The inaugural ECNL season (August 2009 - July 2010) included 40 of the top girls’ soccer clubs throughout the country, with more than 2,000 players participating in ECNL competition in the U15, U16, and U17 age groups. Teams competed in one of two competitive flights (the “A” Flight or the “B” Flight) for the ECNL National Championship, the ECNL Club National Championship, and promotion and relegation between the flights. Games were played at 5 different ECNL National Showcase Events held throughout the country, and all participating teams came together for the first annual ECNL National Championship in Seattle, WA in July 2010.
For the 2010-2011 season, the ECNL expanded in membership, competitions, and age groups. First, twelve new clubs were added from a pool of nearly 80 applicants across the country, bringing the total number of ECNL member clubs to 52. The ECNL also expanded to include the U18 age group. Finally, the ECNL schedule expanded to include regional competition to supplement the existing ECNL National Showcase Events. The ECNL National Championships were held in Aurora, CO July 14-16, 2011.
The 2011-2012 ECNL season saw the ECNL expand again to include 66 soccer clubs. Most importantly, the ECNL also grew the competition platform to include regional conference play, with a total of approximately 30 games per team over the course of the year between conference play and national event games. The 2011-2012 season was the first season that ECNL competition became the primary, if not the only, competition for these 66 clubs and their players. This focus allowed clubs to provide an improved environment with a better training-to-game ratio and more demanding and consistent competition. To begin extending the development opportunity to younger age groups, the ECNL also included a limited U14 schedule in 2011-2012.
The 2012-2013 season saw limited expansion in the ECNL to 73 clubs. Conference play became the dominant portion of the ECNL schedule, with conference results determining qualification for the ECNL post-season. The top 32 teams in the ECNL, based on conference games and limited wildcards, qualified for the ECNL Champions League post-season play-offs. The next best 32 teams in the ECNL qualified for the ECNL North American Cup play-offs. Both play-offs were contested in Aurora, CO, with the top 8 teams in each competition qualifying for the ECNL Finals. The inaugural ECNL Finals were played in Richmond, VA where the winners of the ECNL Champions League were crowned the ECNL National Champions. The winners of the ECNL North American Cup were crowned cup champions.
The 2013-2014 season has the smallest expansion to-date, with only 3 clubs added to bring the total number of ECNL member clubs to 76. While there was limited conference re-alignment, the competition structure generally remains the same as the 2012-2013 season. The 2014 ECNL Play-Offs (where the Champions League and North American Cup qualifiers will compete) will be played in Seattle, WA in late June. The winners of each play-off group will advance to the ECNL Finals.
The 2011-12 ECNL season will include over 5,000 games in 3 different competition formats: 1- ECNL Conference and Cross-Conference Games; 2- ECNL National Showcase Games; and 3-ECNL National Championship Games.
- ECNL Conference & Cross-Conference Games: Every ECNL Member Club has been placed into one of eight regional conferences for regular season play. All five ECNL age groups will play every team in their conference both home and away, and then will also play 2-4 cross-conference games against other regional opponents. In total, each team in the ECNL is scheduled to play 15-18 conference or cross-conference games per year.
- ECNL National Showcase Event Games: In addition to the conference and cross-conference games, there are five ECNL National Showcase Events throughout the year where participating teams play 3 games at each event. Each team at the U15 and U18 age groups will participate in two of these events, while each team at the U16 and U17 age groups will participate in three of these events. These games are key to determining the ECNL National Champions at each age group. ECNL National Showcase Events are the largest collegiate recruiting events in the country (drawing more than 200 different colleges to each event), and are scouted by US Soccer National Staff.
- ECNL National Championships Games: The 2012 ECNL National Championships will be held June 25-30, 2012, in Chicago, IL. This will leave the month of July as a “rest month” before the season starts again in August 2012. All ECNL Member Clubs participate in the National Championships. Roughly 500 games will be played spanning the 5-day period with over 6,000 participants.