• October 7, 2021

There are big rivalries throughout the ECNL when teams in close proximity match up in conference play, or when national powerhouses face each other at national events. 

While there are rivalries, only a few rise to the level of being classified as a Derby. 

Derbies are the most heated of rivalries, the ones that feature intense emotion between well-known opponents, deep passion from players, coaches and fans, and most of all, determining who has the right to call themselves the top team. 

The very first ECNL Derby Day of 2021-22 will put Charlotte SA and NCFC Youth in the Carolina Clash on Oct. 9. 

“This is about bragging rights,” said Steve Gummer, Charlotte SA ECNL Boys Director. “And bragging rights are about pride. It’s pride to wear the badge, the uniform, for any club in our league, but especially for Charlotte SA or NCFC. You want to represent your club, your badge, your teammates, your family, your coaching staff, all of them. So it’s a big thing for these players to get involved in that.”

Oct. 9 will be the only match between these two top-flight clubs, which only adds to the intensity of these matches. Last season, the clubs finished No. 6 (NCFC) and No. 8 (Charlotte SA) in the overall club competition rankings. They both made the ECNL Boys National Playoffs in three age groups last year, including both reaching the ECNL Boys National Finals in St. Louis at the U15 level. 

Through the early stages of the season, Charlotte SA is setting the tone in the Mid-Atlantic Conference, leading one of the nation’s most difficult competitions in three age groups and sitting no worse than third in an additional two. Meanwhile, NCFC is claiming their own honors, currently ahead of Charlotte SA in the U18/19s and just one win behind them in two other age groups. 

“Any time the clubs come together to play games, we know and expect some very competitive games, some very fun games to watch, coach and be a part of,” said Brad Wylde, Charlotte SA Executive Director. “But it’s always something our staff and organizations look forward to year after year. It’s always a competitive, very well-prepared week ahead of the games because our coaches and players know we want to be successful on the weekend and we want to beat our rival. The intensity in training and preparation in training, there’s always that little bit of extra edge within the clubs and teams leading up to that gameday weekend.”

It all sets up for an early-season showdown between two of the premier teams in the Conference, which is one of the strongest in the ECNL. The Mid-Atlantic features four clubs that finished in the Top 10 of the 2020-21 overall club competition rankings, and teams that won the U15 and U18/19 ECNL Boys National Championships, as well as two second-place finishes. With such high-level talent throughout the Conference, this early season matchup could have big Postseason implications later on down the line. 

“We’re heading to Charlotte with the expectation that we’re going to win all our games,” said Michael Milazzo, NCFC U19 Head Coach. “Qualifying for the national playoffs is a big deal for each age group and we know that Charlotte is going to be competitive. But we’re going to bring a level of intensity and competition to the game. We know we’re in for a fight, and we’re going to be ready to fight come Saturday in Charlotte.”