March 3, 2012

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Top teams announce themselves at ECNL San Antonio Showcase

28 Feb, 2012

The Elite Clubs National League, the nation's top girls' youth soccer competition, staged another successful National Showcase Event in this soccer-loving Texas city over the weekend, highlighting future college and international stars while packing hotel rooms and contributing millions of dollars to the local economy.

Strong winds and firm playing surfaces at the South Texas Area Regional Soccer Complex forced teams to sharpen their focus and adapt their playing styles to the conditions. But the overall quality of play remained excellent as leading teams from national powerhouses like Dallas Texans, Colorado Rush and Michigan Hawks staked their claims for top honors in ECNL's "National Flight" competition.

"The weather conditions challenged the players this weekend, but the top talent still rose to the top," said ECNL Commissioner Sarah Kate Noftsinger. "We're very grateful to the STAR Soccer Complex, the San Antonio Scorpions and the entire San Antonio community for being fantastic hosts, and we look forward to returning for future events."

ECNL stages five National Showcase events per season, each one bringing upwards of 3,000 hotel room nights and an estimated $3-4 million in direct economic impact to its host community.1 Since the league's founding in 2009, ECNL events have become crucial locations for identifying and tracking top players, characterized by a high density of elite talent and an advanced level of play which is unsurpassed in the United States.

"Every game is so heightened in intensity and the quality of soccer is really good. So it forces your team to really show up and play," said Hugh Bradford, coach of the Under-16 ECNL team from D'Feeters Soccer Club of Farmer's Branch, Texas. "When you come to a national event like this, you get to meet teams from other parts of the country that are playing as well, if not better. So it's great."

More than 200 college soccer coaches also made the trip to San Antonio to track top recruits and decide which players will receive athletic scholarships. All ranked ECNL National Showcases among their most important destinations in the recruiting process.

"ECNL has brought better teams together," said Phil Stephenson, associate head coach at NCAA women's soccer power Texas A&M University. "From standpoint of evaluating talent, you're watching talent play against talent all the time. You rarely get a wasted game from an evaluation standpoint. That's what ECNL does."

Several leading teams in ECNL's National Flight A took a further step towards securing one of the coveted 16 spots in the ECNL National Championship, which takes place this summer, while others further down the standings focused on using the weekend's games to further their players' technical and tactical development.

The tournament in San Antonio, along with the league's four other National Showcase Events in Phoenix, Ariz., Sanford, Fla., San Diego, Calif. and Zarephath, N.J., collectively dubbed "The Road to Waukegan," will help determine ECNL's national champions with the season culminating in the 2012 ECNL National Championship at the Waukegan Sports Park in Chicago, Ill. in late June.

Each team at the Under-15 and U-18 age groups participates in two national events, while each team at the U-16 and U-17 age groups participates in three of these events. Arizona hosted the season's opening showcase in October, followed by the Florida event in late December. The season's final showcases will take place San Diego, Calif. March 31-April 2 and Zarepath, N.J. May 26-28.

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