ECNL REGIONAL LEAGUE – NORCAL READY FOR ITS FIRST SPRING SEASON

By Jacob Born | February 16, 2022

The ECNL, at its core, is about pushing competition and development standards in soccer higher, and finding the best ways to develop the whole athlete. That was the league’s mission when it was founded, and that mission continues to this day. 

With that in mind, the organization launched the ECNL Girls Regional League – NorCal at the beginning of the 2021-22 season, with a format different than any other Regional League in the country. The ECNL Girls Regional League – NorCal is an annual team-based play-in competition. 

In the fall, the first half of the 2021-22 season, the top U14 – U18/19 teams in each of NorCal Premier Soccer’s geographically-based National Premier League (NPL) divisions competed to qualify for the spring 2022 ECNL Girls Regional League – NorCal. Based on these fall NPL results, the qualifying teams will now battle in the ECNL Girls Regional League – NorCal this spring for a league championship and a berth in the ECNL Girls Regional League Championship Event  – California against qualifiers from other Regional Leagues. In the U15 – U17 age groups, winners of the ECNL Girls Regional League Championship Event – California will advance to the ECNL Girls Regional League Finals, held during the ECNL Girls National Playoffs. 

With more than 80,000 players participating in NorCal Premier Soccer’s leagues in total, the following teams from U14 to U18/19 climbed to the top of the fall NPL divisions and earned the right to compete in the 2022 ECNL Regional League – NorCal: 

U14

U15 U16 U17

U19

Blues FC

Allstars United FC Bay Area Clovis Crossfire

Blues FC

Burlingame

Burlingame Mustang SC De Anza Force

Cal Magic

De Anza Force

California Odyssey Pajaro Valley DV Wolves

FC Bay Area

FC Bay Area

Clovis Crossfire Palo Alto GA FC Bay Area

Folsom Lake Surf

Mustang SC

FC Bay Area Placer United MVLA

MVLA

Placer United

Inter Rage Rocklin FC Placer United

Palo Alto GA

Santa Clara Sporting

Palo Alto GA Sac United Placer United 2

Placer United

SF Elite

Placer United San Juan SC SF Elite

Sac United

Stanislaus San Juan SC SF Elite SF United

SF Elite

Walnut Creek SF Elite West Coast FC West Coast FC

Walnut Creek

In total 25 clubs will be represented in the ECNL Girls Regional League – NorCal across the five age groups. Each team earned their spot in the Regional League on the field, and all will have to do the same again every year.  

“For us, it’s all about the competition and having a platform that brings it all together,” said Heath Piper, FC Bay Area Academy Director. “Playing in the fall league, that was probably the best competition format we’ve participated in a long time. The competition has been so good. No matter what, if you’re good enough, you get to play in this league, and that’s what it should be about. We’re always looking to play against the best and the ECNL Regional League – NorCal has brought out the best.”

FC Bay Area was one of three clubs to have teams qualify for the ECNL Girls Regional League – NorCal in all five age groups, the other two being San Francisco Elite and Placer United. For each club, having teams qualify in every age group is a big accomplishment and is a testament to the coaching staff and players giving their very best week in and week out. 

“We’re really proud of our kids,” said Ron Benjamin, Placer United Director of Coaching. “And we pride ourselves on our culture and work ethic, and the kids have worked very hard to get themselves into this position. We expect to come out of our region in every age group as one of the top clubs, and we’re excited that it became a reality. It’s a big accomplishment for our club.”

The theme of the ECNL Girls Regional League – NorCal is top-level. Top-level players, top-level teams, top-level coaching. Putting the best in northern California in one place to battle it out, where spots are annually earned. That is what was exciting for Tom Atencio, San Francisco Elite Director of Coaching and Player Development, facing the best competition possible to spur player development. 

“We want to play at the top level,” said Tom Atencio, San Francisco Elite Director of Coaching and Player Development. “That’s the expectation, playing at the top level … every team is prepared, well-coached and presents a professional environment. Qualifying for every age group feels terrific and we’re excited for the spring season.”

Now with the spring season on the horizon, every team will have the chance to win the inaugural ECNL Girls Regional League – NorCal championship and participate in the ECNL Girls Regional League – California championship event. But Placer United isn’t getting ahead of itself, instead focusing on the process to bring about the results. 

“We really just try to stick to our principles of how we’re going to play,” Benjamin said. “We don’t want to overhype these games, we just want to make sure the kids are staying consistent with their training habits and are excited and ready to play on game days. The girls know this is going to be a very challenging spring, so there’s a bit more motivation to get out there and train harder.”

The ECNL Girls Regional League – NorCal was created in an area with one of the country’s deepest talent pools in order to give these athletes, teams and clubs the chance to claim their spot on the field every year. With the fall season now completed and the spring season kicking off, the challenges will get tougher, but the rewards will be even greater.