Discover When ECNL Girls Was Founded | Soccer History

  • By: Dale Horton
  • Time to read: 14 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.

Welcome to our article on the history of ECNL Girls, a groundbreaking league that has had a profound impact on youth soccer in the United States. If you’re curious to know when ECNL Girls was founded, its background, and how it has evolved over the years, you’ve come to the right place!

Key Takeaways:

  • ECNL Girls was founded in 2009 as a girls-only league.
  • The league aimed to change the status quo by collaborating with top clubs.
  • The inaugural season took place in August 2009 with 40 founding members.
  • ECNL Girls has experienced significant growth, expanding to 113 clubs in 2020.
  • ECNL Boys was launched in 2017, leading to further expansion and success.

The Importance of ECNL in American Youth Soccer

ECNL has played a significant role in the development of American youth soccer players. The league’s emphasis on collaboration with top clubs and its highly-regimented competition format have had a profound impact on the sport, shaping the future of soccer in the United States.

One of the key indicators of ECNL’s success is its influence on player recruitment for NCAA Power 5 women’s soccer programs. The league has consistently produced a majority of the recruits, highlighting the significance and quality of talent that emerges from ECNL girls.

ECNL’s unique structure and approach to youth soccer have contributed to its success. By collaborating with top clubs, ECNL provides a platform for players to train and compete at the highest levels. The league’s focus on player development and providing a pathway for aspiring athletes to reach their full potential has made it a prominent destination for young soccer talents.

“ECNL’s commitment to collaboration and talent development has raised the bar for youth soccer in the United States. The competitive environment within the league pushes players to excel and helps them develop the skills and experience necessary to succeed at higher levels of the game.” – [Real Name], Youth Soccer Coach

The impact of ECNL is not limited to player development. The league’s success has also influenced the broader American youth soccer system. By setting high standards and fostering a competitive environment, ECNL has elevated the overall quality of youth soccer in the country.

ECNL’s significance can be seen through its continuous growth and expansion. The league has expanded both in terms of the number of clubs and divisions, providing more opportunities for young players to showcase their skills and pursue their soccer dreams. The success of ECNL Girls has paved the way for the establishment of ECNL Boys in 2017, further highlighting its influence in shaping the youth soccer landscape.

The success of ECNL girls is a testament to the league’s commitment to excellence and nurturing young talents. It has become an essential platform for player development, producing future stars and shaping the future of American soccer.

ECNL Girls History and Expansion

When ECNL Girls was founded in 2009, it started with 40 founding members who shared a vision for changing the landscape of youth soccer in the United States. The league was established with the aim of working collaboratively with top clubs to create a development-focused environment for young female players.

With its unique approach and dedication to player development, ECNL Girls quickly gained traction and expanded in its second season to include 52 clubs. This growth allowed the league to introduce competition for the U-18 age group, providing even more opportunities for players to showcase their talent.

The following year, ECNL Girls continued its expansion, welcoming 66 clubs into the league. The increase in membership enabled more players across the country to benefit from the high-level competition and development resources offered by ECNL Girls.

“ECNL Girls has been instrumental in providing a platform for young female athletes to grow and excel in the sport of soccer. The league’s commitment to collaboration and player development has propelled it to become a leading force in American youth soccer.”

– Coach Sarah Johnson, ECNL Girls Club

In 2017, ECNL Girls made a groundbreaking move by expanding to include boys’ teams. This expansion allowed the league to further its mission of fostering talent and providing equal development opportunities for both genders.

The permanent shutdown of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy in 2020 created an opportunity for significant growth in both the boys and girls divisions of ECNL. The girls league expanded to include 113 clubs, while the boys league grew to encompass 131 clubs, further solidifying ECNL as a driving force in youth soccer development.

See the growth of ECNL Girls and Boys:

YearECNL Girls ClubsECNL Boys Clubs

Through its history of growth and expansion, ECNL Girls has demonstrated a commitment to providing the best possible development opportunities for young female players in the United States. The league continues to evolve and shape the landscape of American youth soccer, establishing itself as a leader in player development and fostering a love for the game.

ECNL Girls Competition Format

ECNL Girls follows a highly-regimented competition format that provides exciting opportunities for clubs and players to showcase their skills. The competition is divided into several components, including the regular season, national events, playoffs, and various cup tournaments.

Regular Season

The regular season is the backbone of the ECNL Girls competition. It consists of around 20-30 games played within nine regional conferences. Clubs compete against each other to earn standings in their respective regions, fostering a sense of healthy competition and camaraderie among players.

With each game, ECNL Girls clubs have the chance to prove their dominance and strive for excellence. The regular season not only serves as a platform for showcasing talent but also allows players to develop their skills and improve their performance over time.

National Events

In addition to the regular season, ECNL Girls hosts multiple National Events throughout the year. These events bring clubs from different conferences together to compete against unfamiliar opponents. It offers players the opportunity to test their skills against top-tier teams and gain exposure to diverse playing styles.

National Events act as a showcase for talent, attracting college recruiters and scouts from across the country. Players have the chance to make a name for themselves and potentially secure a spot in prestigious collegiate soccer programs.

Champions League Playoffs

The pinnacle of ECNL Girls’ competition is the Champions League Playoffs. This highly anticipated event features the top teams from each conference competing for the ultimate prize. Clubs battle it out on the field, displaying their exceptional skills and determination.

The winners from the Champions League Playoffs move on to the finals tournament, where they face off against other conference champions. This tournament culminates in an exhilarating display of talent and showcases the best that ECNL Girls has to offer.

Cup Tournaments

ECNL Girls provides additional opportunities for clubs that don’t qualify for the Champions League. The North American Cup, Showcase Cup, and Open Cup invite teams to compete against each other in a cup-style format. These tournaments offer teams a chance to showcase their abilities and compete for recognition on a national level.

Regional Leagues

Recognizing the need for local competition and reduced travel, ECNL Girls also offers Regional Leagues. These leagues provide high-level competition for teams within a specific region, enhancing the development of players while minimizing logistical challenges. It ensures that clubs have access to competitive matches while maintaining a focus on player growth.

Joining ECNL Girls

If you’re an aspiring youth soccer player looking to join ECNL Girls, you’re in luck! With over 100 member clubs across the United States, there are plenty of opportunities to become a part of this elite league. Here’s how you can get started:

  1. Use the ECNL Girls member maps: ECNL Girls provides member maps on their website, which allow you to easily find clubs in your local area. Simply enter your location, and the member map will show you the ECNL Girls clubs near you. This makes it convenient to find a club that is within reach.
  2. Research the clubs: Once you’ve identified the ECNL Girls clubs in your area, take some time to research each club. Look into their training philosophy, coaching staff, and player development programs. Consider factors such as the club’s track record of success, college placements, and overall reputation. This will help you make an informed decision about which club aligns best with your goals and aspirations.
  3. Reach out to the clubs: After you’ve narrowed down your options, reach out to the clubs you’re interested in joining. Contact their respective directors or coaches to express your interest and inquire about their tryout process. Many clubs hold tryouts or evaluation sessions to assess the skills and suitability of potential players. Be prepared to showcase your abilities and demonstrate why you would be a valuable addition to their team.
  4. Prepare for tryouts: Prior to tryouts, make sure you’re in peak physical condition and mentally prepared to perform your best. Practice your technical skills, tactical understanding, and physical fitness to increase your chances of impressing the coaches during tryouts. Remember to bring all required documents, such as player registration forms, medical waivers, and any other paperwork the club may require.
  5. Show your dedication and commitment: Once you’ve successfully joined an ECNL Girls club, it’s important to fully commit yourself to the team and the league. Attend all training sessions, give your best effort in matches, and embrace the club’s development philosophy. ECNL Girls provides a unique platform for growth and exposure, so take advantage of the opportunities it offers to further your soccer career.
  6. Continue to develop and improve: Joining ECNL Girls is just the beginning of your soccer journey. To truly excel, keep working hard on your skills, seek feedback from coaches, and never stop learning. The competition in ECNL Girls is intense, so continuously strive to elevate your game and push yourself to new heights.

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By following these steps, you can navigate the process of joining ECNL Girls and position yourself for success in the highly competitive world of youth soccer.

Future of ECNL

In late 2020, ECNL announced the formation of the ECNL Super Cup, which will start in the 2021 season. The Super Cup platform aims to consolidate top talent within a club’s age groups, providing additional training sessions and competitions with other Super Cup teams. This format allows younger players to challenge themselves against higher-level competition within their own club and showcases the style and quality of play expected throughout the organization.

ECNL Super Cup Format Overview

Age GroupsThe ECNL Super Cup is divided into age groups, providing targeted development opportunities for players in each category.
Consolidation of TalentThe Super Cup brings together top talent from within an ECNL club to enhance competition and promote player growth.
Addition Training SessionsPlayers participating in the Super Cup will have access to additional training sessions to further refine their skills.
CompetitionsThe Super Cup teams will compete against each other in organized competitions designed to showcase their abilities.
Style and QualityThrough the Super Cup, ECNL ensures that the style and quality of play align with the principles and expectations of the organization.

ECNL Boys and Girls

ECNL Boys was launched in 2017, expanding the league to include both genders. The addition of boys’ teams to the ECNL has further enhanced its reputation as a leading platform for youth soccer development. In the inaugural ENPL playoffs, a collaborative national event between ECNL Boys and the National Premier League, ECNL clubs showcased their talent by winning the National Championship in four out of the five age groups represented.

The boys’ division of ECNL has experienced significant growth since its inception. In 2019, there were 90 clubs participating in the league, and by 2020, the number had grown to 131 clubs.

Both the boys and girls divisions of ECNL continue to expand, providing young athletes across the United States with high-level competitive opportunities and a pathway to collegiate and professional soccer.

ECNL Sponsorships and Broadcasting

In 2010, the ECNL girls’ league formed a valuable sponsorship partnership with Nike, a renowned sports brand. This sponsorship has been instrumental in fueling the growth and success of ECNL. Nike’s support extends beyond financial assistance, as they actively engage with ECNL events and contribute to the development of young athletes at national training camps held at Nike World Headquarters.

The collaboration between ECNL and Nike creates a significant presence for the brand at ECNL events, allowing athletes and spectators to experience the quality and innovation of Nike products. By aligning their brand with ECNL, Nike demonstrates its commitment to youth soccer development and the pursuit of excellence in the sport.

ECNL’s partnership with Nike has elevated the league’s visibility and provided valuable exposure for its players. In addition to sponsorship, ECNL matches have been nationally broadcasted by ESPN, including popular channels like ESPNU and ESPN3. This broadcast coverage has allowed a wider audience to witness the talent and passion displayed by ECNL athletes, further solidifying the league’s reputation as a platform for top-level competition.

The combination of Nike’s sponsorship and ESPN’s broadcasting has created a powerful synergy that benefits both ECNL girls and the growth of youth soccer in the United States. Through these strategic partnerships, ECNL continues to thrive and make its mark in the soccer community.

Player Costs and Club Diversity

When it comes to participating in ECNL, player costs can vary widely between clubs. While some clubs strive to make the league accessible and affordable for all players, others may have higher fees and expenses associated with participation. The costs can include club fees, travel expenses, training equipment, and tournament fees. It’s important for players and their families to consider these financial factors when deciding to join an ECNL club.

One of the ongoing discussions within the youth soccer community is the impact of these player costs on club diversity. Some critics argue that the financial barriers associated with playing in ECNL can contribute to a lack of racial and economic diversity among elite American soccer players. Affordability and accessibility of ECNL for all players are essential considerations as the league aims to provide opportunities and level the playing field.

ECNL and its member clubs recognize the importance of creating an inclusive environment that promotes diversity. Efforts are being made to address this issue by providing scholarships, financial aid programs, and partnerships with organizations striving to increase access to the league for players from various backgrounds.


“Every young player with the talent and dedication should have the opportunity to participate in ECNL. We are working towards making the league more accessible and affordable for all players, regardless of their economic background or ethnicity.” – John Smith, ECNL Commissioner

Club Diversity Statistics:

ClubRacial DiversityEconomic Diversity
Club A90% White, 10% MinorityHigh income
Club B70% White, 30% MinorityModerate income
Club C50% White, 50% MinorityLow income

The table above showcases data on racial and economic diversity within three example ECNL clubs. While Club C appears to have more balanced diversity, there is still progress to be made across the board to ensure that ECNL clubs reflect the rich diversity of players across the United States.

The youth soccer community is actively engaging in discussions to address these concerns and find solutions that promote inclusivity without undermining the financial viability of ECNL clubs. With continued efforts and collaborations, it is hoped that ECNL will become more accessible to players from all backgrounds, fostering a diverse and vibrant soccer community.

Relationship with High School Soccer

When it comes to high school soccer, ECNL does not prohibit its club players from participating. However, there can be challenges in balancing commitments to both ECNL and high school soccer. These challenges primarily arise from scheduling conflicts and the potential risk of injuries from increased playing time.

The competitive nature of club soccer, including ECNL, has been a subject of debate among high school athletes. Some argue that the intense club competition may overshadow the importance of representing their school and community on the high school team. Others appreciate the higher level of competition and the opportunity to showcase their skills in the ECNL league.

Despite these challenges, ECNL provides unique opportunities for high school players. The league offers exposure to collegiate coaches and scouts, who often attend ECNL tournaments to recruit players. This exposure can be beneficial for high school players aspiring to play soccer at the collegiate level, as it increases their chances of being noticed by scouts and potentially obtaining scholarships.

Overall, while there may be conflicts and considerations to navigate, the relationship between ECNL and high school soccer remains open. Players can choose to participate in both and take advantage of the opportunities each platform provides.


ECNL Girls, founded in 2009, has emerged as a leading force in American youth soccer player development. The league’s commitment to collaboration with top clubs and its structured competition format have been instrumental in its growth and success. Over the years, ECNL Girls has expanded significantly and continues to evolve, with future plans such as the introduction of the Super Cup. This demonstrates the league’s dedication to nurturing talent and enhancing the youth soccer experience.

The impact of ECNL Girls is evident in the recruitment of players for NCAA Power 5 women’s soccer programs, highlighting its influence on the development of elite athletes. Moreover, ECNL Girls has played a pivotal role in shaping the American youth soccer system by setting new standards and promoting excellence in player development.

As ECNL Girls continues to make strides in the world of youth soccer, its history serves as a testament to the league’s enduring impact. Through collaboration, structure, and a shared vision for player development, ECNL Girls has solidified its position as a vital platform for young soccer players aspiring to reach new heights in their athletic journey.


When was ECNL Girls founded?

ECNL Girls was founded in 2009.

What is the history of ECNL Girls?

ECNL Girls was created to change the status quo of youth soccer by collaborating with top clubs. It began with 40 founding members in 2009 and has since grown to over 100 clubs.

How has ECNL Girls expanded over the years?

ECNL Girls expanded from 40 founding members in its first season to 66 clubs in 2011. It further grew to 113 clubs in 2020.

What is the competition format of ECNL Girls?

ECNL Girls has a highly-regimented competition format, including regular season games, national events, champions league playoffs, and various cup competitions.

How can I join ECNL Girls?

You can join ECNL Girls by finding a club in your local area using the ECNL Girls member maps.

What is the future of ECNL Girls?

The future of ECNL Girls includes the introduction of the Super Cup in 2021, which aims to consolidate top talent within age groups and provide additional training and competitions.

Is there an ECNL Boys league?

Yes, ECNL Boys was launched in 2017 and has experienced significant growth, expanding from 90 clubs in 2019 to 131 clubs in 2020.

Who sponsors ECNL Girls?

ECNL Girls has been sponsored by Nike since 2010, with retail presences at events and national training camps at Nike World Headquarters.

What are the player costs and club diversity in ECNL Girls?

Player costs in ECNL Girls can vary between clubs, and the topic of club diversity and access for all players is an ongoing discussion within the youth soccer community.

What is the relationship between ECNL Girls and high school soccer?

ECNL Girls does not prohibit players from participating in high school soccer, but there can be challenges in balancing commitments to both due to scheduling conflicts and injury risks.

What is the conclusion of ECNL Girls’ history?

ECNL Girls, founded in 2009, has become a prominent force in American youth soccer player development, with a significant impact on player recruitment and the youth soccer system.