Many people believe that in order for their child to have a chance to play soccer in college or at a professional level that they need to play club soccer somewhere that has an ECNL (Elite Club National League) or USSDA (United States Soccer Development Academy) program. The simple reality is that this is not true. That being said, players that are playing on USSDA and ECNL teams are going to have much greater exposure to college scouts than anywhere else.
But remember, this is only for the actual ECNL and USSDA teams. Most clubs that have these teams also have traditional “Club” teams as well. The purpose of these club teams is to create a feeder system into the ECNL and USSDA teams, but also to financially support the ECNL and USSDA teams. USSDA and ECNL clubs usually offer large amounts of scholarships as an incentive to get the best players to come and play for their team. Because it is extremely expensive to run an ECNL or USSDA program, the rest of the club must financially support these programs. This means that the fees paid by all “Club” players is going to be much higher than most of the clubs in the area without those programs.
All of that said, this decision changes depending on the age of the player. If your player is 14 or younger then it is not important for them to be playing at a club that has ECNL & USSDA. This is simply because at such young age a good club is going to be focused on development of it’s players. Usually any club that has ECNL & USSDA is going to be much more focused on winning. When it comes to development a lot of coaches will trade development for winning. Development is what is important. If you put your player in ECNL or USSDA at U14 they will be joining a team with 35 other players. The reality of this is that only 11 players get to play at a time so the majority of the time they will be sitting on the bench. Players do not develop by sitting on the bench. It makes much more sense for this player to play for a club team where they are going to play the majority of minutes each game.
If your player is 15 or older then it would make sense for them to play for a club that has ECNL & USSDA because they will have more exposure to college scouts. Even if they aren’t playing on the ECNL or USSDA teams, they will still be in an environment of excellence where they will be in front of the ECNL & USSDA coaches on a weekly basis. If they are good enough then those coaches will ask them to be apart of the ECNL or USSDA teams, and this is the best gateway to college or professional soccer.
In conclusion, what is important is that your player is getting playing time, and is being challenged at all times. This may be possible playing for a club that has ECNL & USSDA, but it certainly is not a necessity to play for one of these clubs.
If you player is good enough, an ECNL or USSDA club is going to come find them and invite them to join the team.
Let the debate begin!
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