Should You Play ECNL RL?

The ECNL Regional League is one of the fastest-growing options for top teams that aren’t quite at the ECNL level. If you’re considering playing ECNL RL, here’s what you should know.

ECNL vs. ECNL Regional League

The Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) and the ECNL Regional League (ECNL RL) are two tiers within the ECNL’s competitive structure. Both leagues aim to provide players with a high level of competition and development, but they differ in various ways.

ECNL is the top tier, showcasing the best youth soccer teams in the country. It focuses on player development and is structured to provide players with a pathway to college soccer and professional opportunities. ECNL teams travel across the country to compete in league games, showcases, and national events.

ECNL RL, on the other hand, is a step below ECNL in terms of competition. It serves as a platform for clubs that may not have the resources or talent pool to compete at the highest level but still offer a competitive environment for player development. The Regional League operates on a more regional basis, reducing the travel requirements compared to the ECNL.

Because of its regional schedule, ECNL RL accepts more clubs than ECNL. While ECNL usually only takes the top one or two clubs in an area, ECNL RL often has multiple clubs within an hour of each other.

ECNL RL Level of Play

While the ECNL RL is below the ECNL, it still offers a high level of play. The league includes a mix of clubs.

Some clubs are the largest clubs with thousands of players who put their second or third teams into ECNL RL, but those teams are still very good. Other clubs are the small to mid-sized clubs that do well on the state and regional level but don’t have the size to compete nationally.

ECNL Regional League vs. State Leagues

ECNL Regional League provides a direct alternative to statewide leagues run under US Youth Soccer. ECNL RL consists largely of clubs that used to play in the statewide leagues but shifted from US Youth Soccer to US Club Soccer.

US Club Soccer offers a variety of benefits over US Youth Soccer including more flexible rules, fewer restrictions on travel, and placing a greater emphasis on the club as a whole rather than forcing individual teams to play in separate leagues.

Many larger clubs also feel that smaller US Youth Soccer members were using their votes to keep larger clubs from adding new opportunities for players that aren’t found at smaller clubs.

ECNL Regional League vs. NPL

The NPL or National Premier League is also a member of US Club Soccer but isn’t affiliated with ECNL. NPL is largely recognized as the third tier of US Club Soccer after ECNL and ECNL RL.

NPL leagues usually operate on a statewide level in larger states or in regional leagues covering multiple smaller states. NPL leagues are usually a similar size to or just a little bit larger than ECNL RL leagues, so the travel demands are similar.

ECNL RL is usually the better choice when looking at leagues alone, but other factors such as playing time, coaching, and what tournaments a team goes to could make an NPL team a better choice over an ECNL RL team.

ECNL RL Pros and Cons

There are several benefits to playing in the ECNL Regional League. First and foremost, the level of competition is higher than in most state leagues, allowing players to test themselves against strong opponents. Additionally, the ECNL RL offers more exposure to college coaches, as the league regularly hosts showcases and events designed to highlight top talent. This increased exposure can lead to more college soccer opportunities for players.

Despite its benefits, there are drawbacks to playing in the ECNL RL. Travel costs can be higher than in other leagues, as teams often travel across their region for games. Additionally, scheduling conflicts may arise when other clubs do not prioritize the league, leading to difficulties in coordinating matches and maintaining a consistent level of competition.

Moving From ECNL to ECNL RL

ECNL does not have promotion and relegation with ECNL RL. ECNL only takes clubs by application. While many new ECNL clubs started in ECNL RL, this is not a guaranteed or necessary path.

Individual players can certainly use the playing experience and training from an ECNL RL team to try to make the jump to an ECNL team the next season. If you’re trying to push to the next level, playing at the highest level possible is how to do it.

One thing to watch out for is some ECNL RL clubs try to hide the difference between ECNL RL and ECNL. They also lead their parents to believe they’re getting ECNL soon so you can get in by joining their club now. These are basically used car salesman tactics to get players to sign with them instead of another club. ECNL tries to police it, but there’s only so much they can do.


The ECNL Regional League offers a valuable platform for player development and exposure to college coaches. It may not have the same prestige as the ECNL, but it provides a competitive environment that can help players grow and potentially advance to higher levels of play.

Leave a Comment