Regional League clubs Florida Premier and Beach FC develop at ECNL Florida
The ECNL Regional League launched its inaugural season in 2019, and was created to be a platform for more of the nation’s best soccer athletes to play under the ECNL umbrella. It also was founded as a testing ground, where clubs and players can show they have the talent, skills and organizational mentality to play at the highest level.
Since 2019, the Regional League has expanded to include hundreds of more teams throughout the country. This weekend in Sanford, FL, the ECNL Regional League is hosting its first-ever national showcase.
For Denise Schilte-Brown and Florida Premier, this event is what the Regional League has been building towards ever since the season started.
Florida Premier was part of the inaugural class of Regional League clubs and has been a large part of growing the league. Not only does the club have teams near the top of almost every age group, but the club has made a significant choice to grow the women’s game.
“To be a part of that inaugural group of clubs, it was positive and exciting,” said Schilte-Brown, Florida Premier’s Director of ECNL – Regional League. “The growth of the women’s side at Florida Premier was fast. So the timing of the growth of the league and the growth of the club was really good and complimented each other. So it’s really exciting.”
To do this, Florida Premier made a decisive effort to bring in top coaches to assist their club and to provide the best for their players. That’s what led Florida Premier to Schilte-Brown. Schilte-Brown has been with the University of South Florida’s women’s soccer program since 2007, leading the Bulls to four American Conference titles, bringing USF to its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, and has coaching experience with the U-23 US Women’s National Team.
“The club’s been very cognizant of trying to get good female role models for our athletes,” Schilte-Brown said. “I think we have some of the strongest women in the sport working for the club. It’s incredible that they’ve gone out and tried to get the best women in the area.”
Schilte-Brown saw the potential in Florida Premier, but what truly merged them together was the family mentality of the club, something that really resonated with the coach.
“The big attraction for me was their motto, ‘One Club, One Family,’” Schilte-Brown said. “It’s not just what’s best for Florida Premier, but also what’s best for your family. The words are easy, but actions are greater, and the club puts a lot of actions in their words. They really care about the families and they care about their coaches, and they’ve developed a pathway for development for both.”
Florida Premier is now in its fourth season in the Regional League, the club has continually improved each year, and the investment the organization made in its coaching staff has shown on the pitch in terms of player development. The results have been another season of exemplary play from its teams, and continuing to push forward in search of regular season and postseason titles.
But another aspect that marks success for Florida Premier is getting players into college. That’s what makes the first-ever ECNL – Regional League national showcase so special.
Schilte-Brown has a special connection to events like this, since she is on both sides of the field. Not only does she want the best for her teams and her players, but she also uses events like these for recruiting for USF. And there isn’t anything like an ECNL national event.
“I love how the ECNL is bringing all the talent to one place by having the Regional League and Club Competition events both in Florida,” Schilte-Brown said. “It’s a blessing for the college coaches, and the ECNL always makes them feel very important at events. And I’m proud of college coaches coming into the event with an open mind. There are clubs like us who have our best players in the Regional League, so getting support from the college coaches is huge. And then for the ECNL to put on an event like this, we’re so grateful.”
While Florida Premier has enjoyed playing in the ECNL Regional League, Schilte-Brown and the rest of the club hopes a spot in the ECNL Club Competition is just on the horizon.
“I really think Florida Premier has a bright future,” Schilte-Brown said. “There are opportunities for Florida Premier in the ECNL and ECNL – Regional League, and I think our club is going to do well with those chances. I’m excited about the future and to be sharing it with the ECNL.”
Much like Florida Premier, Beach FC (VA) also has its sights set on the ECNL Club Competition level. The club is in its first season of the ECNL Regional League, joining the Virginia Conference for the 2021-22 season. But already, the club has seen success on the pitch.
Throughout nearly all age groups, Beach FC has played well and sits toward the top of the South Division of the Virginia Conference. The club has also locked up playoff positions for its U15-U19 age groups, a great feat for a club in its first season. For Karl Greaves, this has all been part of the plan.
“Our teams have done extremely well this fall,” said Greaves, Beach FC’s Director of Coaching. “The games that we have played have been extremely competitive. We’re having to play at a high level pretty much every game, especially these past few weeks.”
Playing in a new league with new competition was a challenge for the club, but the players are really seeing the rewards of their effort. But it’s not all about the final score for Greaves, especially in an environment such as the ECNL Florida – Regional League national event.
Through the first two days of play at ECNL Florida – Regional League, Beach FC (VA) has seen both wins and losses. But that’s not what the team is focusing on. Rather it’s about how they play and how the players can showcase their talents.
“When we go to showcases, we obviously want to play well, but the kids know college coaches don’t really care about the score,” Greaves said. “But they do care about performances. So everyone was really amped up to come into ECNL Florida – Regional League and play well. Because we know if you play well as an individual, and every individual plays well, then we’re going to win more games than we lose. So we tell our players, ‘Control what you can control, and if everyone is on board with that, then we’ll get good results.’”
With so many college coaches on the sidelines for ECNL Florida – Regional League, Greaves wants to make sure his players have as many opportunities to show what they can do and prove they have the talent and skill to play at the next level.
“Most of our kids will typically play on a college team,” Greaves said. “So having the opportunity to play in ECNL Florida – Regional League gives them an opportunity. It’s really motivated the players to play their best because of the college coaches, and the energy levels have been different knowing there are spectators.”
What really separates the ECNL Regional League apart as well is the level of talent each club has game in and game out. Greaves pointed to the final games before the winter break as tough competition for his club, and he’s seeing much of the same at ECNL Florida – Regional League.
“Having competitive games at the end of the year against teams that were very good was huge,” Greaves said. “And now at ECNL Florida – Regional League we’re playing similar teams, so those games in December were great preparation for this event. We’re having to compete at a really good level, and our players are motivated to play. It’s great for everyone.”
Despite being in their first season in the ECNL Regional League, Beach FC (VA) is aiming for the Club Competition. It knows success at national showcases and strong league play can help facilitate that move. But right now, the club is focusing on what lies ahead: the rest of ECNL Florida, continuing its stellar conference play ahead of playoffs, and making sure its athletes are ready for their next step, whether that’s another year of club or college.
“I’ve really enjoyed our experience so far in the ECNL Regional League,” Greaves said. “It’s a league that can really help propel our club forward. The matchups that have been provided have been very good, and we’re excited about the future both tomorrow at ECNL Florida – Regional League and for the rest of the season.”
To view the complete scores and schedule, click here.