Should my daughter play ECNL?

Aspirations to play college soccer and hopes of a scholarship are apt to influence many decisions young players and their parents make. We've relayed some of the common questions we've heard from parents to Lisa Lavelle, president of The Sport Source, which has spent more than 20 years in college counseling for student-athletes.

By Lisa Lavelle

My daughter got invited to play for an ECNL team. It's very expensive and they practice four times a week, requiring a significant commute. Some of the players from that club have gotten college scholarships, which makes it sound like the financial investment may pay off. But what if she's just a roster-filler? She's thrilled that she got asked and wants to make the move. Besides the thousands of dollars we'd be spending, I'm concerned how the time commitment might affect her homework. How do I make this call?

Great question, let’s examine a few factors when making this decision. First let’s look at cost. It is estimated the average cost to participate in ECNL is about $8,000 to $10,000 annually when all the related expenses are added up.

When it comes to scholarship allocation, money is money and when it comes to college scholarships a student-athlete's grades can equal big bucks and remove a barrier to entry when a coach has little to no money left in the budget.

The fact is, collegiate soccer is a non-revenue sport, and when it comes to women’s soccer at the collegiate level, the Division I women's programs that are “fully funded” have 14 scholarships that are allocated over four years -- often with a roster with 23-32 players.

So if it’s about a scholarship, athletically speaking not everyone will get a “full-ride” and in many cases little to no athletic money. Which brings me back to cost -- at $10K per year and your child plays ECNL for let’s say four years -- you would have spent $40K

If you live in California and your daughter wants to attend UCLA -- the new student mandatory fee for the first year is $15,131 -- based on ECNL dues and fees paid, you could have covered nearly three years of college tuition with the same amount of money spent on playing ECNL.

ECNL rules say the roster can have a maximum of 30 players -- and realistically, it all comes down to money and players -- so your instinct could be correct. Club teams at any level can’t guarantee playing time either. Remember, if she is really good, and a game-changer, college coaches are looking for the brightest and best players for their roster, especially if they can add value, depth and dimension to their college team.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder when it comes to sports, and what one coach sees as a great player, another coach might not.

As an example, in Dallas, there was young girl who tried out for an ECNL team, was told she was not good enough -- so she continued to play for her high school and club team. When National Signing Day came around, she signed with Davidson. While the ECNL coach said she was not good enough for his youth team -- the college coach said she was great for his collegiate program. Bottom line, college coaches will be the final judge on who they recruit, and pick student-athletes they think are right for their program.

As you consider the options for your daughter, you need to be aware that there is a significant time commitment to playing ECNL, including travel and training, along with various tournaments that are out-of-town. All of this adds up and based on the commitment required, it may require your daughter to be out of school for one or more days. These are un-excused absence days, and depending on the school, your child might be required to attend summer school to maintain her academic and attendance requirements.

Take for example, Royal High School in California, its policy states “Teachers may fail any student who accrues a total of seven (7) unexcused absences in any one semester.” Teachers are not required to provide make-up work or allow students to take tests missed because of absences which have been designated as "unexcused" or "truant."

Each state and school has their own policy, so before you make your decision to pursue ECNL or any sports program that would require your child to miss school due to travel and events, parents should speak with the school counselor and find out what if any ramifications will apply if their child has excessive absences due to ECNL or other sporting events.

Parents should also review the club policy regarding travel, tournaments and make sure the club understands excessive absences due to sports participation outside of their school could cause their child issues along the way. When it comes to NCAA Division I or II sports, students must meet both academic and athletic eligibility.

Further Reading:
The College Process: Be Prepared, Proactive and Persistent
Can 'pretty good' players play college ball?

(Lisa Lavelle is President of The Sport Source, which has been connecting kids to college opportunities since 1989. For more information on The Sport Source’s Official Athletic College Guides, tools, and resources, go to

13 comments about "Should my daughter play ECNL? ".
  1. Robert Robertson, July 1, 2015 at 8:55 p.m.

    your daughter should play for the team which best fits her abilities and personallity. Just want to mention ECNL teams are not by far the only clubs whose players are recruited to college. In a number of the states the ECNL team is not even the strongest team necessarily in its age group. Playing time is relavant as mentioned in the article as well as academics in general. What type of style of soccer does the team play is important. Lots of factors and no clear cut answer. Good luck.

  2. John Colley, July 1, 2015 at 10:21 p.m.

    I can't even begin to mention the benefits of playing ECNL which were NOT mentioned in this article. I doubt that many (if ANY) of us across the country can pay for three years of college with the $40k that the author estimates ECNL would cost for 4 yrs. I have no idea what the author's agenda was in penning this article, but it certainly was not giving an even-handed accounting of the pros and cons of ECNL play. This was an extremely disappointing, one-sided argument for NOT. Playing ECNL. READERS DESERVE BETTER.

  3. R2 Dad, July 1, 2015 at 10:47 p.m.

    Is the ECNL subsidized by the airlines? I can't think of many benefits to this league other than frequent flier miles. Before parents start dreaming up full-ride scholarships for their daughters, perhaps they should observe a day in the life of a D1 player during the season. It's not a problem if you're a PE or sociology major, but studying anything substantial will require far more hours than available to a student athlete. And after that, the big payoff is....? If your daughter thinks she is good enough to play for the national team one day, perhaps she should try out at a professional club instead of wasting 4-5 years at college. Especially if she has 2 passports.

  4. John Colley, July 1, 2015 at 10:57 p.m.

    Perhaps, just perhaps, some girls might want to use their soccer skills to obtain a great college education. ECNL events bring 20-30 coaches to their games who otherwise would never, ever have the opportunity to see them play. I might add playing ECNL resulted in numerous invitations to US soccer ID camps for my daughter that never presented themselves in years of USYO club play. There's no comparison.

  5. Lonaka K, July 2, 2015 at 6:15 a.m.

    Has anyone collected data on the number of ECNL or on the boys side Developmental teams that actually get a college scholarship? Just think if the top college gets 14 full scholarships and many carry 20+ players, it means a very small percentage get athletic scholarships. I would look at playing for these elite teams as a means of getting into college of my choice that would otherwise be very difficult to get in. Make athletic scholarship as a bonus, not to be a subsidized bank account for tuition, housing , books and fees.

  6. R2 Dad, July 2, 2015 at 9:13 a.m.

    ID camps *snork*. Parents need to stop drinking the koolaid.

  7. T Jed, July 3, 2015 at 10:41 a.m.

    As written, this article evaluates the financial aspects of whether to play youth soccer at all. The author used the total cost of ECNL.

    My daughter moved from RPL to ECNL. The cost increase was about $1000-2000 per year. This number can vary depending on how much your current team goes to out of town tournaments and whether or not they qualify for Regionals and nationals.

    The letter writer was almost certainly asking about moving to an ECNL team from another competitive team/league. That decision should be based on the incremental cost of moving to ECNL, not the total.

    The UCLA cost also left out room and board. Most schools charge $10,000-15,000 for this. Athletic scholarships also cover this at whatever percentage your daughter receives. If your daughter has her heart set on a private or out of state school, the tuition cost will be much higher.

    I wholeheartedly agree that ECNL is not the best choice for everyone. Just make sure that you use the right numbers for any economic evaluation.

  8. Soccer Madness, July 4, 2015 at 4:59 p.m.

    Does it matter how off or exact the writer was on cost? 1/2 OF HIS estimate is too much!! Point is these kind of organizations and clubs take advantage of over confident parents which are many. No different from predatory lending. You guys debating exact numbers on what is ridiculous cost to start with. Give me a break.

  9. T Jed, July 5, 2015 at 12:02 a.m.

    It does matter! If 1/2 of her estimate is too much, you shouldn't play competitive youth soccer at all. Other leagues aren't free! The question was apparently about moving to ECNL from another league and was it worth it.

  10. Soccer Madness, July 5, 2015 at 10:55 a.m.

    Point isn't her specific budget. It's an overall abuse of the system. Yea, so other leagues, clubs aren't free so let's Jack up the price some more !! Let's make Ecnl exclusive to a few and make it stupid expensive. 1/2 of the mentioned total is stupid expensive, by the way. And if you don't think so then ur part of the problem. The article is bringing up a point that you continue to fail to acknowledge.

  11. T Jed, July 5, 2015 at 11:22 a.m.

    I am well aware of and acknowledge that point. Youth soccer (and other sports) are too expensive. Most participants are fooling themselves if they think they're doing it to earn a positive return in the form of scholarship money. The point of my original post is simply that the author didn't correctly answer the question that was the basis for the column. The same column without mentioning the question would have drawn no comment from me.

  12. Soccer Madness, July 5, 2015 at 11:45 a.m.

    T Jed, sorry. This issue pisses me off. Thought you were arguing in favor of this system. I think most parents need to read these things to better understand what they are getting into. I would say most would do differently if they were better infotmed early.

  13. Hyper Etas, May 25, 2016 at 7:43 p.m.

    I'm the parent of a daughter who played ECNL. The annual costs cited by the author are fairly accurate. In our state, the ECNL teams were the highest quality so it was better soccer than the other options. A number of players were in the national pool which was a reflection of the quality. My daughter went on to play for a D1 program and, interestingly most of her team mates were not ECNL players. So, it's not a one size fits all world. If the player has the drive, the talent, and the work ethic, they'll achieve their goals. The ECNL is just a means to the end.

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