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Post by Son_ofa_Pitch on 09/03/18, 02:29 pm

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Aaaaarrrghhhhh more leagues! More decisions! But what to do?

As we reach the halfway point of the inaugural Girls Development Academy season, It’s the first time we have had two legitimately competing leagues for the girls ‘Elite’ clubs, and for parents making those crucial decisions as to where to place their little superstar! So what has changed? If at all anything. Do we know what the differences are. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each? In the ever changing world of youth soccer, has the picture become clearer? or just more shrouded in politics, advertising and BS!!

The ECNL circuit has been in effect for some years now, it has a very clear, and well drilled brand and system. Their ‘Amazing Young Women’ moto is a nice touch, College coaches love the design and how it really is catered to their schedules. ECNL allows the break for girls to play High School soccer, loosely translated as the time to pick up the inevitable injuries, so basically 3-4 months to get healthy and their grades up.

At recent ECNL events a good number of coaches were in attendance. The Fall showcase in Phoenix(during NCAA Finals) there were approx 175 coaches in attendance, and at the Winter Texas event 207 attended. Compare and contrast that to the recent USDA event and you will see that each league had good college turn outs, for the USDA approximately 330 attended, and of course there were national team coaches/scouts in good attendance for the US Soccer sanctioned league. It does show that both leagues can operate alongside each other and by having two leagues, it instead could be heralded as creating more opportunities, for more players to be seen. Which should be the overall goal. ECNL’s in some ways has a more college friendly schedule, by way of multiple(2xPhoenix, Texas, New Jersey etc) showcase events, and the USDA has put in place their best practices, coach qualification restrictions and training regiments, so in their own way, are more player driven. In a lot of ways it is overall more player driven with their heavy focus on improving the training habits and environment.

USDA has very clear goals which is to make sure every player is developing in a set system, and coached in a way so as to benefit the national teams at all ages. As I mentioned above it has put in place practice guidelines, coach credentials and a constant evaluation, a one game a week game schedule, video analysis, national team scouts/staff watching and evaluating game days, and what I particularly like is a more training centered schedule rather than game centered. Could the powers that be learn from both? Will they combine the best of both and help everyone out?

I do still hold some belief that this may in fact happen, and what we end up with is a tiered system. The most frequently competitive teams/clubs in Tier 1 and the less competitive teams/clubs in Tier 2. While I don’t believe clubs will go for it I would love to see this system, and base it on a meritocracy. Meaning, their would be promotion and relegation between the two tiers. Competition is great for everyone! The kids play at this level because they are competitive! After all you have a race for qualifying for National Finals, so you may as well have it. College coaches love seeing players tested in adversity, they don’t want to watch 10-0 drubbings as they are in a results orientated business, they want to know which players can grind when the chips are down. Take what ECNL does for the colleges and what USDA does for the player’s and smash them together, now there is a recipe surely worth trying.
(numbers taken from Southwest conference)

ECNL: U14(will drop to U13) to U19 individual age groups – USDA U13/14 to U19 some individual age groups, some combined

ECNL: Approx. 16 league games 2-4 National Events(3 games) and National Finals(min 3games) – Plus High School play. Generally 1 game per weekend but sometimes 2

USDA: Approx 26 league games 2 Events(3 games) and National Finals – No High School – 1 game per weekend

Season lengths for both run September to June/July, but ECNL breaks Nov-March for High School

General costs range from Free/funded to $10,000py approx. numbers given meaning attending/travel to National events/showcases and qualifying for National Finals.

ECNL: No retry per half, no player game starts requirement

USDA: Strict substitution rules and play time/game start requirements

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