Another national girls league is being launched for the 2009-10 season. The Elite Clubs National League will feature 40 clubs competing in a 12-game season in the U-15 to U-17 age groups.
The ECNL, which will organize regular-season games in conjunction with multiple national showcase events and then a national championship in Seattle in July 2010, includes 16 of the 30 clubs in the Soccer America's 2009 Best Girls Clubs rankings.
They include 2008 No. 1 and 2009 No. 2 Eclipse Select, which will serve as host of the first even Aug. 14-16 at its Challenge Cup in Chicago. Also participating will be No. 5 Sting SC, No. 6 PDA, No. 8 Colorado Rush and No. 10 San Juan SC.
The ECNL includes one MLS youth program -- FC Dallas -- and one USL-1 youth program -- Minnesota Thunder.
Notably absent are the 2009 No. 1 Dallas Texans and the So Cal Blues, Slammers, San Diego Surf and Eagles, all perennial Cal South powers.
U.S. Youth Soccer organizes the National League for boys and girls in three age groups. Red Bull has also sponsored a similar national league where teams compete periodically at single sites or in conjunction with tournaments or showcase events.
In each age group, ECNL teams will be placed in one of two flights of 20 teams (Challenge A and Challenge B) based on team strength.
Upon completion of a 10-game regular season, multiple four team playoff groups in each flight will be established based on the regular season standings.
The top four teams in each age group in the Challenge A division will compete for the ECNL National Championship.
The bottom four teams in the Challenge A division will compete in a relegation playoff where the winning team will remain in the Challenge A division for the next season and the remaining three teams will be relegated to the Challenge B division.
The top four teams in the Challenge B division will compete for the promotion playoff where the top three teams will be promoted to the Challenge A division for the next season.
"The ECNL is a great step for elite girls youth players in this country," said ECNL President Christian Lavers of FC Milwaukee. "The ECNL is founded on the concept that elite female player development in the United States needs a structure that will reduce the total number of games on the schedule and increase the number of meaningful, quality games. The ECNL sets forth a vision that gives us a clear path to that goal -- a national competition schedule and a national identification program linked to that competition."
(The ECNL will provide a subsidized player identification program for players to be scouted for youth national teams in conjunction with the US Club Soccer ID2 Program.)
(In parentheses is 2009 Soccer America Best Girls Clubs ranking)
Elite Clubs National League
Albertson Fury, New York (11)
Arsenal FC, California
Atlanta Fire, Georgia
Bethesda SC, Maryland (28)
Birmingham United, Alabama
CASL, North Carolina
CESA Premier, South Carolina
Challenge SC, Texas (25)
Charlotte Soccer Academy, North Carolina
Colorado Rush, Colorado (8)
Concorde Fire, Georgia
Connecticut FC, Connecticut
Crossfire Premier, Washington (22)
Dallas Sting, Texas (5)
D'Feeters, Texas (30)
Eclipse Select, Illinois (2)
FC Dallas, Texas
FC Delco, Pennsylvania
FC Milwaukee, Wisconsin
FC Stars of Mass, Massachusetts (19)
FC Virginia, Virginia
Freestate Soccer Alliance, Maryland
FSA SoccerPlus, Connecticut
Irvine Strikers, California (23)
Lonestar SC, Texas (26)
Minnesota Thunder, Minnesota
Mustang SC, California (27)
Neusport FC, Nevada
Ohio Elite Soccer Academy, Ohio
Ohio Premier, Ohio
PDA, New Jersey (6)
Pleasanton Rage, California (21)
Real Colorado, Colorado (15)
San Juan SC, California (10)
SC Del Sol, Arizona
Sereno SC, Arizona
St. Louis Scott Gallagher, Missouri
Virginia Rush, Virginia
West Coast FC, California