The ECNL RL is one of the fastest-growing options for top teams that aren’t quite at the ECNL level.
If you’re into youth soccer in the USA, you’ve probably heard about the ECNL Regional League (ECNL RL). It’s a stepping stone between regular youth leagues and the big-league ECNL.
But, is it the right choice for you or your kid?
In this article, we’re going to break down the good and not-so-good sides of playing in the ECNL RL.
Whether you’re a player, a parent, or a coach, this guide will help you figure out if ECNL RL is the right match for your soccer journey.
ECNL vs. ECNL Regional League
The soccer world has two main leagues: the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) and the ECNL Regional League (ECNL RL). These are like different levels in the same competition, and they each have their own focus.
The ECNL is like the top level, where you find the best youth soccer teams in the whole country.
It’s all about helping players grow and giving them a shot at playing college or even going pro. Teams in the ECNL travel all over the country for their games and special events.
Now, the ECNL RL is a bit lower in terms of competition, but it’s still a great platform.
It’s there for clubs that might not have all the better resources or a huge pool of talented players, but they still want to offer a place for players to get better.
The Regional League keeps things more local, so you don’t have to travel as much compared to the ECNL.
One cool thing about the ECNL RL is that it’s open to more clubs.
While the ECNL only takes the very best clubs in an area, the ECNL RL often has a bunch of clubs within just an hour of each other. It’s like having more options to play at a pretty high level without going too far.
ECNL RL Level of Play
Even though the ECNL RL is not as high up as the ECNL, it’s still a pretty competitive league. Here’s the interesting part: it’s a mix of all kinds of clubs.
You’ve got the big clubs with tons of players, and they might put their second or third teams into the ECNL RL.
Surprisingly, even those teams are pretty darn good. Then, you’ve got the smaller to medium-sized clubs.
They might not be huge on a national scale, but they do well in their state and the nearby region. They might not have the numbers to compete all over the country, but they’re no slouches either.
ECNL Regional League vs. State Leagues
The ECNL Regional League is a different option compared to the state-level leagues organized by US Youth Soccer.
In simple terms, a bunch of clubs that used to play in those state leagues decided to switch to US Club Soccer and join the ECNL RL.
Now, why the switch?
Well, US Club Soccer comes with some perks. It has more flexible rules and less strict travel requirements, and it focuses more on the entire club rather than making individual teams play in different leagues.
Some of the bigger clubs also felt that smaller US Youth Soccer members were blocking them from creating new opportunities for players.
They thought that the system wasn’t fair and wanted a change.
ECNL Regional League vs. NPL
Another major factor in the US Club Soccer scene is the National Premier League (NPL), but it’s important to note that it’s not connected to the ECNL.
Considered the third tier after ECNL and ECNL RL, the NPL operates on a similar playing field.
NPL leagues normally cover a whole state in larger states or multiple smaller states in regional leagues.
The size of NPL leagues is usually comparable to, or just a bit larger than, ECNL RL leagues, making travel demands pretty similar.
If you’re solely looking at leagues, ECNL RL might seem like the top choice.
However, when making a decision, factors like playing time, coaching, and the tournaments a team participates in can also tip the scales in favor of an NPL team over an ECNL RL team.
Advantages and Disadvantages of ECNL RL
Playing in the ECNL Regional League comes with several advantages.
Firstly, the competition level is higher compared to most state leagues, allowing players to challenge themselves against strong opponents.
Moreover, the ECNL RL offers increased exposure to college coaches.
The league regularly hosts showcases and events that spotlight top talent, potentially opening up more opportunities for players in college soccer.
However, there are some downsides to consider when contemplating ECNL RL participation.
Travel costs can be higher than in other leagues since teams often need to journey across their region for games.
Another challenge involves scheduling conflicts.
Some clubs may not prioritize the league, leading to difficulties in coordinating matches and maintaining a consistent level of competition.
These drawbacks should be weighed against the benefits when deciding whether ECNL RL is the right fit.
Going from ECNL to ECNL RL
In the ECNL structure, there is no system of promotion and relegation between the ECNL and ECNL RL.
Joining the ECNL is based on club applications rather than moving up from the Regional League. While some new ECNL clubs kick-started in ECNL RL, it’s not a guaranteed or mandatory route.
Individual players, however, can leverage their experience and training in an ECNL RL team to aim for a spot in an ECNL team the following season.
If you’re striving for the next level, playing at the highest possible level is the way to go.
It’s important to be cautious, though.
Some ECNL RL clubs may downplay the differences between ECNL RL and ECNL, leading parents to believe that ECNL is on the horizon if they join the club.
These tactics, akin to used car salesman strategies, are aimed at persuading players to sign up without exploring other options.
While ECNL tries to monitor and regulate this, there are limits to what they can effectively control.