The ECNL Girls will be adding a new league to its growing platform of Regional Leagues, as the ECNL Girls Regional League – Heartland Conference will begin play in the 2020-21 season. The ECNL Girls Regional League – Heartland will include competition at the U14, U15, U16 and U17 age groups. ECNL Heartland League Likely To Impact State Cup
The following clubs will be participating in the ECNL Regional League – Heartland in the 2020-21 season:
Elite Girls Academy — Missouri Rush Soccer Club
Kansas City Athletics — St. Louis Scott Gallagher (SLSG)
Kansas City Scott Gallagher (KCSG) — Sporting Iowa
As Scott McDoniel notes in a quote from the ECNL press release
The ECNL Girls Regional League will allow more girls within our club and the local area the chance to be a part of a proven platform that continues to help female players develop in a challenging environment.
Again, from the press release – The ECNL Girls Regional Leagues are designed to service a deeper player pool from member clubs within the ECNL Girls, and to provide a competitive platform for objective evaluation of new clubs for full ECNL membership in the future. Top performing teams in ECNL Girls Regional Leagues currently earn the opportunity to compete in the Open Cup Division of the ECNL Playoffs in June at the U15, U16 and U17 ages, where they will match up against other ECNL Girls Regional League teams as well as teams from the full ECNL.
Let’s look at what that means locally. SLSG Missouri and Illinois are the two clubs locally who compete in the “Full ECNL Membership” competition as has KC Athletics and Elite Girls Academy (EGA/NE). Both SLSG and KC Athletics made specific decisions to compete in the ECNL rather than the US Soccer Development Academy with KC’s choice driven by the players desire to continue competing for their High School teams. The pyramid for these clubs has ECNL at the top while one level down are the Elite teams at SLSG while KC Athletics designates their second level as Academy Premier (Academy Elite are ECNL). Those are the teams that have been competing at State Cup. ECNL is a separate organization from US Youth Soccer and Missouri Youth Soccer which means that there will be a new pyramid within these clubs in determining their participation in State Cup.
Let’s look at the results for the 2019 HS Girls State Cup for the three clubs (SLSG, Rush, KC Athletics) and see what impact it might have on State Cup going forward. These are the U15-U17 girls teams that would move from MYSA to ECNL based upon the current model the clubs have used. Results reflect their Group stage results.
|2019 STATE CUP|
|2005||KC Athletics Premier||1-2-0||3rd in group|
|2005||SLSG Elite||0-3-0||4th in group|
|2005||Missouri Rush||0-1-0||lost in qualifying|
|2004||KC Athletics Premier||2-1-0||2nd in group|
|2004||SLSG Elite||3-0-0||1st in group – lost 0-4 in Final|
|2004||Missouri Rush||0-2-1||4th in group|
|2003||KC Athletics||2-1-0||2nd in group – lost in semi|
|2003||SLSG Elite Green||2-1-0||2nd in group|
|2003||SLSG Elite Navy||1-2-0||3rd in group|
|2003||Missouri Rush||0-3-0||4th in group|
In the 2005 age group, KC Athletics defeated Missouri Rush in a Qualifying game to reach the group stage. While KCSG has competed in the Missouri State Cup in the past, they did not enter a single team this year.
A quick look at the Fall SLYSA League shows Missouri Rush Premier finished 2nd in the U17 premier division, Missouri Rush Azul finished 5th in the U16 Premier division and SLSG Elite finished 9th and Missouri Rush United 10th in the U15 Premier Division. SLSG Elite focused on tournaments along with Midwest Conference and State Cup, foregoing SLYSA competition this year (except for the U13’s and the U15’s).
I reviewed the Midwest Conference results last week, here are the results for the three clubs.
|Premier II||SLSG MO 2003 Elite||3-3-3||7th|
|1st Div White||KC Athletics 2003 Academy Premier||5-2-1||2nd|
|1st Div Yellow||Missouri Rush 2003 Cinza Marshall||0-8-1||10th|
|Premier I||SLSG MO 2004 Elite||3-5-1||7th|
|Premier II||KC Athletics 2004 Academy Premier||1-7-1||9th|
|Premier I||SLSG MO 2005 Elite||1-5-3||9th|
|Premier II||SLSG MO 2006 Elite||7-1-1||2nd|
|1st White||KCSG 2006 Academy||3-3-3||6th|
What does it all mean? The Clubs have made a conscious decision to move to the ECNL for their primary competitive platform. The new Heartland League is smaller in size and geography so costs should be lower than continuing to play in the Midwest Conference which has been the primary alternative. To do both would require dual registration and likely reduce tournament opportunities assuming that the ECNL would allow it. The Missouri State Cup will be impacted by removing what should be the clubs most competitive teams but it will also open up opportunities for other clubs and teams to participate in State Cup. MYSA Director Steve Pecher, the SLSG Missouri Girls Director, should be able to answer these questions at the AGM Saturday if anyone has questions.
It’s another step in the continuing bifurcation between US Youth Soccer and newer leagues that have developed over the past decade (ECNL and US Club Soccer) that have changed the competitive levels for all players. I look forward to seeing what the impact is locally for the clubs.
ECNL Girls Commissioner Jen Winnagle – “We want the top players, teams, coaches, and clubs across the country, no matter where they are, to be able to ‘prove’ their quality on the field, and we hope to use healthy competition to raise standards even higher.”
#KCAthletics is extremely excited for the opportunity to have our girls Academy Premier teams participate in the New @theECNL Regional League while our Academy Elite teams will continue play in the #ECNL National League format beginning this Fall!https://t.co/qMeBCWCRGV
— KC Athletics Soccer Club (@AthleticsKC) January 23, 2020
— Nick_T (@NickTeater) January 23, 2020
We are excited to announce that we will be adding a new league to the platform of ECNL Girls Regional Leagues! The ECNL Girls Regional League – Heartland, will begin play in the 2020-21 season. #LeadersPlayHere Click the link here: https://t.co/oQ8ocsGa0x
— Elite Clubs National League (@theECNL) January 23, 2020