the ECNL – Concorde Fire Platinum, Heat FC, LAFC Slammers, and PDA Blue plus four ICC All-Star Teams powered by ECNLand the four international teams from Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Atletico Madrid, and Manchester City.
This was the first youth soccer event where American female youth soccer players had the opportunity to compete against their counterparts from European.
For this ground-breaking competition, the rosters for the four ICC All-Star teams were selected from the top players, regardless of club background or league affiliation.
With ECNL players earning 86% of the roster spots, the teams represented USA’s four regions; East, Midwest, South, and West. A total of 66 current ECNL players participated. Players on the ICC All-Stars were from clubs all across the country including Michigan Hawks, Seattle United, Connecticut FC, Internationals SC, Florida Elite SA, Concorde Fire, Eclipse Select SC, Albion Hurricanes and Richmond United.
While FC Barcelona triumphed at emerged as the 2019 ICC Futures Champion, the other three teams that advanced to the semi-finals were all American.
The highly competitive semi-final between LAFC Slammers vs Barcelona ended with the Spanish giant scoring one goal to advance, the final score was 1-0. In the other semi-final, New Jersey’s PDA Blue defeated ICC All-Star West in PKs to advance to take on Barcelona in the highly anticipated Final.
Interview with ECNL’s President Christian Lavers on the ICC Futures Tournament
Diane Scavuzzo: How was the ICC Futures Tournament?
Christian Lavers: It was really an exciting event. On the girl’s side, there were four of the biggest brands in world soccer competing against four of the top ECNL clubs in the country based on last year’s standings at this age group. Selected games were televised on ESPN, and it was a great environment at IMG.
Diane Scavuzzo: This was a very special opportunity for American teams to test their skills against European giants. How did the girls’ side of this competition develop?
Christian Lavers: In 2019, the ICC Futures tournament was only a boys’ event. When ICC wanted to add a girls’ division, they reached out to us to discuss it. We, of course, jumped at the opportunity to give some of our top players the experience to say that they had played against Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and to experience international club competition.
It was just an unbelievable experience.
On top of this outstanding competition, the games were played at a wonderful venue and they were streamed or televised and available for anyone in the world to watch.
It doesn’t get much better as a young soccer player.
Diane Scavuzzo: How competitive was the Girls U15 bracket?
Christian Lavers: With a total of 12 teams competing in the Girls U15 bracket, it was incredibly exciting and very tough. Three out of the four teams that advanced to the semi-final were American.
When you look at the youth soccer landscape across the world, the American teams in female youth soccer are better than they’ve ever been.
Diane Scavuzzo: The girls’ teams performed well, competing against tough competition from across the globe?
Christian Lavers: Yes, it’s clear that the depth and quality of the youth female player pool in the United States have never been better.
At the ICC Futures Tournament, we had four fantastic club teams competing; Concorde Fire Platinum, Heat FC, LAFC Slammers, and PDA Blue. I thought one of these teams was going to win the ICC championship, and they all competed well.
The reality is that there are several more club teams across the ECNL that would have also done very well there, and we could have put several more All-Star teams of a similar level together.
The depth in this country is incredible.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that we are satisfied and we can’t improve. One of the great things about having these types of games is the ability for American coaches, clubs, and players to see where they can do things better, or differently, and to improve.
The Barcelona team, for example, certainly played very well and in a style that I think we all would like to see our players and teams execute on a regular basis.
Diane Scavuzzo: Why do you believe the quality of the American female youth soccer player is so good now?
Christian Lavers: Because the game is growing.
I think the clubs are doing a better job every year in providing great environments.
The coaches are getting better, the players are doing and accomplishing more at a younger age than ever before, and today’s youth soccer players have new and different opportunities that inspire them to want to be better.
I think there are a lot of coaches in the youth game now that take what they do very seriously, want to be great professionals in the game, and want to learn how to be better.
That drive really spurs the game forward as far as the training and competition environment goes, and when you combine it with motivated players with great goals to strive to accomplish, we think that huge improvement has occurred in the past 10 years and even more will continue to come in the next 10.
Now we have players who can reflect back on playing against the biggest clubs in world soccer. And, winning many of the matches.
If this not going to inspire people to want to be better, and to work harder, and to have bigger dreams, then nothing will.
Diane Scavuzzo: The International Champions Cup Futures Tournament boys division had high-level teams competing as well including Barcelona, PSG, Arsenal, AS Roma, Benfica, and Chivas de Guadalajara. How many ECNL boys participated in this competition?
Christian Lavers: Rough numbers on the boys’ side, probably about forty ECNL players participated and competed well, and most of the All-Star teams were coached by ECNL Boys coaches, but none advanced into the top playoff group, which was won by the Brazilian soccer club CR Vasco da Gama.
One of the things the ECNL Boys is doing is providing a stage and excitement for many boys players, clubs and coaches in this country that may have been overlooked for much of the past decade – and starting to provide more opportunity, resources, and meaning to what they experience.
The level of the ECNL Boys has jumped overall from our first year to now in our third year, and I think that is just the beginning.