CHARLESTON, S.C. (Sept. 15, 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.
Elite Development Program – NPL Division
Formerly the Eastern Development Program, the Elite Development Program (still largely recognized as EDP) is a veteran to the NPL. The league joined in the inaugural season of 2011-12 with only boys teams, before expanding to add girls competition the following season.
Member clubs are from Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Participating age groups are U-13 through U-18.
Last season, the EDP was responsible for three national champions and two national runners-up at the 2016 NPL Finals in Aurora, Colo.
New England Premier League
Playing across the country at the 2016 NPL Finals did nothing to slow down New England Premier League clubs, as the league laid claim to three 2016 NPL Finals titles (U-14 girls, U-16 girls and U-17 girls) and two runners up (U-18 boys and U-15 girls).
Given its illustrious history since the boys side was founded in November 2011 and the girls side was created in May 2014, it’s inevitable that the New England Premier League – operated by the New England Premiership – will have competitive representation at the 2017 NPL Finals.
The league has shown a commitment to US Club Soccer programming across the board, including to PDPs. The NEP hired John Curtis – a former professional player who played for the likes of Manchester United, Blackburn Rovers, Leicester City and Queens Park Rangers – as its PDP Director. Curtis also has an established coaching career, which includes his role as Everton America CT Technical Director.
The NEP is honing its impressive structure with the establishment of NEP State Cups, held in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Qualifiers from four of those state cups were responsible for seven or more teams competing for US Club Soccer’s other national championship event: the National Cup Finals.
New York Club Soccer League
The New York Club Soccer League (NYCSL), another elite environment for players in the northeast, also has a defending national champion from Colorado – Princeton SA/IGFA 00/01 (U-15 girls).
NYCSL kicked off its fall season two weekends ago with 38 total games around the state. Additionally, the league hosted a PDP event this past Sunday at Manhattanville College. Two more PDPs have already been scheduled in October and November to continue the identification and development process for 2002-05 birth years. Numerous players in the past have advanced from NYCSL PDPs to the id² Program.
Northeast Girls NPL
The Northeast Girls NPL came into the NPL landscape in fall 2013 with youth girls teams filling U-13 through U-18 age groups. Clubs from Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York make up the league, which has produced nearly 200 college commitments in the past two seasons.
The Northeast Girls NPL has also welcomed the annual NPL Showcase with open arms. At the inaugural event in 2014-15, half of the participating teams came from the Northeast Girls NPL.
It’s one of the NPLs that includes a postseason tournament at the conclusion of the regular season with berths to the NPL Finals hanging in the balance. The competitive calendar aligns with the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) – a direct benefit to member clubs that have both ECNL and NPL membership.
Northeast Pre-Academy League
An all-boys league, the Northeast Pre-Academy League includes U-15 and U-16/17 brackets, although the U-15 age group is the only one to play a fall schedule. PDA ’01 is the only team to have won both its games so far. Through six games, half have been ties.
The Northeast Pre-Academy League originated as a US Club Soccer league in 2009, later joining the NPL as a founding member two years later.
At the conclusion of the regular season, top teams participate in a postseason tournament that is paired with a PDP at the same facility.
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.