NPL Roundup spotlight: Virginia NPL

Virginia NPL schedules / standings

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Dec. 15, 2014) – The Virginia NPL is one of two new leagues within the NPL for the 2014-15 season, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at its array of programming.

Acting like a veteran of the landscape, the Virginia NPL and its 10 charter clubs – featuring U-13 through U-18 boys and girls – have embraced the club-first mentality the NPL offers and taken advantage of its competitive opportunities. Rather than have its older age groups’ schedules combat area high school seasons, the Virginia NPL puts players first by crafting its schedules around those. And the league isn’t wasting any time bringing a Player Development Program (PDP) event to its backyard, as it readies to host one this spring.

Member clubs are:

Annandale Boys and Girls Club Northern Virginia SC
Chesapeake United SC Prince William Courage
Chesterfield United SC Richmond Kickers
Churchland SC Richmond Strikers
FC Virginia Virginia Rush

Prince William Courage Technical Director Mike Cullina was one of the key figures to bring about the Virginia NPL. “I was fortunate to coach in the Midwest Developmental League and saw firsthand the benefit of the NPL,” the former Boys Director of Coaching for Ohio Elite Soccer Academy said. “We recognized the benefit of scheduling, consistent officiating, meaningful feedback to our coaches and players and the ability to share best practices with our partner clubs in a live setting.”

Pat McStay, Executive Director of Chesterfield United SC, echoed similar sentiments. “I think that the club-based platform has much more upside than having your teams scattered throughout the state playing in different areas,” McStay said. “Our directors are able to oversee more teams in one place, and it allows for more internal coaching education, player and coach evaluation on a weekly basis and more visibility from the club down to one of the most important pieces of our clubs: our parents.”

The PDP event is tentatively scheduled for the spring while final preparations and arrangements are made. PDPs are regionally-based identification and development programs conducted within the id² Program. From a thorough scouting and recommendation process, top players are invited to attend PDP events, which could lead to id² Training Camp invitations, as id² Program scouts are on-site at all PDP events to scout players for potential inclusion.

“It allows the best players in the league to compete against one another, but in a different environment,” McStay said. “It’s important to get those players out of their comfort zones and stretch them a little.”

“The PDP is significant benefit of membership to the NPL,” Cullina said, “as it provides a direct path for the league’s best players into id² without passing on additional expenses to the families.”

All age groups competed in the fall, and U-13 and U-14 boys and girls teams will pick back up again in the spring. Because regular season standings determine which teams will represent the Virginia NPL for the first time at the 2015 NPL Finals – to be held at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. – if any of the spring U-13 or U-14 champions differ from the fall winners, a one-game playoff will determine the NPL Finals representative.

The team leaders at the conclusion of the fall season are as follows:

  Boys: Girls:
U-13: Prince William Courage Prince William Courage
U-14: Virginia Rush FC Virginia
U-15: Prince William Courage FC Virginia
U-16: FC Virginia Churchland SC
U-17: Annandale Boys and Girls Club Prince William Courage
U-18: Virginia Rush Prince William Courage

“It certainly is an incentive to the players,” McStay said of the prospect of playing for a national championship. “It would be nice to get a chance to represent the league at a national level.”

Prince William Courage, which has already punched tickets to the 2015 NPL Finals in a few age groups, is eager for Indiana. “The NPL Finals was a major incentive for us to join the league,” Cullina said. “It’s important for us to find the proper balance between the performance of our teams and results. The NPL Finals gives meaning to the league.”

Cullina and McStay both want to grow the Virginia NPL but expressed the need to be meticulous. “We certainly want to work with and support our partner clubs to establish club standards and help one another as we grow,” Cullina said. “We are pleased with the interest clubs have shown to join and would expect us to add clubs to the league for 2015-16.”

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