First ENPL national champs crowned, Eastern NPL Finals titles awarded
LANCASTER, Mass. (Via US Club Soccer) – A flurry of competition at Progin Park in Lancaster, Mass., June 29-July 3, resulted in the first-ever ENPL national championship, qualifications for eight teams to next week’s ENPL National Finals in Colorado and four NPL titles to Boys Eastern NPL Finals winners.
This is the inaugural season of the Elite National Premier League (ENPL). The postseason pathway stems from a collaboration between US Club Soccer and the ECNL to elevate the youth soccer landscape among 14-U through 19-U boys age groups. Sixteen qualifying competitions – made up of NPLs and Boys ECNL Conferences – throughout the country are focused on winning their regular season competitions and advancing to the ENPL postseason, where national championships are awarded.
“I can’t put my finger on it, but it does feel different,” said Kevin Payne, US Club Soccer CEO/Executive Director. “I think part of it is that we have the right teams playing at the right level. In the past, sometimes you had teams that were at a much higher level playing against teams that were not quite at that level, and those games weren’t as good. But, by bifurcating it and having an ENPL division and an NPL division, the games in both are better. The competition level is more equal. We think we’ve really hit on something, and we’re going to continue to work to make it better.”
19-U ENPL National Finals:
While the 14-U through 17-U ENPL competitors participate in a two-stage postseason that began with the ENPL Eastern Playoffs and ENPL Western Playoffs this past week, qualifying teams from the 19-U division competed in a single-stage national final alongside the ENPL Eastern Playoffs, June 29-July 3.
The 19-U ENPL National Finals was arguably the fiercest in terms of top-to-bottom strength of schedule, geographical diversity and mounting pressure with a national title up for grabs among 16 teams. Ohio Premier SC (Boys ECNL Midwest Conference) triumphed over the field, winning all five of its games by a margin of only seven total goals. “We were blown away,” said Ohio Premier SC coach Travis Wall when asked about the NPL and Boys ECNL opponents his team faced. “It was really competitive. The teams here made it very difficult for us. It was a grind.”
ENPL Eastern Playoffs (14-U through 17-U):
The ENPL Eastern Playoffs, meanwhile, also concluded on July 3, but for those 14-U through 17-U teams, the ultimate prize in Massachusetts was to finish in the top two of their respective age groups and claim a spot at the ENPL National Finals, July 13-14 in Aurora, Colo., where 16 total teams (eight from Massachusetts and eight from the Western ENPL Playoffs in San Diego) will compete for ENPL national championships.
The complete alphabetical list of qualified teams to the ENPL National Finals in Colorado is as follows, with ENPL Eastern Playoffs competitors highlighted with asterisks:
- GPS Florida West (Florida NPL)*
- Phoenix Rising FC (Boys ECNL Southwest Conference)
- TSC Hurricane (Boys ECNL Texas Conference)
- Valeo FC (NEP – NPL Division)*
- Napa Soccer Academy (NorCal NPL)
- Phoenix Rising FC (Boys ECNL Southwest Conference)
- SAC Showcase Premier (EDP – NPL Division)*
- Tennessee SC (Boys ECNL Southeast Conference)*
- GPS MA Elite (NEP – NPL Division)*
- Penn Fusion SA (Boys ECNL Northeast Conference)*
- San Diego Surf (NPL West)
- Texans Houston (USC – NPL Division)
- Brentwood SC (NYCSL – NPL Division)*
- Classics Elite (Boys ECNL Texas Conference)
- Slammers FC (Boys ECNL Southwest Conference)
- Tampa Bay United (Boys ECNL Southeast Conference)*
The ENPL Eastern Playoffs was an optimal tournament for college coaches to scout for potential additions to their programs. College coaches peppered the sidelines at Progin Park, particularly for games in the older age groups, featuring “many college-ready athletes.”
In Massachusetts, the NEP – NPL Division and Boys ECNL Southeast Conference were the only qualifying competitions to secure more than one representative for Colorado. Florida NPL, NYCSL – NPL Division, EDP – NPL Division and Boys ECNL Northeast Conferences will also be represented at the ENPL National Finals.
Boys NPL Finals (15-U through 19-U):
After the ENPL, the next tier of competition at the same venue took place: the Boys Eastern NPL Finals. The complete alphabetical list of 2018 Boys NPL Finals champions is as follows, including the winners from the corresponding Boys Western NPL Finals in San Diego:
- 15-U Boys Eastern NPL Finals champion: Match Fit Academy FC (N.J.; Boys ECNL Northeast Conference)
- 15-U Boys Western NPL Finals champion: Lou Fusz SC (Mo.; Central States NPL)
- 16-U Boys Eastern NPL Finals champion: Delaware FC (Del.; EDP-NPL Division)
- 16-U Boys Western NPL Finals champion: Apple Valley SC Storm Academy (Calif.; Southern California NPL)
- 17-U Boys Eastern NPL Finals champion: Alabama FC (Ala.; Boys ECNL Southeast Conference)
- 17-U Boys Western NPL Finals champion: FC Wisconsin (Wis.; Boys ECNL Midwest Conference)
- 19-U Boys NPL Finals champion: Lou Fusz SC (Mo.; Central States NPL)
In a show of parity, only one league grabbed more than one NPL championship: the Central States NPL, led by Lou Fusz SC. There is no advancement for these winners beyond their respective Eastern or Western NPL Finals.
13-U ENPL event:
Finally, there was also a 13-U ENPL showcase-like event that was optional for teams that play into ENPL qualifying competitions. NEFC (NEP – NPL Division) edged SUSA (NYCSL – NPL Division) in the final of the 13-U bracket after advancing past Atletico FC (NYCSL – NPL Division) and Virginia Soccer Association (Virginia NPL).