Understanding the Youth Soccer Landscape: USYS National League and US Club ECNL

Understanding the Youth Soccer Landscape: USYS National League and US Club ECNL

April 20, 2022

April 22, 2022 (Norfolk, VA) - Virginia Beach City FC  recognizes navigating the difference between youth soccer governing bodies, leagues and club offerings is difficult, especially if a player or family is unfamiliar with the landscape. 

Virginia Beach City FC is hoping to simplify the understanding of the soccer landscape for Club membership. The landscape will continue to evolve and change in the future however, Virginia Beach City FC believes the following are two core items that will stay constant in the United States. Parents should look at these two core items when evaluating programs for their child.

  1. Training Environment – The most important aspect for the player and team is to have access to a fun and positive training environment that offers the right balance of challenge vs success. Virginia Beach City FC believes the initial parent and child evaluation of a soccer program and club should be based on their opinion of the coach, training facilities and access to club resources for the coach, player, team and parents. Typically, if a club offers these items as a top priority, they will have access to local and national level league play.

  2. Governing Body – The club and league should be affiliated with United States Soccer Federation(USSF). This affiliation is typically done through youth soccer affiliates of US Soccer Federation. The two most common and largest governing bodies for youth soccer in the United States are USYS and US Club Soccer. USSF is the official governing body of soccer in the United States as recognized by soccer's international governing body, FIFA.

Many parents and children wonder which platform is more elite or offers better products and services. The simple answer is: It is very subjective and is based on preference. This is very similar to if a person likes Coke products vs Pepsi products, McDonalds vs Burger King or Manchester United vs Manchester City FC. 

Both governing bodies for youth soccer offer local and national league play, tournaments, and state cups. Both require separate insurance player cards to participate in their tournaments, leagues, and events. Therefore, a club normally will select to go with either USYS or US Club soccer.

However, in some cases clubs will become members of both governing bodies to have access to more competition platforms. For example, there are two state cups in Virginia. A team can technically sign up for state cup through USYS's VYSA and also US Club through the Virginia Premier Soccer League (Also known as Virginia ECNL Regional League) with the opportunity to advance to a national event in both USYS and US Club Soccer.

Again, this is very subjective and is based on the needs and wants of the club, teams, players, and parents.  

WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE? 

GOVERNING BODY OVERVIEW

United States Youth Soccer Association (USYS)

Mission – “US Youth Soccer is a non-profit and educational organization whose mission is to foster the physical, mental and emotional growth and development of America's youth through the sport of soccer at all levels of age and competition.”

The US Youth Soccer membership is divided into four regions: East, Midwest, South and West. Fifty-five-member State Associations make up US Youth Soccer with one in each state, and two in California, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas. Boys and girls then register to play with one of the 6,000+ clubs or leagues formed by their State Association.

US Club Soccer (US Club)

Mission – “US Club Soccer will foster the growth and development of soccer clubs throughout the United States to create the best possible development environment for players of all ages in every club.”

REGISTRATION

USYS:

USYS is a national association where each state association (Ex. Virginia Youth Soccer Association, VYSA) is part of the USYS ecosystem, but works independently with registration.  Clubs and teams must register with their state association and are governed by their state association rules and fees.

US Club Soccer:

US Club Soccer is a national organization where registration is run at the National level and online.  All registration is the same process and fee structure across the United States.

STATE CUP

USYS

USYS hosts a State Cup through each state association (Ex. Virginia, VYSA). The winner of the state cup will advance to regional and national tournament play, USYS Nationals.

US Club Soccer

US Club Soccer offers state cup championships through its affiliated state league (Ex. The VPSL hosts the US Club Virginia State Cup).  The winner advances to the National Cup Finals.

LEAGUES

USYS

USYS manages their national league through USYS (Ex. USYS National League) and manages their local leagues independently through each state association may qualify into the Regional League which qualifies into the National League.  Each state association and regional association has different qualifying rules to advance to the next level.

National and Regional Platform:   

  • USYS National League
  • USYS National League PRO (Entry from winning National League Competition )
  • USYS National Championship (Entry from winning USYS National League PRO competition.
  • State Association State Cup Winners have another direct pathway to USYS Regional and the USYS National Championship
State League Examples (Virginia)
  • Club Champions League (CCL)
  • National Capitol Soccer League (NCSL)
  • Virginia Soccer League (VSL)
  • Skyline Club Soccer League
  • Old Dominion Soccer League (ODSL)
  • Tidewater Area Soccer League (TASL)

US Club Soccer

US Club Soccer has local leagues, regional leagues and National leagues. 

National Platform:

  • ECNL Girls
  • ECNL Boys
  • NPL

State League Examples:

  • Virginia Premier Soccer League (Recently cobranded as the ECNL Regional League, Virginia)

PLAYER IDENTIFICATION

USYS

The US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program was formed in 1977 to identify a pool of players in each age group from which a National Team will be selected for international competition; to provide high-level training to benefit and enhance the development of players at all levels; and, through the use of carefully selected and licensed coaches, develop a mechanism for the exchange of ideas and curriculum to improve all levels of coaching. ODP is a tryout format where players tryout to be selected for a district, state, regional, then national team. Players selected for their district team earn the opportunity to be selected for their state team. And the process continues until the national team. Each level normally consists of fees which cover coaching, fields, games, and/or camps.

US Club Soccer

US Club Soccer uses two types of player identification - Player Development Programs (PDP) and id2.   

  1. US Club Soccer’s Player Development Programs (PDPs) are regionally based identification and developmental programs conducted within the id2 Program umbrella. PDPs are focused around the National Premier Leagues (NPL/ECNL) and other top leagues in specific geographic areas.

    PDP invitations are based upon objective scouting of elite clubs and leagues, combined with recommendations from top Directors of Coaching. Each PDP includes at least one training session and one internal competition. Some PDPs also include off-field educational components, as well.

  2.    
  3. Established in 2004, US Club Soccer’s id2 National Identification and Development Program provides an opportunity for the country’s elite youth soccer players to be identified and developed, and scouted for inclusion in U.S. Soccer’s National Team programs.

 VIRGINIA BEACH CITY FC FOCUS

In summary, Virginia Beach City FC's top priorities focus on their club culture, training environment, premium facilities, quality coaches, proper equipment and premium gear to replicate a professional environment.

Virginia Beach City FC is allowed to use utilize both USYS and US Club platforms as needed for their membership. However, the majority of Virginia Beach City FC teams currently participate in USYS and VYSA competition platforms.

Virginia Beach City FC has selected to use the USYS National League as their national platform and top league option for players ages U13-U19. League play will reflect a team-to-team performance model on the field and logistically, a club-to-club model, as appropriate, to maintain positive club culture on game days. Teams ages U8 to U12 will be recognized as Pre-National League Teams. Second and third teams in each age group U8-U19 will compete in local VYSA state leagues such as CCL, VSL and TASL. 

Virginia Beach City FC encourages other clubs in Hampton Roads and throughout Virginia to select the best governing body for their membership. Both USYS and US Club Soccer have fantastic opportunities for players and teams. 

SOURCES

For more information on USYS, VYSA or US Club Soccer and ECNL please visit their respective webistes.

USYS - US Youth Soccer

USYS National League - National League (usysnationalleague.com)

VYSA - Virginia Youth Soccer Association > Home (vysa.com)

US Club Soccer - Home - US Club Soccer Website

ECNL - ECNL | Elite Clubs National League | Home (theecnl.com)

*Please note, this article is Virginia Beach City FC's interpretation of the youth soccer landscape in the United States and is intended to help explain the opportunities that exist for Virginia Beach City FC membership through USYS and US Club Soccer. Other clubs are welcome to share this interpretation but recognize Virginia Beach City FC participation in USYS or US Club is based on the needs of their membership and this article is not intended to persuade which governing body to use but to help clarify the available pathways for youth soccer in the United States. 

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