By Matt Schwab
Special to Mustang Soccer
In a move to take the club to an even higher level, with a nod to high school play, Mustang Soccer will be leaving the U.S. Soccer Developmental Academy on the boys’ side and joining the Elite Clubs National League.
The ECNL Boys will launch a new Northern Cal Conference for the 2020-2021 season with 10 participating clubs.
Mustang Soccer Executive Director Fred Wilson is excited about where the club is headed.
“It’s a whole club approach,” Wilson said. “The ECNL provides the under-13 to under-19 platform, whereas the Developmental Academy was only supplying that benefit to a smaller number of younger teams, so this gives a clear pathway from the youngest level all the way up to the oldest level. A player can stay in that platform from start to finish.”
Mustang girls have long thrived in the ECNL while still being able to play for their high school teams because the seasons line up. The 2002 Mustang ECNL girls team is sending 18 players to top college soccer programs. But, boys in the DA often had to drop high school soccer, thus sacrificing the thrill and personal rewards gained from participating in California Interscholastic Federation league, section and regional competitions.
Now with the move to the ECNL, Mustang boys will have the same opportunity in varsity play as the girls. Wilson, a former boys high school coach, and Mustang Director of Coaching John Doyle, who starred at Washington High School, are strong proponents of high school play.
“American culture is more centered around high school sports than it is in other parts of the world,” Wilson said. “John and I have always believed in high school soccer. We believe there’s a right moment for a kid to go a different pathway, but we don’t believe that fits the majority, which is what the DA model has done.”
Clearly, the ECNL is thrilled to have Mustang Soccer and other clubs on board in its new NorCal venture on the boys side.
“We are incredibly excited to launch this conference, and to do so with the unique structure and with the great support of NorCal Premier Soccer and its leadership,” said ECNL President Christian Lavers in a video interview. “The first six clubs to participate in the inaugural year of the ECNL Boys Northern Cal Conference will be Davis Legacy, Marin FC, MVLA, Mustang, San Juan Soccer Club, and Santa Rosa United. Four additional participating clubs will be named in the coming weeks.”
NorCal Premier President Benjamin Ziemer gives the new NorCal/ECNL partnership high marks.
“We applaud the ECNL leadership for embracing this model in the Northern California Conference. We are very excited to partner with them and take this important step forward for the good of the game,” Ziemer said.