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ECNL May 17, 2023

ECNL Boys South Carolina National Event provides young teams with valuable experience

This past weekend, ECNL South Carolina provided clubs from around the country the opportunity to experience an ECNL National Event, many for the first time.

For Brendan McIntyre’s Lehigh Valley United U14 team, it was their first chance to experience everything that comes with an ECNL National Event. With the team seeing pictures and hearing from older players that had been to events in the fall, there was a lot of excitement coming into the weekend.

“There was certainly excitement prior to being down here and obviously the expectations were met when we got here,” McIntyre said. “It was a great weekend.”

On the field, McIntyre was extremely pleased with his team as they went 3-0 over the course of the weekend. While he felt like the sides they played this weekend were very strong, McIntyre believes the success his team had this weekend goes to show how strong the competition is that they regularly see in the Northeast Conference. “It reinforced to me that we play in a really strong conference,” McIntyre said.

Seeing new teams is something McIntyre believes is very beneficial for his side so that they learn to adjust on the fly to teams they do not know a lot about prior to the game.

“It was great for us to play teams we don’t know,” said McIntyre. “You don’t have any preconceived notions of who’s on the other side of the field. You don’t know how they’ll play. You don’t know their players. So, it’s good to try to be able to solve problems while you’re on the field.”

This weekend’s event was also a big deal for players as they continue to gain experience to help prepare them for more showcases in the future. McIntyre believes getting his players into these events at a younger age is key for them to be prepared and ready to play down the road when they are looking to impress college scouts.

“They’re not at an age where they’re playing in front of college coaches quite yet, but that’s not far away in terms of what’s in front of them and what they’ll experience,” McIntyre said. “So, this was essentially for them like a test run. Understand what the expectations are and what to expect a few years down the road when there’s scouts on the sidelines that you’re trying to impress.”

For Eastside FC, who made the long trip down from the state of Washington, this weekend’s event was an opportunity to get the players ready on the field by facing some other elite competition from around the country, but also to get them an additional weekend of experience on how to be prepared to play a weekend of games after making a long trip.

“I wouldn’t be asking that much of these groups if I didn’t think it had merit,” said Eastside FC Boys Director Mark Kovats. “You can’t replace experience. There’s an inherent pressure when you step on a field against a team you’ve never seen before and are expected to be at your best from the first whistle. The more I can throw at them to get them these reps, the better.”

Much like for Lehigh Valley United, Kovats believes seeing fresh competition that they do not normally get to face in the Northwest Conference is a really good opportunity for his teams.

“We see everybody three times over the course of the season,” Kovats said. “You come here and just like everybody else we’re an unknown quantity. You get to cast your lots against teams that you haven’t seen before and may never see again. So these one off experiences are really cool.”

With his side hoping to have a successful run in the ECNL National Playoffs next month Kovats emphasized how his players will be able to draw on their experiences from this past weekend and still have it fresh in their minds what it will take to be successful next month.

“Everybody was on point,” Kovats said. “It was necessary for us to get this experience so that a month from now we know, you go to the airport, get on the plane, get off the plane, into the rental cars, recover after the game, and to get that experience behind us is irreplaceable.”