09 Aug The road to a national championship: How teams qualified for 2016 NPL Finals, National Cup XV Finals
AURORA, Colo. | Over the course of two weeks, 32 teams were awarded US Club Soccer national championships. The first dozen came out of the 2016 NPL Finals: a league-based national championship event featuring more than 140 teams. The remaining 20 came from the National Cup XV Finals: a cup-based national championship tournament that began with nearly 160 teams.
While the competition in Colorado was well documented, what about the efforts that ultimately led to qualifying to those events?
- 2016 NPL Finals coverage: Recap | Video | Photos | Daily log/media coverage
- National Cup XV Finals coverage: Recap | Video | Photos | Daily log/media coverage
For the NPL Finals, more than 1,600 teams compete in their respective member NPLs around the country in hopes of qualifying for the year-end championship. In just four years, the tournament has garnered prestige, as the coveted destination for NPL members across the country.
The nearby Mountain Developmental League and South Central Premier League each sent a dozen teams, while EDP, New England Premier League, NY Club Soccer League and Virginia NPL all added 11 teams apiece to the tournament field.
Number of participating teams by league:
- Elite Development Program (EDP): 11
- Florida Premier League: 7
- Gulf States Premier League: 7
- Midwest Developmental League: 8
- Mountain Developmental League: 12
- Northeast Girls NPL: 6
- New England Premier League: 11
- Northeast Pre-Academy League: 2
- Northern Illinois Soccer League: 6
- NorCal NPL: 8
- Northwest Champions League: 6
- NY Club Soccer League: 11
- Puget Sound Premier League: 3
- Southern California NPL: 11
- South Atlantic Premier League: 1
- South Central Premier League: 12
- Texas Pre-Academy League: 1
- United Soccer Clubs Champions League: 7
- Virginia NPL: 11
The National Cup XV Finals, meanwhile, represented the culminating event of US Club Soccer’s cup-based national championship series. That included various state cups and six National Cup XV Regionals. It was the 15th anniversary of the National Cup.
The largest cumulative contributor to the 2016 NPL Finals and National Cup XV Finals tournament fields was the New England Premiership (NEP). The New England Premier League claimed three championships and two second place finishes during the NPL Finals.
The competition within the EDP proved to be an excellent precursor for its teams competing in the NPL Finals. Like the New England Premier League, EDP fared well on championship Monday with three national championships and two finalists.
The following week, NEP upped the ante through its five qualifying state cups in the following states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. By the time the final team had walked across the winners’ stage at Aurora Sports Park on July 25, 14 (eight champions and six finalists) of the 40 total champions and runners up hailed from an NEP State Cup.
“After having a record 39 teams representing the New England Premiership, we are very proud to have had 14 NEP teams playing in the finals with all five of our competitions (CT, MA, ME, NH, RI state cups) represented, and happy to have had 8 National Champions,” Charlie Fuentes, NEP State Cups Director, said. “We, as a league, are proud of our growth and look forward to continued improvement in our competitions and presence at the national level.”
NEP also sent four officials to the National Cup XV Finals.
Qualifying events to the Finals, including the number of attending teams from each are listed below:
- Connecticut Cup: 4
- Florida Cup: 7
- Hawaii State Cup: 9
- Maine Cup: 8
- Massachusetts Cup: 10
- Mid-Atlantic Regional: 19
- Midwest Regional: 19
- New Hampshire Cup: 9
- New Jersey Cup: 8
- New York Cup: 6
- NorCal State Cup: 3
- Northwest Regional: 11
- Rhode Island Cup: 8
- Southeast Regional: 11
- United Soccer Clubs Cup: 9
- West Regional: 11
While National Cup XV Regionals are obvious avenues for Finals qualifiers, NEP State Cups backed up their impressive turnout with many championship performances. Additionally, qualifiers from four different state cups were responsible for seven or more teams in Colorado.
Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for continuing coverage of US Club Soccer’s national championships on usclubsoccer.org.
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