Many of ECNL Girls Teams Are Top The Youth Pyramid
While the choices of the best places for youth soccer development are always influenced by the location, ECNL is continuing to attract many of the top Girl’s teams in the USA.
The addition of the Portland Thorns FC brings one of the world’s most iconic women’s professional soccer brands into the ECNL.
“We are thrilled to welcome the Thorns Academy to the ECNL Girls,” said ECNL Girls Commissioner Jen Winnagle. “Having one of the most successful NWSL clubs in history join the ECNL as their platform for youth development will strengthen competition within the Northwest Conference and enable more of the nation’s top clubs to face each other in league competitions.”
Established in 2014, the Thorns Academy serves as the youth development platform for two-time NWSL champion Thorns FC. Beginning in 2016, the Thorns Academy was one of the 25 founding members of the U.S. Soccer Girls Development Academy and began play in four age groups (U14, U15, U17, and U19), adding a fifth team at the U16 level in 2019. By joining the ECNL, the Thorns Academy will add a sixth age group at the U13 level for the first time.
Under the direction of Academy Director, Laura Schott, the staff consists of six highly experienced and successful “A” licensed coaches that have all played and coached at the collegiate level that strongly believe in the Thorns development philosophy.
The Portland Thorns Academy was one of the first 25 clubs in the country accepted to the Girls Development Academy in 2016, and several current and former Academy players have been called in by U.S. Youth Regional and National Teams, including Olivia Moultrie, Shaela Bradley, Hailey Coll, and Paige Lacey.
Moultrie, 14, appeared with the Thorns U-19 team this past Academy season and was the youngest player to participate in training camp with the U.S. U-17 Women’s National Team in January, while she has also trained with the Thorns FC first team.
Players in the Thorns Academy have the opportunity to attend Thorns FC home matches, earn practice opportunities, observe training sessions and train at Providence Park.
“We are committed to the Thorns FC Academy and believe entering into this partnership with the ECNL will be key in its growth and success,” said Gavin Wilkinson, general manager and president of soccer for Thorns FC. “The ECNL is a proven national competition platform that will give our players the best opportunity to reach their full potential as we strive to develop players for youth national teams, top college programs and the first team.”
Nearly 90% of ECNL Girls alumni move on to play in the college game, where they overwhelmingly dominated individual conference honors in 2019 across the “Power 5” conferences. In total, over 1,100 ECNL Alums played this year across the five conferences, accounting for more than 62% of all rostered players in the Power 5.
The ECNL Girls is a national brand that includes eight conferences that span across the United States, including the Northwest Conference, which the Thorns Academy will play in with teams from Washington, California, Idaho, Utah, and Colorado. The Thorns Academy will compete in regular-season conference games, cross-conference events, and ECNL national events while trying to qualify for the ECNL playoffs.
Additional information on participating member clubs for the 2020-21 Season will be released in the coming weeks.