HEARTLAND CONFERENCE PRIMED FOR FIRST-EVER ECNL REGIONAL LEAGUE NATIONAL EVENT
Every season, the most anticipated days on the ECNL calendar are the national events, each a weekend of top competition against teams from across the country. National events are filled with team bonding, heated matches, recruiting opportunities and so many memories.
This year, for the first time in league history, the ECNL Girls Regional League will also have national events. And they kick off this weekend with ECNL Illinois in Rockford, Ill.
ECNL Illinois will feature all 20 clubs from the Heartland Regional League, with more than 70 teams competing across the U15-U19 age groups.
Ralph Richards, St. Louis Scott Gallagher ECNL Director, and Frank Mateus, Rockford Raptors Executive Director, spearheaded the charge to bring one of the jewels of the ECNL to the Regional League, and this event to Illinois.
For Richards, ECNL Illinois presents an opportunity for new teams to experience one of the best parts of the ECNL – the events. These events bring heightened competition levels, challenges in facing teams from different parts of the country, and the ability to grow as a squad and individual, which is something Richards is thrilled to share with his club.
“That’s the greatest piece of it,” Richards said. “I know what an ECNL national event looks like, feels like, smells like on a game day, at the fields on the grass if you will. For many girls and their families, this is going to be their first exposure to that. They’re going to see that and they’re going to be so excited about it. It’s going to raise the level of these games and it will raise the standard within the Regional League because they’re all going to want to be at more of these Regional League events and even ECNL Club Competition events. That’s the greatest piece of this. It’s the experience and the whole atmosphere that go around these events that make them so special. And the memories these girls are going to create here will be so, so awesome.”
The event will be taking place at the Rockford Raptors’ home facility, which presents the unique opportunity to not only experience a national event, but also to showcase their club and their facilities, all while staying right at home.
“I’ve told my kids, they truly don’t know how spoiled they are to be at a great facility and to be able to bring a great event like this here, where we can participate right in our hometown,” Mateus said. “Not many clubs can say that. What an unbelievable opportunity.”
The national event comes just a few weeks into the ECNL Regional League season, which will allow all the clubs participating to create team bonding moments and build a more unified Regional League program. It’s something Richards looks forward to in the Club Competition and is now excited to bring that to the Regional League as well.
“Wins and losses, those come and go,” Richards said. “When you go on these road trips and you have the chance to do something, not just as a team but as a whole program, it really creates this club family and it really creates this unique chance for these girls to become leaders. So when you get a chance to go to an event like this, it creates a really unique bond between these young ladies and I think there’s something special about that. And they’ll absolutely have memories for a lifetime just from these games and these weekends.”
“This was a no-brainer,” Richards said. “This was a top priority for clubs in our league. Everyone was on board with ECNL Illinois immediately. And the fact the league has been able to come together and create this Regional League showcase is really cool and exciting for all of us to be a part of.”
“Having the Heartland host the first-ever Regional League regular season event, it’s a huge step in the right direction for our clubs,” Mateus added. “We want to make sure we open as many doors as possible for our kids. To hold an event like this, it’s critical for our club and the clubs in our League. It’s going to be a great experience.”
With ECNL Illinois kicking off this weekend, Richards, Mateus and the rest of the Heartland Regional League will be making history. It’s something both are excited for, and aim to continue in the future.
“We appreciate Rockford for hosting this historic event,” Richards said. “Being right in the middle of our vast league and their willingness to bring in clubs and work with the league to put on this event, it’s incredible. The fact that we are at the forefront of putting on an ECNL Regional League event, it’s exciting for all of us to be a part of.”
“We’re extremely thankful the league considered us and that they wanted to bring a great event to us,” Mateus added. “To have our kids showcased, right here where we train every day, it’s pretty cool and exciting. It’s just going to be a very exciting weekend and we hope to continue this in the future.”
For more information on the ECNL Illinois Regional League event, click here.