Qualifying: Reaching the 2013 NPL Champions Cup

The 2013 NPL Champions Cup will feature more than 100 of the best teams from across the country going head-to-head for the right to call themselves national champions.

The result will be five days of intense competition at Aurora Sports Park in suburban Denver, but that will only be part of the story -- the end of a journey that began months and hundreds of games earlier. By the time teams reach the NPL Champions Cup from July 18-22, they will have already set themselves apart via the qualifying process.

2013 NPL Champions Cup Web page | List of qualifying teams

Over the weeks leading up to the 2013 NPL Champions Cup, we will be taking a look at all aspects of the tournament through a multi-part Web series each Thursday. Part I took a look back at the inaugural event last year, and Part II featured the host venue, Aurora Sports Park.

To keep up with the series and other NPL news:

The 2013 NPL Champions Cup will feature more than 100 of the best teams from across the country going head-to-head for the right to call themselves national champions.

The result will be five days of intense competition at Aurora Sports Park in suburban Denver, but that will only be part of the story -- the end of a journey that began months and hundreds of games earlier. By the time teams reach the NPL Champions Cup from July 18-22, they will have already set themselves apart via the qualifying process.

To earn a spot in US Club Soccer’s league-based national championship competition, teams must finish atop one of the 17 National Premier Leagues, which stretch from coast to coast. This may be done via a regular-season title or postseason triumph -- such as the recently completed Southeast Pre-Academy League Playoffs -- depending on each league’s structure, and all NPL champions in the U-13 through U-18 boys and girls groups are eligible for the NPL Champions Cup.

This process underscores the mission of the NPL by fostering long-term player development through consistent and meaningful high-level games between the country’s top clubs. In addition, this league play format, as well as the national platform of the NPL Champions Cup, allows opportunities to be scouted and evaluated for inclusion in US Club Soccer’s id2 Program and U.S. National Team programs.

So far, 73 teams have qualified for the 2013 NPL Champions Cup, and many more will add their names to the list as NPLs wrap up their seasons this summer. Once they reach Denver, these teams will engage in a true "champions league" style competition, beginning with round-robin play from July 18-20 and finishing with semifinals and finals on the last two days.

Stay tuned for the next entry in the series, which will take a look at the changes between the inaugural NPL Champions Cup and this year’s event.