Previewing the 2017-18 NPL season: North Central

Featuring Central States NPL, Great Lakes Alliance, Midwest Development League, Northern Illinois Soccer League

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (Oct. 27, 2017) – The National Premier Leagues (NPL) enters its sixth season with 21 leagues, about 300 clubs and nearly 2,000 teams. And while the expansive platform has settled into a niche of quality, consistent programming, the NPL also welcomes change that is facilitating new growth.

Member leagues continue to be led by club-driven models, with US Club Soccer initiatives like Players First, id² and PDP providing necessary support. The newest addition to the landscape is the Elite National Premier League (ENPL), which serves as the top spot for boys competition. The ENPL is a collaboration between US Club Soccer and the ECNL to create a competitive platform for 14-U through 18/19-U boys age groups.

Sixteen qualifying competitions – consisting of NPLs and Boys ECNL Conferences – are now working towards ENPL qualification on the boys side of the brackets. For NPL teams, that results in a modified NPL Finals structure in 2018. While the girls are still positioning towards an NPL Finals run, boys teams are divided among multiple events.

ENPL-qualifying NPL teams have three playoff opportunities depending on age group:

  • 14-U teams advance to the National Cup XVII Finals
  • 15-U, 16-U and 17-U teams advance to either the ENPL Eastern Playoffs or the ENPL Western Playoffs
  • 19-U teams advance to the ENPL 19-U National Championship

Six NPLs do not have ENPL qualifying status, though, so their postseason opportunities are different. Those leagues are Central States NPL, Great Lakes Alliance, Gulf States Premier League, Red River NPL, Southern California NPL and Washington NPL.

Here are four NPLs in the North Central region:

Northern Illinois Soccer League – NPL Division

As the top tier of one of the largest and most competitive youth leagues in the nation, the NPL Division of the Northern Illinois Soccer League (NISL) is known for its high levels of talent and intense competition.

As a league that was founded in 1975 and is home to over 17,000 players on 1,300 teams across 120 metropolitan Chicago communities, it is no surprise that the NISL produced the 2002 boys national champion, a 2004 boys finalist and a total of eight competing teams from six clubs during the 2017 NPL Finals.

With league play kicking off just over two months ago, the races to league championships are tightening. The NISL Girls NPL Division – in its second season – will solidify its 2018 Girls NPL Finals qualifiers by the end of this fall season.

NISL continues to boast a robust PDP platform, and its latest PDP featured 2004 boys competing in front of U.S. Soccer scouts.

Midwest Developmental League

The Midwest Developmental League season returns with the same East and West divisions that it introduced last season, although seven new clubs have been added. With less time spent traveling for games, teams are more prepared for matches and therefore the competition is more intense.

As an ENPL qualifier, the Midwest Developmental League looks to build on its 2017 postseason success, where the league fielded four teams in the NPL Finals, including a semifinalist in the Cincinnati United Premier 2004 boys squad.

Campton United SC will look to return to championship form in this season's ENPL 19-U National Championship, after its run of two consecutive 18-U boys championships fell short of reaching three in the 2017 NPL Finals.

Great Lakes Alliance

While Great Lakes Alliance is kicking off its second official season, 2017-18 will be its first campaign as an NPL member. The league will features 13-U through 18/19-U age groups and is comprised of 33 clubs from Ohio, western New York and western Pennsylvania.

Every team has played at least four league games, and Century Gold’s girls teams are off to a commanding start, with first place teams in the 2004 and 2005 age groups, and seven wins in as many matches for the 2005 team. The 2004 Hotspurs SC boys team has also set a blistering pace in its group, as it leads the way with a perfect 18 points through six matches.

Last year’s Great Lakes Alliance regular season winners advanced directly to the National Cup XVI Finals.

Central States NPL

In 2017-18, the North Central region will introduce the Central States NPL as its newest member league. Central States NPL consists of 10 top clubs from Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.

As one of the NPLs that does not currently hold ENPL qualifying status, Central States NPL will see their boys teams fight for postseason position in either the National Cup XVII Finals (13-U and 14-U age groups), Boys Western NPL Finals (15-U, 16-U and 17-U), or the Boys 19-U NPL Finals.

League play began several weeks ago and competing clubs are already off to the races, with four different first-place clubs among the six boys age groups. Nebraska FC currently leads the way in both the 2004 and 2002 boys groups, while Vision Soccer Academy has set the pace for the 2003 and 2001 age groups.

Kansas Rush is off to a dominant start amongst the girls teams, with current leads in the 2003, 2002 and 2001 age groups, and perfect records held for its 2002 and 2001 teams. Vision Soccer Academy has also been impressive thus far, as the club currently sits in first place in the 2004 and 2000/1999 girls age groups.

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 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.

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