CHARLESTON, S.C. (Sept. 19, 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.
Lake Highlands Girls Classic League
The Lake Highlands Girls Classic League is a coveted league in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and has traditionally been considered among the top girls leagues in the country, producing numerous collegiate and U.S. National Team players over the years.
The league partnered with the United Soccer Clubs in June to foster the Texas Champions League to provide avenues to the NPL Finals.
Midwest Developmental League
Founded one month earlier than the Gulf States Premier League, the Midwest Developmental League has a slightly adjusted league structure this year. The 16 club, all-boys league was previously made up of two divisions – Academy and Independent – but is now structured as East and West. As a direct result, teams are traveling less to play competitive games.
Campton United SC goes for three consecutive U-18 boys championships at the 2017 NPL Finals, after clinching the division in both the 2015 and 2016 events.
Northern Illinois Soccer League – NPL Division
The Northern Illinois Soccer League (NISL), one of the largest and most competitive youth soccer leagues in the country, features an NPL division as its top competitive tier. Sockers FC ’00, of the NISL NPL Division, won one of the most exciting NPL Finals championship games this past summer, as it exacted revenge on FC Dallas Pre-Academy in the U-15 boys final. In 2015, FC Dallas defeated Sockers FC in the title game.
Three months ago, the NISL expanded to offer a girls NPL division that features 15 clubs. League champions are eligible to compete at the 2017 NPL Finals. The girls division has wide-reaching programming just like its male counterpart, including PDPs and National Cup implications. That division began its regular season last month.
NISL member Sockers FC Chicago hosted the fourth LaLiga Formation Methodology course in August, which was the first public US Club Soccer/LaLiga appearance for Raul, LaLiga’s United States Country Manager.
South Central Premier League
Eight clubs make up the current South Central Premier League, and the league landscape has remained largely unchanged since it was created in fall 2013. Blitz United SC (Okla.), Dynamos SC (Texas), Eclipse SC (Texas), Houston Express SC (Texas), Liverpool FC America (Texas) and Space City FC (Texas) are the remaining founding members. Dallas City FC (Texas) and Oklahoma FC (Okla.) have since joined.
The South Central Premier League hosts a PDP every spring.
Texas Champions League
The Texas Champions League came about as part of a new partnership between United Soccer Clubs and Lake Highlands Girls Classic League. 2016-17 represents the inaugural season, and the league includes U-14 through U-18 clubs from south Texas, north Texas and Oklahoma.
Teams play in the fall and spring with league qualifiers advancing to the NPL Finals.
Texas Pre-Academy League
The Texas Pre-Academy League has proved its value as a true precursor to the U.S. Soccer Development Academy. It includes all nine DA member clubs in Texas and is the top level of competition for U-15 boys players before they move into DA age groups.
The league hosts an annual PDP, with top performers receiving invitations to id² Training Camps. Two former PDP participants recently signed their first professional contracts.
This past summer, FC Dallas Pre-Academy narrowly lost in the U-15 boys championship game, which would have been the club’s third national championship in a week – after winning the DA U-15/16 and U-17/18 titles.
United Soccer Clubs Champions League
Despite only starting a year ago, the United Soccer Clubs (USC) Champions League is operating like a veteran of the NPL. The league hosted the first-ever LaLiga Formation Methodology course in March, welcomed 11 new clubs to strengthen its West division and contributed to id² Training Camps.
The Champions League is the top level of USC with champions advancing directly to the NPL Finals. USC has also created a spring cup-based competition with winners qualifying to the National Cup Finals.
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.