CHARLESTON, S.C. (Jan. 15, 2015) – The recent 2014-15 NPL Showcase (Girls) in Florida had a strong northeast presence – a strong Northeast Girls NPL presence, specifically.
Half of the 58 participating teams call the league spanning Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania their home. Tino Mueller, Penn Fusion Soccer Academy Director of Coaching, said the role of NPL Showcases is important as NPL players strive to play at the highest level and in the collegiate ranks. Penn Fusion’s U-15 team won two of three games at the NPL Showcase, its U-16 squad won once and tied twice, and its U-17 team tied a pair of contests.
“The NPL Showcase is a big opportunity for our teams and players and will make the NPL level more attractive,” Mueller said. “It is also a chance for our club to be represented on a national stage and helps to promote our brand and positive style of soccer.”
In all, the Northeast Girls NPL includes 12 clubs divvied into two divisions:
|North Division:||South Division:|
|Albertson FC (N.Y.)||Continental FC (Pa.)|
|Boston Breakers Academy (Mass.)||FC Bucks (Pa.)|
|Connecticut FC (Conn.)||Match Fit Academy (N.J.)|
|East Meadow SC (N.Y.)||PDA (N.J.)|
|FC Stars of Massachusetts (Mass.)||Penn Fusion SA (Pa.)|
|FSA FC (Conn.)||World Class FC (N.Y.)|
Launched in the fall of 2013, the Northeast Girls NPL offers competitive programming to U-13 through U-18 age groups in a calendar year similar to the US Club Soccer-sanctioned Elite Clubs National League (ECNL).
“Those NPL teams benefit from a similar setup as the ECNL teams and compete with the best clubs in the northeast region, which guarantees competitive games in an environment of high standards,” Mueller added. “From a club perspective, it is also a huge benefit that the ECNL and NPL schedules are mirrored, so all teams travel together to league games, which builds a close connection.”
Dominick Bucci, Match Fit Academy FC Girls Director of Coaching & Player Development, expressed similar sentiments, while adding that a byproduct of the structure helps with collegiate recruiting, as well. “The training and playing environment has been unbelievable,” Bucci said. “From a recruiting perspective, it allows college coaches to come to league matches at the same venues to watch both our ECNL and Northeast NPL players play against what we feel is the best competition in the country.”
The NPL’s club-based structure and developmental emphasis have benefitted each member of the Northeast Girls NPL. Michael O’Neill, PDA Girls Executive Director and Director of Coaching, has seen it firsthand. “It truly strengthens the value of club, player development and coaching education,” O’Neill said. “Players, teams and coaches get the chance to watch, support and learn from each other against competition that brings out the best on a consistent basis.”
When the regular season draws to a close, the top four teams from the U-13 through U-18 age groups advance to a postseason tournament to determine which teams will represent the Northeast Girls NPL at the 2015 NPL Finals in Indiana. The top U-13 Pre-ECNL Division teams also advance to a Northeast Girls NPL playoff to decide a league champion.
Last year at the 2014 NPL Finals, two Northeast Girls NPL teams clinched national titles: PDA in the U-17 bracket and Match Fit Academy in the U-18 division.
“It is a strong incentive,” O’Neill said of the prospect of competing at the NPL Finals. “To play and compete for a national championship means a great deal to the players. The NPL provides a platform for our players to showcase their abilities against other top clubs in the country. We won our first NPL national championship last year, and the club is very proud of that accomplishment.”
Bucci added that by Match Fit Academy’s U-18 team winning a national title, it sent a ripple effect of enthusiasm throughout the whole club. “It was an unbelievable experience for all of our players and club,” Bucci said. “Our younger players all saw the exposure and value that championship brought to our club.”
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