Competition: First, the ECNL provides the opportunity for the best female youth soccer players in the country to compete against each other - one of the requirements for maximizing player development. Because the ECNL only includes the elite clubs in the country, every ECNL game is exceptionally competitive and played at a significantly higher speed with more physical, psychological, technical and tactical demands on the players than the "average" game. The consistency of this competition and the demands it imposes creates more skillful, intelligent, and focused players. Second, in order to maximize the competitive level of each ECNL game, the ECNL only schedules one ECNL game per day per team, and no more than three days of ECNL games in succession. This aids in reducing burnout and fatigue from game-to-game.
Substitution: The ECNL limits the number of substitutions in each ECNL game by prohibiting re-entry of players in each half. In other words, once a player is subbed out of an ECNL game, the player may not re-enter the game in that half of play. This forces players to maintain their concentration and work-rate for far longer periods of time than in most other competitions, while also helping to prepare them for competition at the national and international level. In other words, without the massive substitutions common in other youth soccer events and leagues, players in ECNL games are forced to adapt to the physical and psychological demands of playing for 80-90 minutes without break and without the "cushion" of temporary substitution to re-energize or re-focus. They are also forced to adapt to the role and responsibilities of coming off the bench, late in a game, to add an attacking threat or to kill the game with high intensity defending.
Roster Rules: The ECNL allows a flexible roster of up to 26 players per team, while also allowing players to be rostered on multiple teams within their ECNL club. In addition, the ECNL allows players to move from one team roster to another from day-to-day, allowing players to play in different age groups in the same event. (A player may only play in 1 ECNL game per day.) This allows talented players to "play-up" against older players when a club determines it is in the best interests of the player to do so in order to maximize challenge and learning.
Relief of Calendar Congestion: By guaranteeing member clubs with the opportunity to play the best clubs in the country on a regular basis, and by providing an additional identification program within these games, the ECNL schedule allows member clubs to reduce the total number of games played by their teams and players each year. This provides each member club with more time for training to develop each player, and provides players more time for recovery and rejuvenation over the course of the year.
Standards and Recommendations: The ECNL provides a recommended set of minimum standards and expectations for players and staff of ECNL member clubs to create a more professional soccer environment. Additionally the ECNL provides member clubs with the opportunity to share best practices in player development, club organization, and administration, to improve the daily experience of the players and member families.
ROSTER FLEXIBILITY AND POOL TRAINING
The ECNL is governed by US Club Soccer which allows for 26 player rosters and daily roster movement. This gives Challenge the flexibility to allow ECNL players the opportunity to play up into older age groups while also allowing players from Challenge US Youth Soccer rosters the opportunity to be rostered in ECNL teams and participate in games with no restrictions or penalty to their US Youth Soccer sanctioned team.
To create cohesiveness between the ECNL and US Youth Soccer teams, while also promoting individual development, we have created a Pool Training model which allows players from our US Youth Soccer teams and other areas (College Station, Kingwood, South) the opportunity to train with ECNL teams on a weekly and monthly basis. Additionally, our ECNL staff spends time each week in other locations within Challenge in an effort to provide a link between all of our sites and programs. This is a system which helps develop individual players who aspire to play at the highest level while also deepening our player pool within Challenge.