ECNL REGIONAL LEAGUE – HEARTLAND SIGNIFICANTLY EXPANDS WITH EIGHT NEW CLUBS FOR 2021-22 SEASON
RICHMOND, VA (March 18, 2021) – The ECNL is excited to announce the addition of eight new clubs to the ECNL Girls Regional League – Heartland for the upcoming 2021-22 season. The new additions represent a combination of new clubs to the ECNL Regional League platform, including Eclipse – Central Illinois, KC Fusion, Rockford Raptors, Sporting Michigan and Vision Soccer Academy, and current ECNL clubs bringing new teams and players into the ECNL Regional League pyramid – Eclipse Select, FC Wisconsin, and Liverpool FC Michigan.
“I am thrilled to add these eight clubs to the expanding ECNL Regional League platform, as they will raise the level and provide an ECNL pathway in both new and existing markets,” said ECNL Girls Commissioner Jen Winnagle. “The expansion of the ECNL Girls Regional League – Heartland provides development and competitive opportunity to a broader player pool, and exposes new clubs to the ECNL mission: to Raise the Game by elevating standards and experience in all aspects of youth soccer. ”
Eclipse – Central Illinois
Founded in 2007, and recently rebranded for their top female teams, Eclipse – Central Illinois started when multiple soccer clubs dating back to the late 1990s merged together as one organization. Along with the merger, the club officially became part of the Chicago Fire Soccer Club organization, providing the best resources and development opportunities to all players in the area. The club provides training for boys and girls from ages U4-U19, with the focus on total player skill development in a competitive and fun environment in the greater Central Illinois community.
“We are extremely excited to bring ECNL to Central Illinois,” said Tim Koch, Eclipse – Central Illinois President. “Partnering with the highest level, competitive youth league in girls soccer will provide never before offered opportunities to players in our region. We look forward to combining our strong coaches and players with the opportunities that ECNL provides in order to take soccer to the next level in Central Illinois.”
Kansas City, KS
KC Fusion is dedicated to being one of Kansas City’s top youth soccer clubs. The organization strives to create and deliver to club members and their families an amazing youth soccer experience. With more than 2,500 players and a state of the art complex, cold weather training facility, a collection of high school and collegiate coaches on staff and accessibility for all families, KC Fusion helps every athlete in the organization become better players, better teammates and better people and to reach their every goal.
“KC Fusion is excited to have both our girls and boys teams as a part of the ECNL Regional League,” said Jason Pendleton, KC Fusion Executive Director. “ECNL provides our club a pathway to play high-level competition in our region and help our girls maximize their potential at national events. More importantly, ECNL offers us a partner that is consistent with our mission to help develop the whole soccer player by delivering an environment built on integrity, accountability, and respect. We are excited to get started!”
Rockford Raptors was established in 1994 with the purpose of creating quality soccer training opportunities for Rockford’s youth. Since its inception, Rockford has now blossomed into a program with more than 2,000 athletes participating and more than 300 alumni who have competed in the collegiate ranks. Rockford also provides more than $70,000 in scholarships and financial aid for players, ensuring any athlete who wants to play can do so.
“The Rockford Raptors are extremely excited and honored to be a part of the ECNL Regional League – Heartland,” said Frank Mateus, Rockford Raptors Executive Director. “This is another positive step in our club’s goal to be able to develop our players to their highest level and provide the best opportunities for them to be seen and evaluated to play at the next level.”
Founded in 2010, Sporting Michigan offers a dedicated and highly motivated team of coaches and administrators that truly care about teaching and developing players. In 2020, Sporting Michigan became an official Academy Affiliate of Sporting KC, allowing players that participate and compete for the club to be directly connected to Sporting Kansas City’s Academy and youth development initiatives. In turn, they have the opportunity to gain valuable experience while receiving heightened levels of training and development.
“We are excited and honored to be a part of the ECNL Regional League – Heartland,” said John Phillips, Sporting Michigan Director of Player Development. “This is a great opportunity for our female players, families, and staff and will provide a fantastic platform for every athlete to grow. All involved will benefit from the standards and professionalism that the ECNL holds and we look forward to contributing to the success of the conference and league.”
Vision Soccer Academy
Vision Soccer Academy was founded in 1996, establishing soccer roots throughout the Des Moines metro area. With programs for players from 3 -19 years of age with varying skill levels, VSA aspires to be a club that supports participation, encourages excellence, develops each player’s individual abilities and creates an atmosphere of fun and community.
“We feel our club is wholly aligned with the purpose of the ECNL,” said Chris McGill, Vision Soccer Academy Technical Director. “We will continue to work tirelessly to enhance the developmental experience for our female participants and look forward to proving ourselves against worthy clubs in the ECNL Regional League.”
Oak Brook, IL
The Eclipse Select Soccer Club was formed in 1997 to facilitate the elite-level youth soccer experience. It began with two teams and has evolved into a program consisting of more than 60 teams throughout the Chicago-land area, Central Illinois, and Northwest Indiana. Eclipse Select has enjoyed a vast amount of success on the field, which includes three ECNL Championships, more than 400 alumni competing in collegiate athletics and 15 professional athletes.
“The Eclipse Select Soccer Club is a firm believer in the ECNL platform and the pathway it provides,” said Rory Dames, Eclipse Select President. “The addition of the Regional League – Heartland will allow more of our players to have the ECNL experience and further their development at the highest level.”
FC Wisconsin was founded in 2012 to improve the daily player development environment in Wisconsin soccer. FC Wisconsin represents the scope of the club’s player pool and vision – to represent and include the top players from throughout the state of Wisconsin. With a coaching philosophy focused on long-term player development, a commitment to ongoing coaching education, and a passion for helping players maximize their potential, FC Wisconsin develops the whole athlete on and off the field.
“FC Wisconsin always seeks to provide the best possible competitive experience for all of our teams and players,” said Joana Bromley, FC Wisconsin Academy Director. “When the opportunity was presented to join the ECNL Regional League – Heartland, we knew this would elevate the program and offer more players the same quality ECNL experience. We could not be more excited for this next step and are eager to get the ball rolling in the fall!”
Liverpool FC Michigan
Liverpool FC Michigan is a premier player development academy where players learn to play “The Liverpool Way” from licensed and Liverpool FC accredited coaches and the authentic coaching program of the English Premier League club. The program uses the same curriculum, coaching philosophy, and player development model of the Liverpool FC Academy in England. As of the 2020-21 season, the club has nearly 130 travel teams and approximately 1,500 travel players ages U7-U19 at its five sites—Central at UWM Sports Complex in Pontiac, Ann Arbor, Clarkston/North Oakland, Ferndale, and Windsor, Ontario. The club recently announced a Hartland site will open in the 2021-22 season.
“We have always admired ECNL and the platform it has provided for elite youth players across the country,” said Michigan Director of Coaching Kevin Garner of LFC Michigan. “We could not be happier to join the league with other like-minded clubs of the ECNL and to provide the best possible environment for our players’ development.”
About the ECNL:
The ECNL is the nation’s leading youth soccer development platform. The ECNL respects and celebrates the unique individuality of every youth soccer player and club, supporting and enabling them to unleash their unfettered passion and fierce tenacity in striving to achieve their potential.
The ECNL mission to Raise the Game is a total commitment to create the best possible environment for players, coaches, referees and administrators, with a determination to constantly question convention and challenge the status quo in youth sports.
The ECNL Commitment:
We will lead, set our eyes on new horizons, and pursue them relentlessly. Born out of the belief in a better way. Continued in the ever-evolving pursuit of excellence.