Football continues to grow throughout India with thousands of fans filling up stadiums and tuning to watch live football matches. The Indian Super League (ISL) is one of India's pro football tournament and is the highest tier football league in the country. ISL has continued to grow at a rapid pace since its inaugural season in October, 2014, and the buzz has been through the roof as we await its 10th season.
Last season saw Mohun Bagan Super Giants clinch their first ISL title with a penalty shootout win over Bengaluru, with Dmitri Petratos netting 12 goals during the campaign. The Super Giants will be looking to defend their crown beginning in September as 12 of the best teams face off for the biggest prize in Indian football.
Who are the teams likely to come out on top next season?
Mumbai City FC
Mumbai City finished top of the 2022/23 ISL regular season standing. Image source: Goal.com
Mumbai City FC has been extremely successful over the years, and are likely to continue this trend in 2023/24. Although they fell short of the ISL Trophy last year, they took home the League Winner's Shield, setting a record for the longest unbeaten streak in ISL history (18).
Des Buckingham's men also finished as runners-up in the Durands Cup, narrowly losing 2-1 to Bengaluru. Their ball-dominating playing style will be hard to compete against, and even the best teams in the ISL find it difficult to crack their codes.
With recent signing Akash Mishra joining the ranks, it's hard to not see them win another ISL Trophy like they did in 2021.
Mohun Bagan Super Giant
Mohun Bagan SG is one of the oldest sports teams in India and their history continues to speak in the present. The team has clinched six top flight Indian Football tournaments, the most of any club. They've also won a record 14 Federations Cups, plus 16 Durand Cups, and 22 IFA Shields.
The Super Giants' ISL triumph this year was their first in history, and they will be hoping to become the first team to win back-to-back Indian Super League titles. They've already improved their championship winning roster in the summer, with Anirudh Thapa, Sahak Abdul Ahmad, Jason Cummings, and Armando Sadiku all joining the ranks.
While Mumbai City looks like the favourite to win the ISL, Mohun Bagan SG are not far behind.
Bengaluru would always be among the top favourite teams to win the Indian Super League. The club has enjoyed so much success in its ten years of existence, and is the fourth most successful club in India. Its list of football tournaments won includes three Federation Cups, three I-League trophies, and one Durand Cup in 2022. On top of that, they are the only Indian Club to reach the AFC Cup Final, achieving this feat in 2016.
Simon Grayson's men finished fourth in the ISL regular season and runners up in the playoffs last year, and will be hoping to improve on that this season. They now have Curtis Main and Ryan Williams in the lineup to fortify their attack, so it won't be surprising to see them win their first ever ISL Trophy next season.
Bengaluru FC squad for 2023/23 season. Image from ESPN India
It's 2023 and Hyderabad FC have continued to prove that they are still among the best teams in India, despite being one of the newest clubs in the country. The club put Indian football on notice in 2022 when they finished second in the regular season. They were eventually crowned Champions after an incredible playoff run that saw them defeat Mohun Bagan SG in the semifinal and the Kerala Blasters in the final.
Hyderabad FC replicated their regular season form in the 2022/23 season with a second place finish, just four points behind Mumbai City. However, Mohun Bagan had their revenge in the playoff semifinals, seeing off the Yellow and Black Army on penalties.
It will be interesting to see how they perform this season, however, considering the fact that Manolo Marquez won't be leading the charge any more.
The 2022/23 season was one to forget for the Gaus as they missed the playoffs. The team had to settle for the 7th spot in the regular season on the back of a disappointing eight wins, three draws, and nine losses.
With last season now well behind, FC Goa moves into the new season with a little ray of hope. New head coach Manolo Marquez will lead the charge this season, which is a good sign for the fans. The Spanish manager boasts a good record in India's top flight league and led Hyderabad FC to an ISL title in 2022.
The Gaus are yet to lift the ISL trophy and have not made it to the finals since 2019.
Considering the current state of the Kerala Blasters, having them as the favourite to win the ISL would be a huge gamble. The team lost its biggest star to Mohun Bagan SG, and are currently without Harmanjot Singh Khabra and Jessel Carneiro.
It has not been the best of off-seasons for the South Indian outfit as they have also learned that new signing Jaushua Sotirio will be sidelined for majority of the new regular season.
Nevertheless, the Blasters have a track record that's hard to overlook. They've finished as ISL runners up three times in the last ten years (2014, 2016, and 2022).
Chennaiyin? Cringing at the sight of Chennaiyin on this list is understandable. The club failed to make it to the playoffs last season, finishing eight with just seven wins. It was the same result they had in the previous campaign as well, except that they lost two more games.
However, their successful history and fairly improved roster could be the catalyst for a fairytale ending this season. Chennaiyin are two time ISL champions, and made it to the finals in 2020. Yes, the Marina Machans are a distant shadow of the team they used to be, but don't count them out just yet.
The 2023/24 Indian Super League kicks off on September 22, 2023, with its regular season set to run through till March 2024. Will Mumbai clinch a second ISL title or will Mohun Bagan SG retain their status as India's best team? Are we in for some surprise this season? We'll have to let the teams do the rest of the talking.