USSF to launch a girls Development Academy in 2017; ECNL plans to forge ahead

By Mike Woitalla

The U.S. Soccer Federation is set to launch a Development Academy (DA) for girls in August 2017, replicating the DA for boys that it launched in 2007.

That the Federation hadn’t launched a girls DA earlier was attributed mainly to a couple of reasons.

One being that because the U.S. women’s national team was already a world power, there was more urgency on the boys side. Secondly, the U.S. Club-sanctioned ECNL -- the Elite Clubs National League – launched in 2009 and in many ways served the U.S. national team program (and college scouts) the way the DA has for the boys.

Last Friday, U.S. Soccer Technical Director April Heinrichs and U.S. Soccer Director of Sport Development Ryan Mooney met with ECNL and U.S. Club representatives.

“We went in there with the idea that we wanted to collaborate with the Federation to create anything that would raise the standards of the girls game and continue to improve the girls game,” said Christian Lavers, the president of the ECNL, which has 79 member clubs. “The Federation’s position was they considered collaborating with the ECNL [but] determined that they could raise standards in the game and change the game in all the ways they wanted to better and faster without us. …

“I can’t speak to why that is. In the world I live in, collaboration is almost always a valuable thing in multiple ways. …  If something changes with respect to the Federation’s position, that’s great. But it was pretty clear in that meeting that collaboration and working together was something that they didn't want and did not feel was helpful. ...

"The input and support and buy-in of the ECNL clubs and coaches and the people in the grass-roots were not really a part of [the Federation's] process."

Lavers said the USSF representatives acknowledged that the ECNL had “done a lot of good things in the girls game and raised a lot standards.” Lavers pointed out that the ECNL has tried "very hard" to implement standards that the U.S. Soccer technical staff has said were important in girls development.

The ECNL plans to continue, which means the girls DA will have competition for the nation’s elite players unlike it faced on the boys side.

One major difference between the ECNL and the DA is that ECNL is age-pure; member clubs field teams at the five age groups, from U-14 to U-18. The DA teams field U-14, U-16 and U-18 teams. The DA bans players from participating in high school ball. The ECNL allows its players to play high school.

“We feel we have the best platform in the world because we have the input and ideas of the people who are on the ground and we are going to continue to operate that platform and continue to try and get better everyday with everything we do,” Lavers said. “We will continue to build a platform that serves the needs of the top players in the country and we will continue to keep looking to get better in all aspects.”

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U.S. U-17 girls beat Japan to win NTC Invitational

Photo courtesy U.S. Soccer.

The U.S. U-17 girls national team, coached by B.J. Snow, beat Japan on Monday, 2-1, in Carson, California, to clinch its third straight NTC Invitational.

The USA, which also beat England (2-0) and South Korea (2-0) at this year’s edition, has a perfect 9-0-0 record over the past three NTC Invitationals.

Against Japan, the USA went ahead 2-0 after 25 minutes. Ashley Sanchez scored in the 13th minute after meeting a deflected cross from fellow So Cal Blues player Kennedy Wesley.

Twelve minutes later, Civana Kuhlmann, the Colorado Rush forward who scored U.S. both goals against England, struck a sharp cross that a Japanese player knocked into her own net.

Japan outshot the USA, 12-8, but the teams finished even on shots on goal (7-7). U.S. keeper Laurel Ivory, who beaten in the 30th minute, finished with six saves to counterpart Riko Ushijima's five. Ivory, of Florida club Sunrise Sting, was making her second appearance for the U-17s.

Snow’s team is preparing for the the 2016 Concacaf U-17 Women's Championship in Grenada March 3-13. The tournament will determine the region’s three qualifiers for the 2016 U-17 Women's World Cup in Jordan Sept. 30-Oct. 21.

Feb. 15 in Carson, Calif.
USA 2 Japan 1. Goals: Sanchez 13, own goal 25; Endo  (Nagano) 30.
USA -- Ivory, Wesley, Rodriguez (Smith, 66), Girma, Weisner (Rodriguez, 84), Zandi (Tagliaferri, 66), Howell (Smith, 46), Spaanstra (Jones, 74), Sanchez, Pinto (Torres, 84), Kuhlmann.
Japan -- Ushijima, Ono, Takahira, Morinaka (Kurat, 72), Kanno, Nagano, Miyazawa, Takarada, Endo (Miura, 81), Ueki.
Referee: Danielle Chesky (USA).

6 comments about "USSF to launch a girls Development Academy in 2017; ECNL plans to forge ahead".
  1. Bob Ashpole, February 16, 2016 at 10:16 p.m.

    You can train players without forming a new league. It is too bad that USSF insists on competing with clubs instead of supplementing the club training like Germany does with its talented boys. Player development would be much more efficient if travel was reduced to a short commute.

  2. Eric Stratman, February 17, 2016 at 11:35 p.m.

    USSF saw that there was money to be made and decided to step in and take it from ECNL. It's a shame that soccer is the only major sport in the USA that forbids it's players from playing HS sports. The sad part is that even with all the money and control they have had over the boys programs, they still haven't accomplished anything with it. USA men's spccer is no better today than it was before the DA went to a 12 month season. So the question is, why and who is benefitting? The answer is obvious, but nobody is willing to do anything about it.

  3. Brian Ashley replied, February 19, 2016 at 2:13 p.m.

    Well, that's the thing. I don't know that US Soccer can 'take' anything from ECNL. If you irritate the ECNL clubs then who will join DA the first few years? You have to have someone who is willing to take the risk that DA is going to be better for their soccer career than ECNL. If the clubs are on board then they just take their top teams and make them DA and their second tier teams become ECNL. But if you exclude the ECNL clubs from the process you're essentially saying that you expect some club somewhere to have the best players and to join DA. That might actually work in California, Texas and New Jersey. Number might help there. But where did that U17 player on the WNT come from? Colorado. No, they're shooting themselves in the foot. What ECNL player at U15 or U16 is going to chance switching to some unknown club to play DA when she has a known and respected program to play for?

  4. Dale Greenley, February 18, 2016 at 11:57 a.m.

    It is one thing to fill a void like USSF did with the DA for the boy's program. It is quite another thing to step on another organization who was addressing a need the USSF had elected to blatantly ignore (and I'm not necessarily an ECNL fan). Sadly, this will likely result in a turf war (no pun intended) that likely ends up penalizing the very players both USSF and ECNL are supposedly trying to help develop, at least in the next few years.

  5. Big Dad, February 18, 2016 at 11:51 p.m.

    USSF stinks. They do not care about the players. This is simply a money grab.ENCL does a great job and this will only dilute the talent pool and cause division at the high end of youth soccer. The high school ban is silly too. Trust level of US soccer by all the parents I know is low. The communication from USSF has been terrible. Banning HS play is foolish.
    As a parent that spends big bucks on soccer, my money will be going elsewhere. Daughter #2 that would be easily make a local girls DA team will not be shifting her focus to basketball.

  6. Fire Paul Gardner Now, February 19, 2016 at 5:24 p.m.

    Good move. High school soccer is a wasteland and no way should our top players (male or female) be wasting a second playing in it.

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