ECNL vs MLS Next: Which Youth Soccer Platform is Better?

  • By: Dale Horton
  • Time to read: 16 min.
Dale Horton
Dale Horton, the driving force behind Crossfire United ECNL, is a seasoned leader in youth soccer development. With a wealth of coaching experience and a passion for nurturing talent, Dale founded Crossfire United ECNL to create a soccer environment that goes beyond the pitch. His vision extends beyond victories, focusing on character development, leadership, and fostering a love for the beautiful game.

The Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) and MLS Next are two top-tier youth soccer platforms in the United States. Both offer high-level competition and focus on accelerating soccer development. While they have similarities, there are important differences to consider when deciding which platform is better for your child. In this article, we will compare ECNL and MLS Next in terms of structure, opportunities for college recruitment and professional soccer, cost, and more.

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Key Takeaways:

  • ECNL and MLS Next are competitive youth soccer platforms in the US.
  • Both platforms have strengths and differences that should be considered.
  • Important factors include college recruitment opportunities, pathway to professional soccer, cost, and player development.
  • Reach out to other parents and individuals in your local soccer community for personalized insights.
  • Make an informed decision that aligns with your player’s goals and aspirations.

Overview of ECNL

The Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) is a top-tier youth soccer platform in the United States, providing high-level competition and a focus on accelerating soccer development. Established in 2009, the ECNL has grown to include 113 girls clubs and 131 boys clubs. The league operates in nine conferences for girls and ten conferences for boys, with each conference consisting of 9-16 clubs.

The ECNL is renowned for its high standards in coaching and facilities, offering regular top-level games for players. It provides opportunities for both boys and girls to compete at the college level, with a focus on college recruitment. One of the key features of the ECNL is its partnership with Trace, a resource that enhances college recruitment opportunities for players.

With its commitment to player development and college recruitment, the ECNL offers a comprehensive platform for young soccer players looking to advance their skills and pursue opportunities beyond the youth level.

Overview of MLS Next

MLS Next is a youth soccer platform that was launched in 2020 as a successor to the Development Academy. It is organized by Major League Soccer (MLS) and is designed to create a direct pathway for elite young players to reach the professional level. MLS Next currently has 133 clubs, including 28 MLS Academies, and 590 teams. The platform focuses on providing top-tier coaching, competition, and infrastructure for training and playing.

One of the key features of MLS Next is its affiliation with professional MLS teams. This partnership allows for potential financial support, be it through scholarships or subsidies to help alleviate the cost for families. However, the total cost associated with participating in MLS Next can vary depending on factors such as club affiliation and travel expenses.

MLS Next has a clear structure and set of rules. The league does not allow players to participate in alternate or school sports, ensuring a strong commitment to soccer development. While MLS Next emphasizes creating a pathway to professional soccer, it is important to note that the route to the pros for women still tends to involve college soccer.

MLS Next Structure

MLS Next is structured to provide a clear development pathway for young players. It offers age-specific leagues and teams, ranging from U13 to U19, to ensure appropriate competition and player development. The league has a comprehensive coaching system that focuses on the growth and advancement of players. MLS Next also provides players with access to high-quality facilities for training and games.

MLS Next Features

MLS Next offers various features that contribute to its success as a youth soccer platform. Some of these features include:

  • Direct affiliation with professional MLS teams
  • Top-tier coaching and development programs
  • A clear pathway to professional soccer
  • Access to high-quality facilities
  • Strict rules and commitment to soccer development

MLS Next Clubs

MLS Next consists of 133 clubs across the United States, including 28 MLS Academies. These clubs provide players with the opportunity to train and compete at a high level, with the goal of advancing their soccer careers. Each club within MLS Next is committed to player development and offers a structured program tailored to the specific needs of young players.

MLS Next Age Groups

MLS Next offers age-specific leagues and teams for players in the U13 to U19 age groups. This ensures that players are competing against opponents of similar age and skill level, fostering an environment that promotes growth and development. The age-specific structure allows for targeted coaching and tailored training programs to meet the unique needs of each age group.

MLS Next Partnerships

MLS Next has formed partnerships with various organizations to enhance the development opportunities for young players. These partnerships include collaborations with top soccer equipment brands, sports science companies, and technology providers. By partnering with these organizations, MLS Next aims to continually improve the player experience and provide access to the latest advancements in soccer technology and training methods.

MLS Next Coaching

Coaching plays a crucial role in the development of young players, and MLS Next is committed to providing top-tier coaching at every level. The league boasts a network of highly qualified coaches who are dedicated to nurturing talent and fostering a positive learning environment. MLS Next coaches undergo rigorous training and certification programs to ensure they meet the highest standards of coaching excellence.

MLS Next Affiliation

MLS Next is affiliated with Major League Soccer (MLS), the top professional soccer league in the United States. The affiliation provides MLS Next players with a direct connection to the professional level of the sport. MLS teams regularly scout and recruit talented young players from MLS Next clubs, offering them a potential pathway to professional soccer.

MLS Next Cost

The cost associated with participating in MLS Next can vary depending on factors such as club affiliation and travel expenses. While the total cost is uncertain, families can expect to pay anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000 per year, once travel and other expenses are factored in. It is important to consider the financial aspect when choosing MLS Next as a youth soccer platform.

MLS Next Pathway to Pro

MLS Next is specifically structured to create a direct pathway for academy players to reach the professional level. It emphasizes player development and offers young players the opportunity to train and compete at a high level. The platform’s affiliation with MLS teams provides a clear connection to professional soccer, giving talented players a chance to showcase their skills and potentially earn contracts with professional clubs.

FeaturesMLS Next
Affiliation with professional MLS teamsYes
Age-specific leagues and teamsU13 – U19
Top-tier coaching and development programsYes
Access to high-quality facilitiesYes
Strict commitment to soccer developmentYes
Pathway to professional soccerYes

Comparison of College Recruitment Opportunities

One of the key considerations for parents and players when choosing between ECNL and MLS Next is the college recruitment opportunities offered by each platform. Both ECNL and MLS Next provide pathways for players to showcase their skills and attract the attention of college coaches.

In the case of ECNL, the league is known for its highly regarded National Events, which are considered some of the best college recruiting events in the country. These events attract a large number of college coaches and scouts, providing players with valuable exposure and opportunities to showcase their abilities on a national stage.

Furthermore, ECNL has partnered with Trace, a player development company, to enhance the resources available for players looking to compete in college. Trace offers video analysis tools and college recruitment support, helping players create highlight reels and connect with college coaches.

On the other hand, MLS Next primarily focuses on creating a pathway to professional soccer. While college recruitment opportunities are still available, the league places a stronger emphasis on development for the professional level. It’s important to note that for female players, the pathway to the pros often involves college soccer. However, MLS Next’s affiliation with professional MLS teams may open doors for players through additional exposure and support.

Ultimately, when considering college recruitment opportunities, ECNL has a more established reputation in this aspect. However, players should carefully evaluate their individual goals and aspirations when choosing between the two platforms.

ECNLMLS Next
College Recruiting EventsHighly regarded National Events that attract college coaches and scoutsLess emphasis on college recruiting events
Partnership for College RecruitmentCollaboration with Trace for enhanced resourcesNo specific partnership for college recruitment
Focus on Pathway to Professional SoccerSecondary emphasis on professional soccerPrimary focus on pathway to professional soccer

Pathway to Professional Soccer

When it comes to forging a pathway to professional soccer, both MLS Next and ECNL have distinct approaches. MLS Next, as the youth platform directly affiliated with Major League Soccer (MLS), is designed with the explicit goal of creating a direct path for academy players to go professional. The league provides top-tier coaching, competition, and infrastructure for training and playing, with a strong emphasis on player development. For male players, MLS Next offers a clear route to the pros. However, for female players, the pathway to professional soccer still often involves college soccer.

On the other hand, ECNL also prioritizes player development and growth, but it does not have the direct affiliation with professional teams like MLS Next. Instead, ECNL focuses on providing a platform for players to compete at the college level. The league offers high-level competition and resources for college recruitment, such as its partnership with Trace, a valuable resource for players looking to showcase their abilities and connect with college coaches.

Ultimately, while both platforms strive to develop players for professional soccer, MLS Next has a more defined focus on professional aspirations, particularly for male players. ECNL, on the other hand, offers a pathway to college soccer, which often serves as a stepping stone for women pursuing professional opportunities.

Cost Comparison

When considering which youth soccer platform is better for your child, one important factor to take into account is the cost. Participating in both the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) and MLS Next can involve significant financial investments.

According to SoccerAmerica, the average cost to participate in ECNL is approximately $8,000 per year. This includes expenses such as travel fees and other associated costs. On the other hand, the total cost for MLS Next can vary depending on factors such as club affiliation and potential financial support from MLS teams. While precise figures are not readily available, it is reasonable to expect that families can anticipate expenses ranging from $4,000 to $10,000 per year for MLS Next, factoring in travel and other related costs.

It is important to carefully consider the financial aspect when deciding between ECNL and MLS Next. Evaluate your budget and determine what you can comfortably afford for your child’s soccer development. Keep in mind that each platform may offer unique opportunities and benefits that align with your player’s goals and aspirations. Balancing cost with other key factors such as coaching quality, college recruitment opportunities, and player development should guide your decision-making process.

PlatformAverage Cost per Year
ECNL$8,000
MLS Next$4,000 – $10,000

Key Takeaways:

  • ECNL has an average cost of $8,000 per year, including travel fees and other expenses.
  • MLS Next costs can range from $4,000 to $10,000 per year, depending on club affiliation and potential financial support from MLS teams.
  • Consider your budget and weigh the cost against other important factors such as coaching quality, college recruitment opportunities, and player development.

Considerations for Player Development

When choosing between ECNL and MLS Next, player development should be the primary factor to consider. Both platforms offer high-level competition and opportunities for growth, but there are a few key differences to evaluate.

Coaching Qualifications

The quality of coaching can greatly impact a player’s development. Research the qualifications and experience of coaches within each platform. Look for coaches who are knowledgeable, experienced, and dedicated to player development.

Style of Play

Consider the style of play emphasized by each platform. Do they prioritize possession-based play, or are they more focused on direct, attacking soccer? Think about which style aligns with your player’s strengths, interests, and long-term goals.

Level of Competition

Assess the level of competition provided by each platform. Look for opportunities to play against top-tier teams and clubs that will challenge and push your player to improve. Exposure to high-level competition can accelerate development and provide valuable learning experiences.

Facilities and Resources

Consider the facilities and resources available within each platform. Look for clubs that provide well-maintained fields, access to quality training equipment, and additional resources such as sports science support, strength and conditioning programs, and sports psychology services. These resources can contribute to a player’s development and overall experience within the platform.

Seek Insights and Experiences

Reach out to other parents, coaches, and individuals in your local soccer community who have experience with ECNL and MLS Next. Their insights and experiences can provide valuable information to help you make an informed decision about which platform is best suited for your player’s development.

Table: Comparing Player Development Factors

Player Development FactorsECNLMLS Next
Coaching QualificationsHighly qualified coaches with a focus on player developmentTop-tier coaching with an emphasis on professional aspirations
Style of PlayVaries depending on the club, but generally a focus on possession-based playVaries depending on the club, but generally a focus on direct, attacking soccer
Level of CompetitionHigh-level competition against top-tier teamsHigh-level competition against other elite players
Facilities and ResourcesWell-maintained fields, access to quality training equipment, additional resources availableVaries depending on the club, but access to MLS team resources may be available

Remember, the decision between ECNL and MLS Next should prioritize your player’s long-term development and goals. Take the time to evaluate these factors and gather as much information as possible before making a decision.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some commonly asked questions about ECNL and MLS Next:

1. What is the difference between ECNL and MLS Next?

ECNL and MLS Next are both top-tier youth soccer platforms, but they have important differences. ECNL focuses heavily on college recruitment opportunities and offers a partnership with Trace for enhanced resources. On the other hand, MLS Next is designed to create a direct pathway to professional soccer, with affiliations to MLS teams. Both platforms offer high-level competition and player development.

2. How much does it cost to participate in ECNL and MLS Next?

The cost to participate can vary for both ECNL and MLS Next. On average, participating in ECNL can cost around $8,000 per year, including travel fees and other expenses. The cost for participating in MLS Next depends on factors such as club affiliation and financial support from MLS teams. Families can expect to pay anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000 per year for MLS Next, once travel and other expenses are factored in.

3. Which platform is better for college recruitment?

Both ECNL and MLS Next provide opportunities for college recruitment. ECNL is known for its national events, considered the best college recruiting events in the country, attracting numerous coaches and scouts. ECNL’s partnership with Trace enhances the resources available for players looking to compete in college. While MLS Next focuses more on creating a pathway to professional soccer, college soccer is still a crucial route for female players. ECNL has a more established reputation in terms of college recruitment.

4. How do ECNL and MLS Next support player development?

Both ECNL and MLS Next are dedicated to player development. ECNL emphasizes high standards in coaching, facilities, and competition, providing a platform for players to compete at the college level. MLS Next offers top-tier coaching, competition, and infrastructure for training and playing, with a specific focus on creating a pathway to professional soccer. It is important to consider factors such as coaching qualifications, style of play, level of competition, and facilities within each club when deciding which platform aligns best with your player’s development goals.

5. Are there other youth soccer programs besides ECNL and MLS Next?

Yes, there are other notable youth soccer programs worth considering. The National Premier Leagues (NPL) provide a platform focused on long-term player development and offer qualification opportunities for national championships. United States Youth Soccer (USYS) is the largest member of the United States Soccer Federation and offers recreational and competitive programs. The Elite Development Program (EDP) is another prominent organizer of youth soccer leagues and tournaments. These programs provide additional options for youth players at various levels.

Other Youth Soccer Programs

In addition to ECNL and MLS Next, there are other notable youth soccer programs worth considering. These programs offer additional options for youth players at various levels and provide different opportunities for development and competition.

National Premier Leagues (NPL)

The National Premier Leagues (NPL) provide a platform that focuses on long-term player development and offers qualification opportunities for national championships. NPL clubs prioritize player development and provide high-quality coaching and competition for youth soccer players. The NPL offers a pathway for players to showcase their skills and potentially attract the attention of college recruiters and professional scouts.

United States Youth Soccer (USYS)

United States Youth Soccer (USYS) is the largest member of the United States Soccer Federation and offers recreational and competitive programs for players of all ages. It consists of various regional leagues, state associations, and national championships. USYS emphasizes fun and inclusive participation while providing opportunities for player development. USYS acts as a governing body for many local competitive leagues and provides a framework for youth soccer across the country.

Elite Development Program (EDP)

The Elite Development Program (EDP) is another prominent organizer of youth soccer leagues and tournaments. EDP provides a competitive platform for players to showcase their skills and compete against top-level teams. The program focuses on player development, offering high-level coaching and challenging competition. EDP tournaments attract college coaches and scouts, providing opportunities for players to be noticed and considered for collegiate soccer programs.

ProgramDescription
National Premier Leagues (NPL)A platform focused on long-term player development and national championships qualification opportunities.
United States Youth Soccer (USYS)The largest youth soccer organization in the United States offering recreational and competitive programs.
Elite Development Program (EDP)An organizer of youth soccer leagues and tournaments providing a competitive platform for player development.

United States Youth Soccer (USYS)

United States Youth Soccer (USYS) is the largest youth soccer organization in the United States, providing recreational and competitive programs for players of all ages. With various regional leagues, state associations, and national championships, USYS offers a comprehensive framework for youth soccer across the country.

USYS prioritizes fun and inclusive participation while offering opportunities for player development. The organization serves as a governing body for many local competitive leagues, ensuring consistent standards and regulations for the sport. Whether your child is just starting their soccer journey or aiming for higher levels of competition, USYS provides a platform to nurture their passion and skills.

Structure of USYS

USYS consists of various regional leagues that operate under the umbrella of state associations. These regional leagues facilitate local competitions and serve as a stepping stone for players to progress within the USYS structure. State associations oversee the administration of soccer within their respective states, ensuring compliance with USYS guidelines and facilitating player registration and league management.

Regional Leagues

The regional leagues within USYS provide opportunities for players to compete against teams from neighboring areas. These leagues are organized geographically and offer a range of divisions based on age and skill level. Participating in a regional league enables players to experience different levels of competition and develop their skills in a competitive environment.

State Associations

The state associations affiliated with USYS provide local administration and support for soccer programs within their respective states. They oversee player registration, communicate with clubs, and organize official competitions such as state cups and regional championships. State associations play a vital role in promoting and developing youth soccer at the grassroots level.

National Championships

USYS organizes national championships for various age groups and divisions, allowing the top teams from different regions to compete against one another. These championships provide a platform for talented young players to showcase their skills and compete at a national level. The experience gained from participating in national championships can be invaluable for player development and exposure to higher levels of competition.

USYS OverviewUSYS StructureUSYS Regional LeaguesUSYS State AssociationsUSYS National Championships
United States Youth Soccer (USYS) is the largest youth soccer organization in the United States, providing recreational and competitive programs for players of all ages.USYS consists of various regional leagues that operate under the umbrella of state associations. These regional leagues facilitate local competitions and serve as a stepping stone for players to progress within the USYS structure.The regional leagues within USYS provide opportunities for players to compete against teams from neighboring areas. These leagues are organized geographically and offer a range of divisions based on age and skill level.The state associations affiliated with USYS provide local administration and support for soccer programs within their respective states. They oversee player registration, communicate with clubs, and organize official competitions such as state cups and regional championships.USYS organizes national championships for various age groups and divisions, allowing the top teams from different regions to compete against one another.

Conclusion

In conclusion, when deciding between ECNL and MLS Next for your child’s youth soccer development, there are several factors to consider. Both platforms offer high-level competition, access to professional coaching, and opportunities for growth.

For families focused on college recruitment, ECNL has a more established reputation in providing opportunities for players to showcase their skills. With prestigious ECNL National Events and a partnership with Trace, players have access to resources that can enhance their college recruitment prospects.

On the other hand, if your child has aspirations of playing professional soccer, MLS Next provides a more direct pathway to the pros. With strict rules on participation in alternate sports and affiliation with professional MLS teams, MLS Next aims to create a clear pathway for elite young players to pursue their professional dreams.

Ultimately, it is important to weigh the various factors such as college recruitment, pathway to professional soccer, cost, and player development when making your decision. Each player’s goals and aspirations are unique, so take the time to gather as much information as possible and consult with parents and individuals in your local soccer community to make an informed decision that aligns with your child’s goals.

FAQ

What is the difference between ECNL and MLS Next?

ECNL focuses on high-level competition and college recruitment, while MLS Next is designed to create a pathway to professional soccer.

How many clubs are part of ECNL and MLS Next?

ECNL has 113 girls clubs and 131 boys clubs, while MLS Next currently has 133 clubs.

What are the costs associated with participating in ECNL and MLS Next?

The average cost for ECNL is around $8,000 per year, while the cost for MLS Next can range from $4,000 to $10,000 per year.

Do both ECNL and MLS Next offer opportunities for college recruitment?

Yes, both platforms provide opportunities for college recruitment, but ECNL has a more established reputation in this aspect.

Does MLS Next offer a pathway to professional soccer?

Yes, MLS Next is structured to pave a direct path to professional soccer, although the route to the pros for women still tends to involve college soccer.

What are some other notable youth soccer programs to consider?

The National Premier Leagues (NPL), United States Youth Soccer (USYS), and Elite Development Program (EDP) are worth considering.

What is the role of United States Youth Soccer (USYS) in youth soccer?

USYS is the largest youth soccer organization in the United States, offering recreational and competitive programs for players of all ages.

How should I decide between ECNL and MLS Next for my child?

Consider factors such as player development, coaching qualifications, level of competition, and player goals when making your decision. Gather information and seek insights from other parents and individuals in your local soccer community.