We receive a lot of questions about the ECNL -- What is it? Who's in it? Tell me more about it!
Following are answers to the most frequently asked questions we receive about the ECNL.
What is the Elite Clubs National League? The ECNL was founded in 2009 by forward-thinking Directors of Coaching across the country who saw a need for change in and special commitment to improving the daily environment for American elite female youth soccer players. These Directors came together and collaborated to build what would become the top female youth development platform in the world. The grassroots leadership and cooperation was unprecedented in American youth soccer, and the ECNL continues to be the most progressive and innovative development platform in the country while also being the home for the very best youth players in the United States. Challenge was an original member and Houston's first admitted club in 2009.
How do I try out for a Challenge ECNL team? ECNL teams may hold formal tryouts for ECNL players, beginning on May 1st, 2017. Any interested player or family should contact the Challenge ECNL staff well in advance to start an informative dialogue prior to the try out process.
Are there only two Houston based clubs with ECNL membership in 2017/18? Yes. The ECNL has made finalized membership decisions for next season and Challenge is one of two clubs in Houston.
Who will be members of the ECNL Texas Conference in 2017/18? The ECNL Texas Conference will be very similar to previous years. Houston will now have two member clubs, Challenge* and Albion Hurricanes*. The rest of the conference will be: Dallas Sting*, Tulsa Hurricanes*, Classics Elite*, D’Feeters SC*, Dallas Texans, Solar Chelsea, and FC Dallas. There is still one club TBA, keeping the conference total at 10. (* ECNL only club)
What Will the ECNL National Footprint Look Like in 2017? 66 member clubs return (out of 79) and 13 new clubs have been added. With 85% of the league returning, nearly 30 clubs declining application or membership to other leagues, the creation of a new conference (Ohio Valley), and the commitment of most clubs to play their elite teams in the ECNL, the future looks very bright and there is an overwhelming sense of excitement around the country.
Which Age Groups Will Participate in the ECNL? Since its inception, the ECNL has offered five single birth year age groups, u14-u18/19. The 2017/18 year will be the first season of u13 play, adding a sixth age group to our ECNL program. U13: 2005, U14: 2004, U15: 2003, U16: 2002, U17: 2001, U18/19: 1999/2000
How Many Players Can Be on an ECNL Roster? ECNL rules allow a maximum of 30 players to be rostered, with 18 eligible to participate on game days. Challenge ECNL teams typically roster 15-18 players.
Which Players Benefit from ECNL Play? The ECNL was formed in 2009 with its sole focus being on the total development of the ELITE female player. That mission continues into 2017 and Challenge’s dedication to the top female players in the country remains the same. We are proud to offer programming for our country’s very best players and their pursuit of National Team and high level collegiate soccer.
What impact does the ECNL have in National Team selection? The ECNL was designed to foster the development of the ELITE player. Currently 90% of US Youth National Team training camps are made up of ECNL players while nearly half of the Senior US National Team has ECNL ties. National team level players will continue to be scouted by US Soccer within the ECNL, while also being exposed to the ECNL’s vast scouting and identification network of coaches. Additionally, Regional PDPs (Player Development Programs), National ID2 Camps, and Nike ID2 National Camp are all part of the ECNL and are linked in to the US Soccer national team selection process.
Does Challenge afford play up opportunities if they are in the best interest of the player? Yes! Challenge has always played up players who may benefit from competing with older players. We begin this process at the youngest ages and continue all the way through to u18/19.
How Much Travel is Involved in ECNL Play? The ECNL Texas Conference provides Challenge with elite competition both within Houston/South Texas and North Texas. A typical conference season has us travel to Dallas three times and one time each to San Antonio/Austin and Tulsa. ECNL Texas Conference travel is significantly easier than other leagues, with less air travel required and more local/home games.
What are the ECNL National Events? The ECNL National Events are set up as the best college recruiting events in the country while also providing our teams with meaningful non-conference games. Challenge typically attends Phoenix (November) and Florida (December) while also having the privilege of hosting the Texas ECNL event in February. Additionally, Challenge is the only Houston club to have qualified every eligible team for the ECNL National Playoffs in June (Chicago in 2017). Over 300 coaches attend these events, held at outstanding facilities, and they are regarded in college coaching circles as must attend weekends. Challenge matches typically draw well over 30 coaches per game.
Can ECNL Teams Participate in Non-ECNL Showcases, Games, and Events? Yes. ECNL rules allow our players to participate in non-ECNL events, providing maximum college exposure and development opportunities for Challenge players.
Where is Challenge ECNL Training Held and How Often Do Teams Train? Challenge ECNL teams train primarily at Burroughs Park. We do also offer ‘location training’ in different areas around Houston to help with weekly travel time. Players are expected to attend team training at Burroughs at least twice a week and at least one other session in their geographic area, totaling a minimum of 3 sessions a week. We do offer options for players wanting to train 4 days a week.
Can ECNL Players Play School Soccer and Other Sports? Yes. This has been a hotly debated topic for years and rather than sending down mandates, the ECNL has said the clubs should decide what is in their players’ best interest. Challenge players are welcome to play school soccer (or other sports) if they choose, while also participating in ECNL activities during their school season. We recognize there is value in playing school sports but we also offer programming for those who decide to forgo high school soccer. Players who participate in school sports will be given an appropriate training schedule to allow for proper rest/ recovery.
What is Challenge’s Non-High School Program? Challenge will provide a full winter/spring program for those players who choose to not play high school soccer. We will offer a full training schedule, a match schedule consisting of games against colleges and clubs, and a spring break trip (international or domestic).
What are the ECNL substitution rules? ECNL rules state that a player may not re-enter a game, after being substituted, in each half. Other leagues have a total no re-entry rule, severely impacting playing time as well as development and college exposure opportunities. Simply put, no reentry means when a player is subbed, she may not go back into the game.
What is a Discovery Player? The ECNL allows each age group 2 roster spots (4 in u18/19) for players who do not have regular and easy access to ECNL clubs in their home area. While other clubs use Discovery Players for a competitive advantage (often displacing their homegrown players) Challenge has sparingly used these spots as our primary focus has been on developing our own players and promoting girls from within the club. Families interested in Discovery Player opportunities should contact the Challenge ECNL staff directly.
How long is the Challenge ECNL season? Training typically begins the first week of August and ends in late June, after the completion of the ECNL National playoffs. The ECNL National Finals are held in Mid-July and Challenge teams will attend if they advance out of the National Playoffs.
How can Challenge help my daughter with the college process? Challenge has long been one of the nation’s leaders in assisting players with the often-difficult college process. We have nearly 1000 alumni who have played college soccer while graduating roughly 40 players a year into all levels of college soccer. Through individual meetings, honest feedback, consistent communication, and long established trusting relationships with schools, we are able to help each player find the best fit.
Questions? Please email Stuart Self at firstname.lastname@example.org