RICHMOND, VA (May 11, 2020)The Elite Clubs National League Girls is excited to announce that Portland Thorns Academy will be joining the ECNL Girls in the 2020-2021 season. The addition of the Portland Thorns FC brings one of the world’s most iconic women’s professional soccer brands into the ECNL.

“We are thrilled to welcome the Thorns Academy to the ECNL Girls,” said ECNL Girls Commissioner Jen Winnagle. “Having one of the most successful NWSL clubs in history join the ECNL as their platform for youth development will strengthen competition within the Northwest Conference and enable more of the nation’s top clubs to face each other in league competitions.” 

Portland Thorns Academy was founded in 2014 with the mission to be a pioneer in girls soccer and to give elite youth players a professional structure to work within daily, the best environment to develop, and elite showcase opportunities.The Portland Thorns Academy were one of the first 25 clubs in the country accepted to the Development Academy in 2016, and in the past 18 months have had 5 players participate with Youth National Teams.

“We are committed to the Thorns FC Academy and believe entering into this partnership with the ECNL will be key in its growth and success,” said Gavin Wilkinson, general manager and president of soccer for Thorns FC. “The ECNL is a proven national competition platform that will give our players the best opportunity to reach their full potential as we strive to develop players for youth national teams, top college programs and the first team.”

Nearly 90% of ECNL Girls alumni move on to play in the college game, where they overwhelmingly dominated individual conference honors in 2019 across the “Power 5” conferences. In total, over 1,100 ECNL Alums played this year across the five conferences, accounting for more than 62% of all rostered players in the Power 5.

Additional information on participating member clubs for the 2020-21 Season will be released in the coming weeks.


About Elite Clubs National League Girls: The Elite Clubs National League Girls (ECNL Girls) was founded in 2009 to enhance the developmental experience of female youth soccer players in the United States through: (i) improving the competitive environment through creation of a true national competitive league; (ii) improving the process for identifying elite female soccer players through a systematic scouting and identification program based on national competitions; and (iii) improving the daily training environment at top female youth soccer clubs through developing best practices and training and organizational guidelines for its member clubs. The ECNL Girls is sanctioned by US Club Soccer and is sponsored by Nike Soccer.


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Media Contact:

Mary Conway