If you are new parent in youth soccer or even a veteran parent of youth soccer, understanding competitive youth soccer leagues can be overwhelming. At times the world of youth soccer can seem like an alphabet soup of acronyms. The amount of acronyms used to describe clubs, leagues, and national organizations can baffle the most knowledgeable soccer parent, so if you are a bit confused or just simply lost, don’t worry you are not the only one. Below we provide a couple definitions to help educate you on what type of league your child could be playing in as well as our clubs competitive structure overall.
Club Based League - This is a league where a club is required to place a team in each of the 6 age groups, U13 - U19, and then travel to compete against another club within their respective conference on the same day, and in most cases at the same complex. For example, if we go to play in Dallas, our "whole club" (all 6 age groups competing in that specific league) would travel to play 1 match against 1 Dallas based club on Saturday and a 2nd match against another Dallas based club on Sunday. Likewise, when a Dallas based club comes to play Tulsa SC on our home grounds, we would play one Dallas based club on Saturday and another Dallas based club on Sunday. In a “club based” league, a typical schedule will be that you play 2 different clubs on a scheduled weekend. Typically, these “club based” leagues have about 4-6 out of town matches played on the weekends, all matches in league play are drivable, and since you travel as a group the travel costs are somewhat reduced (riding together and hotel costs are based on a group rate).
Team Based League - This is a league where a club can place a minimum of 1 team in only 1 age group, can also put multiple teams in the same age group, or can put 1 team in one age group, two teams in a different age group, and none in a 3rd age group, and so on. This league provides flexibility for clubs that can determine on an individual team basis if they are good enough to compete in the league being considered. Typically, “team based” leagues are more locally based or have designated “travel weekends” where you would go and compete against other teams in the league across 3-4 weekends max. In a “team based” league, a typical schedule will be that you play 4 different teams on a scheduled weekend, 2 games on Saturday and 2 games on Sunday.
USSF - There is one overriding national organization that governs all of professional and amateur soccer called the United States Soccer Federation, commonly referred to as the USSF. Think of this as the "NCAA".
USYS & US Club - Underneath the USSF there are two primary national youth soccer organizations called US Youth Soccer (USYS) and US Club Soccer. These 2 national organizations sanction (meaning approve, govern, and insure) hundreds of leagues throughout the United States. These 2 national organizations compete with one another on a national, regional, and state level to attract clubs, such as a club like Tulsa SC, to register their teams and play in their respective state, regional, and national leagues. Think of this as NCAA (US Club) and NAIA (US Youth) in that both National organizations, US Club and US Youth, have their own individual National Championships, just like the NCAA and NAIA.
Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) - ECNL is a club based league and is considered the top national league of US Club (Think of this as NCAA Division I). The ECNL features 130+ of the top boys and girls clubs from around the United States and is considered the overall #1 youth soccer league in the United States. The ECNL’s biggest claim to fame is that it is the #1 resource for college recruitment at all levels including DI, DII, DIII, NAIA, and JUCO. The ECNL National Events are considered the best college recruiting events in the country, with hundreds of college coaches and professional scouts in attendance. The ECNL features fast, technical and tactical soccer as well as providing a platform built for accelerated soccer development.
The ECNL requires each club to commit to having a team compete in every age group as well as maintain the highest standards for their facilities and quality of coaching. These required standards help ensure the best opportunity for top-level games each and every time we compete. The required level of commitment by the player is very high, but players are allowed to play other club or high school sports as long as the player is able to maintain its commitment to the club and team.
ECNL Regional League (ECRL) - ECRL is a club based league and is the 2nd Division League of ECNL and US Club (Think of this as NCAA Division II). With more and more talented athletes playing soccer each year, the talent pool and depth of players has increased dramatically year over year. The demand for a competitive training environment for ECNL teams was also growing year over year so ECRL was created to help bridge the gap by creating a larger pool of quality players ready to transition and compete within the ECNL.
The ECRL consists of over 150+ clubs nationwide, and now has its own national events and post-season pathway. ECRL teams travel with our ECNL teams for most conference games and compete in a similar structure as ECNL teams. The ECRL provides a tremendous opportunity for players to develop their skills, compete against a very high level of competition, and prepare themselves for the collegiate level of competition in the future.
Oklahoma Premier League (OPL) - The OPL is a team based league and is considered the top division in the state of Oklahoma (This of this as NAIA Division I). The OPL provides a player development structure that focuses on playing meaningful games, a fun game day environment, good quality training, high-level coaching, focus on developing the individual player, while still providing the kids a great atmosphere to enjoy and grow their love of the game of soccer.