The Country’s Hot Spots for Girls Soccer

It’s 2020 and it is fair to say that the women’s soccer phenomenon fully sunk its teeth into all 50 states.

  • More than 653,000 people tuned in to watch the final NWSL 2020 Challenge Cup game between the Dash and the Chicago Red Stars on CBS.
  • 14 states were represented in the 23 women roster who won the 2019 World Cup.
  • And the ladies of the USWNT have become household names and faces.
  • ECNL is comprised of 8 conferences representing more than 30 states (+D.C.).
  • Division 1 programs: 49

The spread of women’s soccer is clear, however, there are a few hot beds that continuously churn out top talent. Some of these are more logical, more obvious than others. Some may be surprising.

Looking at data from USWNT/YNT rosters as well and the NCAA as well as the ECNL geography breakdown, we have identified a few of the key areas that are hotbeds for girls soccer

Southern California

If there’s any addition on this list that makes you say, “well, duh”, it’s probably this one. California in general has a rep for producing soccer stars. The USWNT at the first four Women’s World Cup had an average of 6.75 and though that number has dropped in the last three tournaments (~4.7), they still boast the highest number of players from a single state on the team. SoCal alone has more than a handful of members clubs in the ECNL.

DMV (D.C., Maryland, VA)

The “DMV” is an acronym used to describe the area of Maryland, D.C. and northern Virginia. Virginia alone has produced the second highest number of USWNT players in program history with seven. Like two other editions on this list, a testament to DMV’s deep-seeded girls’ and womens’ soccer culture can be seen in the existence of its professional team. Washington Freedom (WUSA) and Washington Spirit (WPS & NWSL) are the DMV’s home team, having fielded the likes of Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach and current stars like Mal Pugh and Rose Lavelle.

Denver, Colorado

Can everyone just stop what they’re doing for one minute so we can talk about Denver and soccer? What’s in the water here? Well, maybe it’s something in the air, the lack of oxygen that is. Lindsey Horan, Mal Pugh, Jaelene Daniels — these are just a few of the talented players that have come out of the Mile High City.

And it seems that Denver is a place to watch for the USWNT and NWSL future ballers. Denver-born Jaelin Howell (FSU), Jordan Dibiasi (Stanford/Washington Spirit) and Sophia Smith (UCLA) all have experience in the youth national team set up.

Atlanta, Georgia

Three (Emily Sonnett, Morgan Brian, Kelley O’Hara) out of the 23 World Cup winners in 2019 hail from the Atlanta area. That’s a pretty significant statistic if we’re considering Atlanta is the 37th most populous US city. To put it in perspective, only one on the 19’s roster (Ali Long) comes from the Big Apple, the most populous city in the US. Two (Alex Morgan and Christen Press) come from the next biggest city, LA. None from the third — Chicago. You get the picture.

It seems statistically significant that three players from the ATL are considered the best of the best in the country. Then you also throw in goalkeeper Jane Campbell, also from Atlanta, who is still in the USWNT mix and you’re like woah. Why Atlanta? It’s hard to say exactly. It’s no secret that the South has shown a growing affinity for the sport in general. Concorde Fire, perhaps the most famous girls soccer club from the city, is consistently a top club in the country. We’ll just have to see if this interesting pattern continues.

Chicago, Illinois

Chi Town loves itself some girls and women’s soccer. The city has had a team in all three iterations of the top tier of women’s professional soccer in the US. Chicago and the surrounding area has five schools with Division 1 women’s soccer teams. And it has one of the most reputable ECNL teams in Eclipse Select. Rory Dames’, former Eclipse coach and current Chicago Red Stars coach, has built a career on developing Windy City women’s soccer players.

Cary, North Carolina

North Carolina and women’s soccer. Name a more iconic duo. UNC, with legendary coach Anson Dorance at the helm, have won 22 of the 36 NCAA Division 1 Women’s Soccer Championships. For years, there was an established pipeline between UNC and the USWNT. UNC is still a major powerhouse with an ability to sucks in recruits like a moth to a lamp.UNC’s time at the zenith wasn’t all about native North Carolinians.

However, the Tar Heel State has witnessed some cause and effect. The history-making hype and reputation the program has garnered over the years led to an increased female soccer focus. Similiar to Chicago and Washington, North Carolina (Cary specifically) has been one of the seminal figures in American professional women’s soccer: first with the Carolina Courage of the WUSA and now with the NC Courage. The former has a youth club in the DA set up.

Before you show up outside my window with pitchforks, I want to point out that these are just a few of the places that have proven their ability to develop elite girls’ and women’s soccer players. No doubt with the longevity of the NWSL and the global success of the USWNT that hot spots will continue to ignite around the country as more resources are put into identifying players, giving them opportunities and quality coaching.



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