The ECNL Play-Offs in San Diego showed why the league is the best in the country, both on and off the field.
After a long and grueling qualification process over the previous 9 months, the U15 and U17 FC Wisconsin girls teams headed to the ECNL Play-Offs in San Diego, CA, from June 24-28th, to participate in a fantastic event of soccer in a beautiful location. WIth atmosphere unmatched in youth soccer, and top players from all over the United States, the ECNL Play-Offs are a truly unforgettable experience.
The U15-U17 ECNL Play-Offs feature the best 64 girls teams in the country in each age group, competing in the top female youth club soccer event in the world. The Play-Offs feature three levels of competition, with teams qualifying for each based on their performances throughout the year in ECNL conference play and at ECNL National Events. The ECNL Champions League is the competition for the top 32 teams in the ECNL, the North American Cup is the competition for the next 16 teams, and the Showcase Cup is the destination for the final teams in the group of 64.
FC Wisconsin's U15 team qualified for the North American Cup in 2015-16, a four-game knock-out competition. The team opened the event against Mid-Atlantic club Richmond United, the #2 seed, where they dropped an 0-2 decision. After 30 minutes of a good midfield battle, Richmond scored the first goal on an optimistic shot from distance. Down 0-1 the U15s were undeterred, but despite many moments of extended possession in the final third, they were unable to find the net. Day two of the event saw the team on the wrong end of an 0-3 scoreline against Washington Premier, in a game where they dominated possession in the middle third of the field, but were beaten in both penalty boxes in key moments. After a rest and recovery day built into the event, the U15s rebounded nicely in their final game against Texas Rush from Houston, where they dominated play from beginning to end. Despite hitting the post and the bar, and coming close on several other attempts, the team was caught on a counter and dropped the decision 0-1. Overall in the event, the players showed some high quality play in every game, but lacked the ruthlessness in the boxes to turn their possession advantages into results - a lesson that will be well learned moving into the next year.
FC Wisconsin's U17 team qualified for the Showcase Cup in San Diego, another four-game knock-out competition. The team finished with a 1-2 record after opening with a tight 0-2 loss to Texas club powerhouse Lonestar from Austin. A free-kick in the 40th minute was the decider in a game that otherwise was a very back and forth affair. On day two, the U17s rebounded with a 3-1 win against FC Nova from Idaho, behind some nice wing play from Bianca Stubler, and goals from Taylor Kerwin, Emma Roemer, and Andrea Lopez. The final day of the event was a tough match against Las Vegas Premier from the Southwest Conference. After some big Jen Wandt saves keept the Vegas team off the board in the first 20 minutes, the game opened up into a back-and-forth affair with chances aplenty for both teams. A second half goal from Vegas on a nice build-up through midfield was enough to earn the victory.
The FC Wisconsin ECNL teams have the month of July off for rest and recovery before pre-season begins in early August - when the teams will begin their trek to qualify for the 2017 ECNL Play-Offs, this time held near home in Chicago, IL.