In front of nearly 5,500 fans, Indy Eleven’s USL W League team took home the title this Saturday, capping another excellent season of play for the 40-plus team amateur league. Indy will be at the core of the USL Super League, which is set to debut in 2024 and will seek Division I sanctioning from U.S. Soccer.
As the Women’s World Cup rolls on and the NWSL continues to excel as a showcase for the top talent in the sport, the USL is carving out its own niche. Competing for a first-tier nod may be controversial and even ill-advised, but the ambition to provide a youth-to-professional pipeline is admirable, and it provides a worthy addendum to lofty goals like promotion and relegation or global market engagement on the men’s side.
Indy Eleven’s men side took the pitch just hours after their women’s counterpart won the W League hardware, and 21 other USL Championship teams were in action. Who stood out, and where does every club fall in this week’s ranking?
1.) Pittsburgh (No change)
Result: L 3-1 at Charleston
Pittsburgh's shape is somewhere between a 5-4-1 and 5-2-3, with those two hinge players between the forward and midfield lines regularly collapsing into the middle of the field to force turnovers. That gambit has driven the Riverhounds to consistent success this season, but Charleston's very technical midfield didn't fold in the face of the pressure this Saturday. Moreover, when members of the back five stepped up to solidify behind the high press, Pittsburgh suddenly left space behind their defensive line that the Battery continually leveraged.
In the other direction, the Riverhounds struggled to bully Charleston with a well-built backline, lessening their ability to claim second balls downfield. The game opened up to an extent when Langston Blackstock came on as a speedier dribbler at wingback in the second half, but Pittsburgh was down three by the time rubber hit the road.