I Am an ECNL Player! But Are You Really?



I Am an ECNL Player! But Are You Really?

In the world of competitive youth soccer, being part of an Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) team is often seen as a prestigious milestone. Many young players proudly claim their status as ECNL players, but the reality behind this claim deserves a closer look. The ECNL, known for its high level of competition and exposure, is a coveted platform for those aspiring to play Division 1 soccer. However, not all experiences in ECNL are equal, and it’s crucial to understand what it truly means to be part of such a team.
A worrying trend has emerged in many ECNL teams: rosters bloated with 22 to 26 players, yet only 18 suit up for a game. Within these 18, a core group of 7 or 8 players often play the entire game, while the rest are relegated to brief appearances or peripheral roles. In close games, substitutions are minimal, raising the question: does being on the bench for an ECNL team equate to being a real part of it?
This question has sparked endless debates. Many players join ECNL teams with the dream of playing Division 1 soccer, believing that being seen at showcases and playing alongside talented peers will pave their way. A select few dominate the playing time, monopolizing free kicks, coach’s attention, and opportunities. They are the ones who often receive MVP selections and travel opportunities, while others spend more time on the bench than on the field. Many subsidize the few. Players fail to realize that they need a different path that gives them opportunities in the longer run. How many amazing smaller players just up and quit? If any of these players would choose a different path in 2 to 3 years they would be the stronger more technical player earning the scholarship. Cream eventually rises to the top but the road is not always wine and roses. Players must choose.

The key, then, is not just to be on an ECNL team, but to play — and play often. The true development of a player’s speed, skill, and decision-making ability comes from regular playtime. Superstars in soccer are almost invariably those who have had ample time on the field to hone their skills. For the majority, who might not stand out immediately, having a plan is essential. 

Young players should focus on playing early and often, receiving quality coaching and guidance daily. It’s important to prioritize learning proper skills and techniques, as well as understanding how to build strength and speed effectively. Traveling long distances for limited playtime is often counterproductive. 

Finally, young athletes need to be wary of the allure of early national team accolades. While these can be significant achievements, they should not overshadow the importance of consistent development, enjoyment of the game, and personal growth. Being part of an ECNL team is undeniably an achievement, but it’s the quality of the experience, not just the label, that truly shapes a player’s journey in soccer.


What are ECNL players?

ECNL players are young athletes who compete in the Elite Clubs National League, a premier youth soccer league in the United States known for its high level of competition and focus on developing players for college and professional levels.

What makes an ECNL player stand out in the rankings?

ECNL player rankings highlight those athletes who consistently demonstrate exceptional skill, strategic understanding, and standout performances in matches. To climb the rankings, players not only need to perform well but also exhibit leadership and resilience, capturing the attention of scouts and coaches.

How many ECNL teams are in the US?

As of my last update, there are over 200 ECNL clubs across the United States, featuring both boys’ and girls’ teams. The number can vary as new teams join and others leave the league.

What is the history of ECNL?

The ECNL was founded in 2009 to enhance the developmental experience of female youth soccer players in the United States. It started as a response to the varied needs of elite female soccer players and has since expanded to include boys’ competitions as well.

How many players are in ECNL?

While the exact number of players fluctuates, the ECNL encompasses thousands of players across its many club teams. Each team typically rosters between 18 to 26 players, contributing to a large total number of athletes across the league.

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