What is Pre-ECNL? 

What is Pre-ECNL? 

What is the Pre-ECNL? Pre-ECNL is a youth soccer league for U11 and U12 boys and girls, which is often considered a stepping stone to the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL).

It is a great pathway to get prepared for the ECNL which is a highly competitive league for youth soccer players aged 13 to 19.

Why not just expand the ECNL to two more age groups? The ECNL can be heavy on travel and training sessions which isn’t really suited for the younger players. Players who are eleven and younger are still developing their skills and growing into their bodies. For this reason, the Pre-ECNL is a great option.

If you’re wondering if Pre-ECNL is worth it for your child, read on. We’ll detail all you need to know!

Overview of Pre-ECNL

Pre-ECNL stands for Pre-Elite Clubs National League. It is a developmental soccer league in the United States for young players who aspire to play in the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL).

girls soccer

Pre-ECNL provides a competitive and challenging environment for young players to develop their soccer skills and prepare for the next level of play.

The program, run by each individual club, focuses on player development, both on and off the field, with an emphasis on technical and tactical abilities, physical fitness, and mental toughness.

History of Pre-ECNL

The Pre-ECNL program was established by the ECNL to provide a pathway for young girls and boys to progress to the ECNL.

Founded in 2009, the ECNL is a national youth soccer league sanctioned by US Club Soccer. It is one of the highest levels in the youth soccer pyramid.

The Pre-ECNL program was created to bridge the gap between recreational and competitive soccer and provide a clear pathway for young players to reach their full potential.

The program has grown rapidly in recent years, with more clubs and players participating each year.

Pre-ECNL Structure

If you and your child are interested in joining the Pre-ECNL soccer program, it is important to understand the league’s structure. Here is what you need to know about the Pre-ECNL structure:

Age Groups

Pre-ECNL soccer is available for boys and girls from the U11 and U12 age groups. Check out our age group chart to see if you qualify.

Season Schedule

The Pre-ECNL season schedule typically runs from August to June. During this time, teams will play a variety of games against other Pre-ECNL teams in their region.

In addition to league games, many clubs offer teams to enter tournaments, festivals, and friendlies. This provides the player with a vast array of experience against other kids their age.

Competition Format

The competition format for Pre-ECNL soccer varies depending on the region.

However, most leagues follow a similar format that includes regular season games, playoffs, and a championship game.

Pre-ECNL Tryouts

If there’s interest in joining a Pre-ECNL team, your child will probably need to go through tryouts or ID sessions.

These tryouts are typically held in the spring and fall, and they are the primary way that coaches select players for their teams.

Here’s what you need to know about Pre-ECNL tryouts.

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for Pre-ECNL tryouts, you must meet certain requirements. These requirements can vary depending on the state or region you’re in, but here are some general guidelines:

  • A player must be in the U11 or U12 age group.
  • A player should have a strong passion for soccer.
  • A player must be willing to commit to the team’s training and game schedules.

Evaluation Criteria

During the tryouts, the coaches will be evaluating your child based on a variety of criteria. Here are some of the things they’ll be looking for:

  • Technical skills: Their ability to control the ball, pass accurately, and shoot on goal. These are the basic skills a player should have acquired at this point.
  • Tactical skills: Their basic understanding of the game and their ability to make good decisions on the field. Coaches will be looking to see if you stay in position, find the open player, and fill the gaps.
  • Physical attributes: Their speed, agility, and endurance will be evaluated.
  • Attitude: Their willingness to work hard, listen to the coaches, and be a good teammate.

Overall, the coaches will be looking for players who have the potential to play at a high level and are committed to improving their skills.

Once selected, players will go through training sessions and will get better over the course of the season. They may have 2-3 training sessions every week. The number of training sessions and the level of coaching are the biggest benefits over a town travel or rec program.

Pre-ECNL Benefits

Joining a Pre-ECNL club can offer many benefits for young soccer players. Some of the most significant benefits include:

  • Access to top-level coaching and training programs
  • Opportunities to compete against other high-level teams and players
  • Development of technical skills, tactical knowledge, and game intelligence
  • Preparation for playing at the highest levels of competition


Should your child play on a team that competes in the Pre-ECNL? It depends. I think you should definitely consider it if your child…

  • Has a pure passion for soccer
  • Has a desire to get better
  • Is truly bored of town rec or travel
  • Has the schedule to play all year
  • Is coachable and has the potential to become a better soccer player

When you know, you know. Placing a player in a competitive soccer league at an early age is a great way to prepare them for the future.

Whether it is ECNL, MLS NEXT (boys), Girls Academy (girls), or any other league, getting them in the environment sooner than later can be beneficial!

To learn more and see what teams are involved, check out Pre-ECNL (boys) and Pre-ECNL (girls) links.

Beau Bridges - Soccer Novo Hey 👋 I’m Beau. A proud Dad, former coach and soccer enthusiast. I continue to love the game of soccer today the same way I did when I was 7. I created soccernovo.com to share what I know about the game as well as provide a platform so other parents can learn more about youth soccer in the U.S.

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