ECNL’s Christian Lavers, “The Landscape in Youth Soccer is Clear.”
The Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) Girls has expanded its successful top league and is welcoming six new clubs. Beach FC, Legends FC, Oklahoma Energy FC, Sporting Blue Valley, Sporting Iowa, and Utah Royals FC – Arizona will join the country’s top youth female league for the 2021-22 season.
The addition these new clubs brings additional talent and fierce competition into the already loaded Midwest, Southwest, and Texas Conferences, and will continue the fulfillment of the ECNL mission to Raise the Game across the country.
For more than a decade, the ECNL has supported the nation’s leading clubs as they develop the next generation of college and professional stars.
“ECNL and its clubs are leading the growth of American youth soccer.”Christian Lavers, President and CEO – ECNL
Christian Lavers is the President and CEO of the ECNL, and as one of the founders of both the girls and boys leagues, it is his vision that has enabled the sustainability and growth of the organization. The growth of the ECNL is remarkable. The numbers speak for themselves:
- ECNL Boys has approximately 786 teams
- ECNL Girls has approximately 748 (included composite)
- ECNL Girls Regional league teams – approximately 840
- ECNL Boys Regional League teams – approximately 230
The six clubs have joined the ECNL Club Competition, the top tier of competition in the ECNL, several after a year of impressive results in the ECNL Regional League competition, reflecting what will be the most common pathway in the future. Clubs are judged by the entire body of work across all ages groups, according to Lavers who said “A second round of acceptances is expected to be announced in the next 2 weeks.”
““We think the pyramid and landscape in youth soccer is clear,” said Lavers. “ECNL is clearly the top level of competition for girls players and teams in the United States. On the boys side, we believe ECNL is the best overall competition – recognizing that fully-funded MLS Academies have exceptional teams and players – but top to bottom the ECNL competition provides the most robust structure and competition.”
“The landscape of youth soccer is less fractured than before the Coronavirus COVID-19. ECNL is the Clear Choice for Girls.”Christian Lavers, President and CEO – ECNL
If a player is not rostered by an MLS Academy, then Lavers believes that ECNL is significantly stronger completion than other options.
“Every player writes their own path, based on their own needs and decisions, and there are multiple ways to maximize potential and reach the top,” said Lavers.
On the ever sensational topic of high school soccer and the controversy of if and should high level players play for on their school’s soccer teams, Lavers has always maintained a consistent position. “The choice to play high school soccer is a personal choice — for the player and the club they opt to play for,” said Lavers in an interview last week.
“Year over year, the ECNL has provided players, clubs and coaches with an unmatched environment to achieve their potential and their goals,” said ECNL Girls Commissioner Jen Winnagle. “We are excited for these teams to begin their journey in the ECNL, and for the players to experience not only the competition but also new programs like the Super Cup, designed to further extend the pathway for personal development. The ECNL embraces the demand for continuous evolution and innovation to insure a constantly increasing standard of excellence to challenge the nation’s best.”
All six teams join the top female youth league in the world after peaking in other leagues and competitions over the previous years.
Sporting Blue Valley and Sporting Iowa make the jump after successful campaigns in the ECNL Regional League – Heartland Conference this season, where they were at the top of the division for nearly every age group. Beach FC, Legends FC, Oklahoma Energy and Utah Royals FC – AZ all continue their rise through the youth soccer ranks in their respective regions, building on a history of national success across multiple platforms over several years.
Beach FC, Legends FC and Utah Royals FC – Arizona will all join the ECNL’s Southwest Conference, Sporting Blue Valley and Sporting Iowa will join the Midwest Conference, and Oklahoma Energy will join the Texas Conference.
ECNL GIRLS’ Welcomes Beach FC
With more than 125 boys and girls teams representing more than 1,800 families, Beach FC is one of the largest soccer organizations in Southern California. Through a distinct style of play, the club has developed many players for collegiate programs, national teams and for the professional ranks. At its core, Beach FC believes in family, industry and community and remains deeply committed to its local roots.
“Beach Futbol Club is thrilled to be including our girls program in this new chapter for our club,” Club Director Mauricio Ingrassia said. “We have spent the better part of the last decade building our club to national prominence. In roughly the same amount of time, the ECNL has risen to become the highest level of competition and player development in the United States. We are looking forward to the competition and to becoming great partners for the league in its mission. We are truly grateful for the opportunity to be all-in with the ECNL.”
ECNL GIRLS’ Welcomes Legends FC
Founded in 2002, Legends FC has grown from just four teams in its inception to 265 in 2020. In those years, Legends FC has won four national championships, four national second-place finishes, 11 regional championships, 24 state championships, more than 50 national level players and more than 400 collegiate recruits.
“Legends FC is excited to join the ECNL,” Club Director Josh Hodges said. “The ECNL has built an incredible platform that fosters growth and development opportunities through programming, ongoing education, player identification, and the highest level of competition in the country. Our rich history of committed and driven players and coaches will truly have an opportunity to maximize their potential. We look forward to working with the ECNL leadership and collaborating with member clubs around the country in our responsibility to raise the game.”
ECNL GIRLS’ Welcomes Oklahoma Energy FC
Oklahoma Energy FC was born out of the legacy of one of Oklahoma’s most successful soccer programs, Oklahoma FC. In 2017, OEFC partnered with USL Club Oklahoma City Energy FC to form a statewide program bringing an emphasis on challenging their players in the best competitions while maintaining the key premises of fun and passion in the game. With the singular focus to provide the best development and competition for players of all levels in our state, Oklahoma Energy is proud to join the ECNL.
“Oklahoma Energy FC is excited to become a new member of the ECNL for the 2021-22 season,” Girls Academy Director Gareth Evans said. “At OEFC, we are proud of the culture and environment we provide our membership. We look forward to continuing to provide our players with college and USYNT exposure whilst also getting to compete with the best clubs in the country on a weekly basis. Being able to add the ECNL and ECNL Regional League to our elite level programming gives us a great platform to help grow and develop our players and club further.”
ECNL GIRLS’ Welcomes Sporting Blue Valley
Sporting Blue Valley was founded in 1977 with the goal to provide area youth with a fun, safe recreational league. In the 40-plus years since, Sporting Blue Valley has expanded to include more than 120 teams, ranging from U-8 to U-19 age groups. In the spring of 2011, Blue Valley Soccer Club became a Sporting KC Academy affiliate and one of the founding members of the Sporting Club Network.
“Sporting Blue Valley is extremely excited to be a member of the ECNL,” Girls Director of Coaching Richard Davies said. “The competition provided will give our female players the best environment to develop to their full potential. We look forward to competing against so many fantastic clubs.
ECNL GIRLS’ Welcomes Sporting Iowa
Sporting Iowa was established in 2014 through the merger of multiple Iowa clubs, and is a Sporting KC Academy affiliate. Sporting Iowa emphasizes player development and maximizing opportunities for youth soccer players in Iowa through participation in local, regional and national events, a philosophy continued and emboldened by joining the ECNL.
“Sporting Iowa is ecstatic to join the prestigious Elite Club National League and to further enhance the opportunities and pathways we constantly search for to amplify the experience for our players,” Executive Director John Sheridan said. “We are proud to represent Iowa as the first and only club to have full ECNL access for our girls program. We look forward to utilizing the high-quality competition, recruitment platform, club connections, and travel events the ECNL provides. This will be a complete game-changer for soccer players in Iowa.”
ECNL GIRLS’ Welcomes Utah Royals FC – Arizona
Utah Royals FC – Arizona’s mission is to be a leader within Arizona and be a national leader in player development. With teams ranging from U-13 to U-19, Utah Royals FC – Arizona is building a pathway from academy to professional and international opportunities. By joining ECNL, the club provides its athletes with more opportunities to fulfill that journey.
“We are excited to join the ECNL with our girls program,” Academy Director Tiffany Roberts said. “The strength of the ECNL and all of the programming they provide is known nationwide. The ECNL has a track record of creating a competitive conference structure and national events that will benefit our players. We are always looking for the best possible competition for our young women and the ECNL will provide that opportunity for our players and give them a great pathway into college and beyond.”