CHARLESTON, S.C. (Sept. 20, 2016) - With an expansive reach of 22 leagues, about 300 clubs and nearly 2,000 teams across the country, it’s easy to forget that the 2016-17 National Premier Leagues (NPL) season is just the fifth season in its young history.
The training wheels have been off for some time. The structure is aged and proven.
While members are attracted to the consistent principles that the NPL – and US Club Soccer – touts, like club-driven leagues, appropriate governance and a plethora of opportunities (Players First, id², PDPs, etc.), there’s a healthy balance between business-as-usual and new dynamism in 2016-17.
NPL season previews schedule:
- Thursday, Sept. 15: Southeast
- Friday, Sept. 16: Northeast
- Monday, Sept. 19: Central
- Tuesday, Sept. 20: West
The latest hot topic is the Elite National Premier League (ENPL): a collaboration between US Club Soccer and the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) to create a new national competition platform for U-14 through U-18/19 boys. The ENPL will feature local and national regular-season competition, national showcases and a prestigious playoff structure.
While the ENPL officially kicks off in August 2017, the preparations are underway. When the league launches, there will be effects on the NPL. Generally, the ENPL will strengthen member NPLs around the country, as it provides an aspiration for qualification to the ENPL.
But, back to the 2016-17 NPL season, where 22 leagues will enjoy a competitive slate of regular season competition that eventually culminates with the 2017 NPL Finals. The dates and location of the Finals will be announced in the coming days.
The NPL will also host its third annual NPL Showcase, Dec. 29-31 in Palm Coast, Fla. Last year, more than 70 top NPL girls teams participated in the event designed to bring quality competition and college coaches to the same venue. This season, the showcase will feature three age groups: 98s/99s, 00s and 01s. The deadline to apply is Oct. 1.
Here are six NPLs in the West:
While the Arizona NPL is technically a new league this season, the clubs are familiar to the NPL landscape. The Arizona NPL was created as part of a regional realignment with the Mountain Developmental League, which previously had two divisions. Now, those Arizona clubs – Arizona Arsenal, CCV Stars, SC del Sol, Scottsdale Blackhawks, Sereno SC and Tucson Soccer Academy – move into their own league with programming for their U-11 through U-18 boys and girls age groups.
The clubs have hit the ground running, with a commitment to host their first PDP event in November. Teams will compete in the fall from September through early November and then pick back up in the spring from March through April. Afterward, qualifying teams will play a regional playoff against qualifiers from the Southern California NPL to determine NPL Finals berths.
The league’s first-ever play weekend, signifying the start of the regular season, took place two weekends ago.
Mountain Developmental League
The Mountain Developmental League narrowly missed out on two opportunities to have reigning NPL Finals champions, as Real Colorado were edged in both its U-13 boys and U-14 boys title games in Colorado this past summer.
The Colorado strength is back this season, as the aforementioned Arizona clubs (see Arizona NPL section above) formed their own NPL away from the Mountain Developmental League.
Four seasons ago, the Mountain Developmental League played in its inaugural season. Now, in 2016-17, six clubs – Arsenal Colorado, Colorado Rush, Colorado Storm, FC Boulder, Pride SC and Real Colorado – are progressing the league towards perennial NPL Finals contention.
NorCal NPL, a model for competitive leagues around the country, mirrors US Club Soccer’s efforts to provide a holistic approach to club soccer, as its mission is to “elevate soccer by developing players, clubs, coaches and referees.”
PDPs are a regular programming staple with weekly training across several age groups. NorCal NPL has also shown a commitment to Players First as it hosted the second LaLiga Formation Methodology course in March. More than 270 coaches were in attendance, making it the largest course to date.
NorCal NPL has already kicked off its 2016-17 season with about 130 matches played on opening weekend. Clubs are now in full pursuit of qualifying to the NPL Spring Champions League Division, which precedes the right to play at the NPL Finals.
Davis Legacy SC brings national championship experience to the new season after capturing the U-18 girls title in Colorado.
Northwest Champions League
A relatively new league to the NPL, the Northwest Champions League was formed two seasons ago.
The league held its “play weekend,” signifying the official start of the new season, last month at 60 Acres Park in Redmond, Wash. 60 Acres is a familiar venue to US Club Soccer programming, as it has hosted the National Cup Northwest Regionals ECNL National Playoffs.
The Northwest Champions League continues its play with games coming up on Oct. 1 and Oct. 8.
Southern California NPL
A veteran to the NPL, the Southern California NPL came about in December 2011. It includes eight clubs competing in U-13 through U-17 boys age groups and is operated by the Coast Soccer League.
The Southern California NPL has released nine tentative play weekends for its spring schedule. Top teams will compete in a postseason event with the Arizona NPL to determine 2017 NPL Finals qualifiers.
Anaheim FC PDA ’01 is a reigning NPL Finals champions after taking home the U-14 boys title this past summer in Colorado.
Washington State Premier League
The Puget Sound Premier League continues to see steady and substantial double-digit growth every year since it began in 2008. Helping to accelerate growth has been its management of the Washington State Premier League, the NPL league for Washington state.
The NPL boys and girls teams and clubs that qualify for the WSPL have competed every year since the inception of the NPL. Over the years, WSPL clubs have advanced to the semifinals and championship rounds of the NPL Finals. For the 2016 season, the WSPL 1 promises to be stronger and more competitive than ever - 120 teams representing more than 25 clubs will battle in the fall and winter to win coveted spots into the NPL playoff structure.
ABOUT US CLUB SOCCER:
A National Association member of the U.S. Soccer Federation, US Club Soccer fosters the growth and development of soccer clubs in order to create the best possible development environment for players of all ages.
Anchored by Players First and its five pillars of Club Development, Coaching Development, Player Development, Parent Engagement & Education and Player Health & Safety, US Club Soccer offers registration, league- and cup-based competition platforms, player identification and a variety of other programming, resources and services.
US Club Soccer is sponsored by Nike and supported by LaLiga through a technical partnership.