Understanding the Difference Between ECNL and Academy

  • By:
  • Date: June 4, 2023
  • Time to read: 12 min.

When it comes to youth soccer in the United States, parents have several options for their children to develop their skills and potentially reach the highest levels of competition. Two of the most popular options are ECNL (Elite Clubs National League) and Academy. Both programs offer high-level coaching and competition, but there are important differences between the two that parents should consider when deciding which program is best for their child. In this article, we will explore the differences between ECNL and Academy.

Overview of ECNL and Academy Programs

The ECNL and academy programs are two options for young soccer players looking to develop their skills. While both programs offer high-level competition and coaching, there are some key differences between the two. The ECNL is a league for girls’ soccer that focuses on player development and college exposure. It is highly selective and only the top players in the country are invited to play. The academy program, on the other hand, is run by Major League Soccer and is open to both boys and girls. It focuses on player development and offers a pathway to professional soccer. Both programs have their strengths and weaknesses, and it’s up to each player and their family to decide which is the best fit for them.

History and Founding of ECNL and Academy

The history and founding of ECNL and Academy are fascinating stories that have shaped the landscape of youth soccer in the United States. The ECNL, or Elite Clubs National League, was founded in 2009 by a group of top girls’ soccer clubs who were frustrated with the limitations of the existing soccer system. They wanted to create a league that would provide a higher level of competition, more exposure for players, and better development opportunities. The Academy, on the other hand, was founded by US Soccer in 2007 as a new approach to player development. The Academy was designed to provide a direct pathway to professional soccer for elite youth players, with a focus on the holistic development of players on and off the field. Today, both the ECNL and Academy continue to play a crucial role in the development of young soccer players in the United States, with each offering a unique approach and philosophy to player development.

Player Eligibility Requirements for ECNL and Academy

Player eligibility requirements for ECNL and Academy programs may vary depending on the specific league or organization. However, in general, ECNL tends to place more emphasis on player development and competition at the highest levels, while academy programs focus on player development and do not have as strict eligibility requirements. For ECNL, players must typically be within a certain age range and meet certain skill and ability criteria, while academy programs may have more lenient requirements. Additionally, some ECNL teams may require players to commit exclusively to the team and forego playing for their high school soccer team, while academy programs often allow players to participate in both. Overall, the eligibility requirements for both ECNL and academy programs are designed to ensure that players are able to develop their skills and compete at a high level, but there may be differences in the specific requirements depending on the organization.

ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA ECNL ACADEMY
Age Must be U13 to U19 Must be U12 to U19
Club Affiliation Must be registered with an ECNL Club Must be registered with a USSF Development Academy Club
Training Requirements Train at least 4 times a week Train at least 3 times a week
Game Requirements Must play a minimum of 30 games per year Must play a minimum of 25 games per year
Travel Requirements Must be able to travel up to 3 hours for games Must be able to travel up to 2 hours for games

Training and Development Philosophy of ECNL and Academy

The training and development philosophy of ECNL and Academy may seem similar on the surface level, but there are significant differences that can impact the success of young soccer players. ECNL focuses on a holistic approach to player development, with an emphasis on technical skills, tactical understanding, physical conditioning, and mental toughness. They believe in a player-centered approach, where the development of each individual is prioritized over team success. Academy, on the other hand, places more emphasis on team success and winning games, with development of individual players taking a secondary role. This can lead to a more competitive, high-pressure environment, where players may feel pressure to perform at the expense of their personal growth. It’s important for young soccer players and their families to carefully consider the training and development philosophy of both ECNL and Academy before making a decision on which program to join.

Level of Competition in ECNL and Academy

The level of competition in ECNL and Academy can be quite different depending on various factors. While both are considered to be top-tier youth soccer leagues in the United States, there are some key differences that can affect the level of competition. For example, ECNL is a girls-only league that focuses on developing elite-level female soccer players, while Academy is a co-ed league that is open to both boys and girls. Additionally, ECNL teams often compete in regional and national showcase events, which can attract college scouts and professional coaches. On the other hand, Academy teams typically play in regular season games and may not have the same level of exposure to scouts and coaches. Overall, the level of competition in both leagues can be high, but the specific factors that impact that level can vary depending on the league and the team involved.

AGE GROUP ECNL TEAMS ACADEMY TEAMS ECNL AVERAGE GAMES PER SEASON ACADEMY AVERAGE GAMES PER SEASON COMPETITION LEVEL
U-13 150 200 30 25 High
U-14 140 190 28 24 High
U-15 130 180 26 22 High
U-16 120 170 24 20 High
U-17 110 160 22 18 High
U-18/19 100 150 20 16 High
U-13 50 100 25 20 Medium
U-14 45 95 23 19 Medium
U-15 40 90 21 17 Medium
U-16 35 85 19 16 Medium
U-17 30 80 17 14 Medium
U-18/19 25 75 15 12 Medium
U-13 0 50 0 15 Low
U-14 0 45 0 14 Low
U-15 0 40 0 12 Low
U-16 0 35 0 10 Low

Coaching Staff and Player Development in ECNL and Academy

The world of youth soccer is a complex and diverse ecosystem, and the differences between ECNL and academy programs can be difficult to navigate. One area of potential confusion is the role of coaching staff and the approach to player development. In general, ECNL teams tend to have more experienced and highly qualified coaching staff, with a focus on developing individual skills and tactical awareness. Academy programs often prioritize a team-oriented approach, with coaches emphasizing cohesion, strategy, and communication. However, these are broad generalizations and there is significant variation from program to program. Ultimately, the best way to evaluate coaching staff and player development in either ECNL or academy programs is to speak with current and former players, attend games and practices, and do your research on the specific program’s philosophy and track record.

COACHING STAFF AND PLAYER DEVELOPMENT STRUCTURE ECNL ACADEMY
30-40 coaches Yes Yes Yes
USSF A, B, and C licenses Yes Yes
College and professional playing experience Yes Yes
Regular evaluations throughout the season Yes Yes
Individual and team evaluations Yes Yes
Regular exposure through showcases and tournaments Yes
Participation in national events and playoffs Yes
Additional training sessions focused on individual skill development Yes Yes

Travel and Tournament Requirements for ECNL and Academy

Travel and tournament requirements can vary significantly between ECNL and Academy programs. While both programs generally require significant travel for games and tournaments, there are some key differences to keep in mind. For example, ECNL teams may be required to travel further for games and tournaments, as these programs are typically more competitive and draw from a wider geographic area. Additionally, ECNL programs may require more intense training schedules and may have stricter eligibility requirements in order to participate in tournaments. On the other hand, Academy programs may have more flexible scheduling and eligibility requirements, but may not offer the same level of competition or exposure to college recruiters. Overall, understanding the differences between these two programs and their respective travel and tournament requirements can help you make an informed decision about which program is right for you or your child.

TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS ECNL ACADEMY
Teams are required to travel out of state and may participate in national showcases. Teams primarily play regionally with limited out-of-state travel.
Teams are required to participate in designated ECNL tournaments, including national events. Teams are not required to participate in tournaments, but may do so if desired.
Provides a high level of competition and exposure to college coaches. Players may also participate in US Youth National Team events. Focuses on player development over winning, with a goal of developing professional players.
U13-U18/U19 for girls and U13-U14 for boys. U12-U19 for boys and girls.
Single league with limited promotion/relegation. Multiple leagues with promotion/relegation.
All coaches must hold a USSF 'A' License, or be in the process of obtaining one. Coaches are required to hold a USSF 'B' License, or be in the process of obtaining one.
Players are identified through tryouts and scouting, with an emphasis on top talent. Players are identified through club affiliations and may participate in scouting events.
No specific academic requirements. Players are required to maintain a certain GPA and participate in academic programming.
Expensive, with high fees for travel, tournaments, and equipment. Less expensive, with lower fees for travel, tournaments, and equipment.
Teams are affiliated with a single club. Teams may be affiliated with multiple clubs.
Fall and Spring. Fall, Winter, and Spring.
Multiple team training sessions per week. Multiple team and individual training sessions per week.
High, with top teams from around the country. Varies by region, but generally high with a focus on player development.
Separate girls and boys leagues. Mixed boys and girls teams.
Yes, with top teams from each age group. No.

Costs and Financial Aid Available for ECNL and Academy

The world of youth soccer can be confusing when it comes to the costs and financial aid available for ECNL and Academy programs. These programs offer elite training and competition opportunities for young players, but the costs can add up quickly. ECNL, or Elite Clubs National League, is a highly competitive league for female players that requires a significant financial commitment. The Academy, on the other hand, is a program for both male and female players that is run by U.S. Soccer and is designed to provide high-level training and development opportunities. The costs and financial aid available for these programs can vary widely depending on the club or organization running them, and it can be difficult to navigate the different options and find the right fit for your budget. Some clubs may offer scholarships or financial assistance, while others may require players to pay fees for everything from uniforms to travel expenses. It’s important to do your research and fully understand the costs and financial aid options before committing to a program. However, for those who are willing to invest in their soccer development, ECNL and Academy programs can provide many opportunities for growth and success on and off the field.

Player Pathways and Opportunities after ECNL and Academy

The world of youth soccer is constantly evolving, and with it, the player pathways and opportunities available to young athletes. For many years, the ECNL (Elite Clubs National League) and Academy programs have been two of the most prominent options for elite-level players looking to take their game to the next level. However, there are significant differences between the two, and understanding these distinctions is crucial for players, coaches, and parents alike.

For starters, the ECNL tends to focus more on individual player development, while the Academy places a greater emphasis on team play and tactics. Additionally, the ECNL is a club-based league, meaning that teams are formed around specific clubs, while the Academy is a U.S. Soccer-sponsored program that operates on a regional level.

Despite these differences, both the ECNL and Academy offer excellent opportunities for players to develop their skills and pursue their dreams of playing at the highest levels of the game. Whether players choose to pursue ECNL or Academy opportunities, the key is to find a program that aligns with their individual goals, values, and aspirations.

Ultimately, the path to success in soccer is as varied and diverse as the players themselves, and the best way to find one’s way forward is to stay curious, stay committed, and stay hungry for growth and learning at every step of the journey.

PROGRAM RECRUITING OPPORTUNITIES EXPOSURE LEVEL OF COMPETITION
ECNL ECNL showcases, tournaments, and ID camps ECNL National Events, including ECNL National Playoffs and ECNL National Championship High-level competition against other top clubs in the country
Academy US Soccer Men's and Women's Development Academy showcases, tournaments, and ID camps DA Winter Cup, DA Summer Showcase, and DA Playoffs High-level competition against other top clubs in the country, with a focus on player development rather than winning
ECNL ECNL National ID Camps Opportunity to train with and be seen by college coaches from around the country High-level competition against other top players in the country
Academy US Soccer Men's and Women's Youth National Team identification and selection Opportunity to be scouted by US Soccer national team coaches High-level competition against other top players in the country
ECNL ECNL Player Development Program (PDP) events Opportunity to train with and be seen by college coaches from around the country High-level competition against other top players in the region
Academy DA player tracking and evaluation system US Soccer and MLS team scouts have access to player data and evaluations High-level competition against other top players in the country, with a focus on player development rather than winning
ECNL ECNL College Impact Online platform connecting ECNL athletes and college coaches N/A
Academy US Soccer Development Academy College Showcase Opportunity to be seen by college coaches from around the country High-level competition against other top players in the country, with a focus on player development rather than winning
ECNL ECNL Sanctioned Leagues Opportunity for players to participate in high-level competition and be seen by college coaches High-level competition against other top clubs in the region
Academy DA College Advisory Program Program designed to help players navigate the college recruiting process N/A
ECNL ECNL National Training Camps Opportunity to train with and be seen by college coaches from around the country N/A
Academy US Soccer Training Centers Opportunity for players to train with US Soccer national team coaches and be scouted for national team selection N/A
ECNL ECNL National Playoffs Opportunity for teams to compete in a high-level tournament and be seen by college coaches from around the country High-level competition against other top clubs in the country
Academy US Soccer Combine Opportunity for players to showcase their skills in front of US Soccer and MLS team scouts N/A
ECNL ECNL National Championship Opportunity for teams to compete in a high-level tournament and be seen by college coaches from around the country High-level competition against other top clubs in the country
Academy US Soccer National Team Identification Centers Opportunity for players to be scouted by US Soccer national team coaches N/A

Pros and Cons of ECNL and Academy Programs for Players and Parents

When it comes to choosing between ECNL and Academy programs, both options have their pros and cons for players and parents to consider. One of the pros of ECNL is that it provides exposure to some of the top competition in the country, allowing players to showcase their skills and potentially catch the eye of college recruiters. However, the travel and commitment required for ECNL can be a significant con for players and their families, as it can be costly and time-consuming. On the other hand, Academy programs offer a more localized and less demanding option, which can be a pro for those who don’t want to travel extensively or have other commitments outside of soccer. However, the level of competition may not be as high as in ECNL, which can be a con for players looking to challenge themselves against the best of the best. Ultimately, the decision between ECNL and Academy programs will come down to each player’s individual goals and circumstances, so it’s important to carefully weigh the pros and cons before making a decision.

What is ECNL?

ECNL stands for Elite Clubs National League. It is a top-level, nationwide league for youth soccer players. The league is for girls only, and it focuses on developing players' skills and providing them with exposure to college coaches.

What is Academy?

Academy is a program created by the US Soccer Federation. It is designed to provide a development pathway for elite soccer players. The program is for both boys and girls, and it consists of a network of clubs and teams that provide high-level training and competition.

What are the differences between ECNL and Academy?

The main differences between ECNL and Academy are: 1) ECNL is only for girls, while Academy is for both boys and girls, 2) ECNL focuses on providing exposure to college coaches, while Academy is part of a development pathway for players to reach the professional level, and 3) ECNL is a league, while Academy is a program that includes a network of clubs and teams.

Which one is better for my child?

Both ECNL and Academy are top-level programs that can provide great opportunities for youth soccer players. The choice depends on your child's goals and needs. If your child is a girl who wants to focus on getting exposure to college coaches, ECNL might be a better fit. If your child is a boy or a girl who wants to develop their skills and potentially reach the professional level, Academy might be a better fit.

In conclusion, both ECNL and Academy soccer programs offer top-level training and competition for young players in the United States. The main differences lie in the level of competition, the structure of the programs, and the focus on college recruitment. Ultimately, the choice between ECNL and Academy will depend on the individual needs and goals of each player and their family.

can you play ecnl and odp

Previous Post

Can You Play ECNL and ODP? Exploring the Possibilities

Next Post

Understanding the Pre-ECNL Program and its Benefits

what does pre-ecnl mean