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Explained: Promotion and Relegation in NorCal League Play

As the NPL spring league season begins for the older teams in NorCal Premier Soccer, most divisions will undergo at least a few changes thanks to NorCal’s belief in creating a merit-based system of play through promotion and relegation.

Like most professional leagues throughout the world, the NorCal NPL uses pro/rel in order to form the most competitive divisions possible. This serves to further enhance the developmental impact each game has on the players participating as well as to increase the excitement and energy surrounding each contest.

“The NorCal NPL strives to create an ecosystem where every single game is competitive and meaningful,” said NorCal NPL Commissioner Kelcey Chaidez. “Each game in our system therefore has an emphasis on quality and importance due to the reward and jeopardy attached to the outcome of each match.”

“By instituting this, NorCal’s youth soccer structure is one of the few in the country that’s truly merit-based,” Chaidez added.

The highest level of league play NorCal offers comes at the top of its pyramid with the ECNL-RL, followed by the NPL, then the State Premier, and various other regional youth leagues.

Promotion begins at the U13 age group, where teams from State Premier are promoted to the NPL, while the top eight teams in the fall’s regional NPL are grouped together in the ECNL-RL during the spring.

Starting at U14, relegation comes into effect for each of the leagues, while the year-long institution of the ECNL-RL season (rather than its play just in the spring) begins at the U15 age group.

While each division is different, in most cases the top-two teams will earn promotion for the following campaign, while the bottom-two suffer relegation.

In the U13 and U14 age groups, 17 different club’s qualified for the spring’s ECNL-RL, with Almaden FC leading the way with three different teams.

Folsom Lake Surf, Revolution FC, Solano Surf, Walnut Creek Surf, and WSC Crush each saw two of their teams earn spots in the ECNL-RL among the youngest two divisions.

The clubs providing one entrant for the ECNL-RL are are: 1974 Newark FC, Albany Berkeley Soccer Club, California Magic, California Odyssey, Clovis Crossfire, De Anza Force, Eastshore Alliance, Elk Grove United, Elk Grove Soccer, FC Bay Area Surf, MVLA, Palo Alto SC, San Mateo County FC, San Ramon FC, Santa Clara Sporting, SF Aftershocks, SF United FC, South Valley United, and Stanislaus United.

For more information about the ECNL-RL or the promotion and relegation processes, click here.