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Seattle Is Now The Hotbed For Future Talent In The Women's Game

The American women’s game has been on a roller coaster of a ride over the last 14 months. From winning the World Cup to individual player scandal; failing to win an Olympic gold for a record fourth time to successfully completing a fourth season of league play for the first time. 

While all of that is happening at the highest level, the NWSL’s Seattle Reign and U.S. Soccer are quietly working to build the next generation of league and USWNT stars. 

Having recently announced the Seattle Reign Academy’s acceptance into the Elite Clubs National League, the club is aiming to continue elevating soccer in the northwest. 

The ECNL was founded in 2009 with the goal of improving the level of play and development in female youth soccer across the United States. 

Since then, the organization has become the top program of its kind across the world. There are around 80 clubs nationwide playing in five age categories, from U-14 to U-18. ENCL has become the first stop for college recruiting, NWSL scouts and national team coaches. 


The Seattle Reign Academy was brought about from a partnership between the NWSL side and the existing youth development organization Seattle United.

Seattle Reign Academy

A step forward for youth development in America. Photo: @seattlesoccer | Twitter

Utilizing NWSL coaches and facilities will help push the program even further. First team players such as Kim Little (NWSL MVP in 2015), Megan Rapinoe and captain Keelin Winters attend training sessions to work with the youth players. 

Reign general manager and coach Laura Harvey has been on record stating that she hopes players will transition into the coaching structure after they hang up their boots. Placing young players from the Seattle Reign Academy in such an environment and competing against the best in their age group across the country will help deepen the talent pool.

“We partnered with the Seattle Reign to provide elite level girls in Seattle a clear pathway to playing at the highest level, under the technical leadership of some of the best women’s professional coaches in the world,” said Steve Morrissey, president of Seattle United.  “The Seattle Reign Academy’s acceptance into the ECNL really validates what our organizations are building together.”

Beyond the expected improvements to individual player skill and the recruiting pool, the ever-expanding ENCL has larger potential ramifications. The growing league draws more players and families out to watch female youth soccer and helps identifies key markets. 

With only 10 clubs, the NWSL still has tremendous growth potential. The ENCL can help U.S. Soccer locate which cities have the potential to supply a future club with talent, fan interest and stadium infrastructure. 

While Seattle already has the NWSL club side settled, jumping into this new, elite level should be telling about where the program is in year one. League play for the five age groups starts in November of 2016. With U.S. Soccer supporting the structure of the league and coaching education, along with Nike as the primary financial sponsor, the ENCL is setup to thrive and expand for years to come. 

Now the question begs which youth products from the Seattle area will shine through to the NWSL level and eventually the national team. The Reign now need to start clarifying and expanding home-grown talent signing rules with the NWSL front office.

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