What is ECNL Soccer? (Everything You Need to Know)

Table of Contents

The United States is home to various soccer leagues, among them is the ECNL Youth Soccer League. 

The ECNL, among other youth leagues in the United States, is meant to cultivate soccer talent and provide an enabling competitive environment for young players. 

Since its inception, the ECNL has grown consistently in size and popularity among the various youth soccer leagues in the country. The ECNL is a well-established youth soccer league with a wide range of players in various divisions across the country. 

In this article, we provide all the details you need to know about ECNL, its structure, and its championships. So, let’s get started!

What Does ECNL Soccer Mean? 

The Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) is a soccer league in the United States for youth between the ages of 13 and 19. It is approved by US Club Soccer.

The intention of the club is to foster an environment where young people can improve their soccer skills and join in on the competitive spirit. All activities are centered on the core values of ECNL.

The goal is to guarantee the development of player-centered programs and respect for style, diversity, structure, and systems. ECNL is an opportunity to enhance exposure for players to showcase their skills.

The league fosters a supportive environment for youth and individual growth.

Season Structure and Competition Format

The league has a regular season, National Events, and a postseason. The ECNL is a very active league, with games being played from August to February during the regular season. Post-season play is usually between June and July.

Regular Season

During the regular season, teams play in regional games. There are 10 regional groups for girls and 12 regional groups for boys.

The regional groups for girls are Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, New England, Northern Atlantic, Northern California, Northwest, Ohio Valley, Southeast, Southwest, and Texas.

For boys, the groups are Florida, Heartland, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Mountain, Northeast, Northern California, Northwest, Ohio Valley, Southeast, Southwest, and Texas.

The teams are ranked in table format, and each team can play up to 30 games during the regular season.

National Events

In national events, teams from different regions have the chance to play against each other. These are highly anticipated matches as teams get to measure up to each other and determine which region has the best soccer team.

The national event games are important because they give players visibility and help them get scouted. Underdog players, who would have otherwise gone unnoticed, are given a chance to show off and make an impression on other teams as well as on the coaches from college soccer teams.

Over the weekend of ECNL soccer games, there are also National Selection Games. These are all-star games with the crème de la crème of the entire league playing against each other. Participating in the National Selection Games is usually a huge honor for players.

A recent addition was made to the ECNL league with additional postseason games. 

National Playoffs and Finals 

Here are the thrilling national playoffs and Finals in soccer, where the best teams battle for glory. Experience the ultimate showdown!

Boys Playoffs

In August, the boy’s teams compete in the regional games and then in the National Events. The matches qualify the teams to be chosen as the top teams in the league.

For boys under 13, 48 of the teams are placed into four group stages for the ECNL Boys Playoff. Each group winner and the top four second-place teams move into the knockout round. Here, eight teams advance to the National Finals.

For boys under 14 to 17, there is a two-stage competition in which 64 teams play. The teams are divided into 16 in the group stage, with the winners moving into the knockout stage. Ultimately, the eight winning teams move on to the National Finals.

Boys under 18 and 19 from the top 16 teams play in a single-elimination Champions League to determine the National Champion.

Girl’s Playoffs

In the under-13–17 division, 44 teams in 11 groups play to determine the regular season standings. In the groups, the teams must play against each other until there are only three winners left.

The winners from each group and the teams in second place in each group advance to the knockout stage. The overall winner plays in the Champions League, thus determining the Girls’ National Champion.

The under-18s are grouped into 16 teams that play in a single elimination league until the winner is crowned the National Champion.

The ECNL playoffs comprise the Open Cup, Super Cup, and the North American Cup, or Showcase Cup.

North American Cup

Top teams from the under-18–19 boys league that did not qualify for the Champions League compete for the North American Cup or the Showcase Cup. The players on these teams can be scouted by college coaches.

48 teams from the girls under-16 and 17 age groups compete for the North American Cup as well as for the Showcase Cup A or Showcase Cup B.

Apart from the North American Cup, there are also other competitions, such as the Open Cup, Super Cup, and the ECNL Regional Leagues.

Open Cup

Teams that don’t make it to the Champions League, North American Cup, or Showcase Cup play for the ECNL Open Cup.

Teams from the Elite Clubs Regional League (ECRL) are invited to play as well. This gives players from the regional teams a chance to compete against other mid-tier teams in the ECNL and potentially get scouted by college recruiters. 

Super Cup

Both boys and girls under 15 and under 19 play for the Super Cup. The teams are made up of players from high levels of competition, playing for their native teams. They are later combined into a “super team” for extra training and competition.

ECNL Regional Leagues

Starting in 2019, ECNL Regional Leagues have leveraged their success with the ECNL Boys League to create more space for the ECNL Girls League. The leagues make more games local yet very competitive.

The league is organized by regions, all with the approval of the ECNL. Teams playing here may have the chance to compete in regional and national showcase events. By ECNL invitation, they may also get to play in National Events.

These games are meant to empower players, allowing them to improve their skills and compete with other highly skilled players. The teams also play to earn a spot on the ECNL team.

The ECNL Regional Leagues are a significant step towards empowering youth to play soccer while following the ECNL standards.

How Many ECNL Teams are there?  

The ECNL  currently comprises approximately 400 ECNL clubs across the country. The ECNL Boys’ teams have approximately 786 teams from 147 clubs, while the ECNL Girls’ teams have approximately 748 teams from 150 clubs.

In addition, there are approximately 840 and 230 teams, respectively, in the ECNL Girls and Boys Regional Leagues. 

History of Elite Clubs National League

Established in 2009, the ECNL was created to be exclusively played by young female soccer players.

Its creators were players and coaches from top national female youth clubs. It was created after noticing that young American female soccer players needed an environment for growth, development, and empowerment. 

The ECNL has since developed into the top female youth soccer development platform worldwide. The league has since received overwhelming cooperation from communities, transforming it into a giant talent-churning machine.

The league’s first season, from August 2009 to July 2010, had 40 soccer clubs. It began with the U15, U16, and U17 soccer teams. Between 2011 and 2019, the U18, U14, and U13 age groups were added to the league. 

In 2017, the league approved the inclusion of a boys’ division, which led to the creation of the ECNL Boy’s Division. The Boy’s division accommodates players from the U13–U18 age groups. 

The ECNL experienced the most growth in 2020, accommodating approximately 131 additional clubs playing in the league.

Playing in the ECNL

The ECNL provides teams with the environment to play at the highest levels of American youth soccer.

Teams must undergo an extensive application process to become part of the league. The teams are also expected to show their prowess and skill level.

Playing in the ECNL is a great opportunity, especially if you want to have a soccer career and improve your skill level. Every tier of the League provides challenges that sharpen players’ skills and increase their visibility for recruitment into top national college soccer teams.

If you are interested in knowing more, look online for lists of the ECNL Girl’s teams and ECNL Boy’s teams in your area. 


The ECNL’s overarching goal is to ensure excellence in the youth soccer experience by fostering an empowering environment. 

Team coaches are also heavily supported by League leadership to improve their coaching abilities. This ensures that players are led by highly skilled coaches to prepare for competitions.

The ECNL provides teams with the environment to play at the highest levels of American youth soccer. The ECNL is a great place to develop talent and be a part of something truly inspiring.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *