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Aspiring for a Higher Ceiling: Hotspurs Women’s First team buzzing about competing in UWS beginning in 2022

Photo courtesy Ed Thompson

United Women’s Soccer is excited to announce the addition of Pittsburgh Hotspurs, set to begin play in 2022. The club will field a first team in the UWS national pro-am league and a second team in UWS League Two (UWS2) next season.

As the very first club with a full development pathway for both females (and males) in the Pittsburgh area, the addition of two women’s teams in the league was a natural next step for the Hotspurs.

“We are excited,” Tom Ovenden, Hotspurs Academy Director and Women’s First Team Head coach said on Thursday following the announcement.

“We want our girls who are committed to college to be part of the highest level program.  We’re very impressed with the standards administered by the league (UWS). Transitioning to now have two women’s teams competing in the summer months in a top league that reflects the same standards that we strive for, enables us to bring our style of play and level to a wider audience and continue to shift the game forward — we’re buzzing!”

Pittsburgh Hotspurs’ women’s team has been under the Hotspurs brand since 2020, when they took ownership of Steel City FC.  In 2021, they completed their first season competing in the WPSL.

Photo Gallery: Century United, Pittsburgh Hotspurs play to 1-1 draw to put wraps on WPSL season

Pittsburgh Hotspurs will continue to play their home matches at Founders Field (101 Eisele Rd, Cheswick, PA 15024).

In case you may be wondering where the UWS fits in the grand scheme of women’s soccer in the U.S. The entire set-up is currently experiencing a major transitional and wild-wild west period as many organizations are popping up to try to gain leverage to become distinct Division II and Division III tier leagues.

For many years, there were two leagues that acted as an unofficial lower division, under the first division (NWSL).

The United Soccer Leagues ran the W-League from 1995 to 2015. The Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) was founded in 1998, and has been a mainstay for Pittsburgh area teams since the formation of Steel City FC in 2016.

Almost immediately following the demise of the W-League, United Women’s Soccer (UWS) was founded with orphan W-League teams and WPSL breakaways.

UWS then formed a U23 reserve league, UWS2, in early 2020.

The United Soccer League (USL) plans a Division II professional Super women’s soccer league in the United States, beginning play in 2023, but another entity, the Women’s Professional Independent Soccer League (WISL), has also popped up.

Both of these leagues are slated to fill in as the Division II leagues, while the UWS also plans on having a Division III professional league.

Sanctioning from US Soccer will determine when these leagues will begin play.

For now, it’s the NWSL (Division I), with UWS, WPSL and USL’s W-League (planning a start up in 2022) below them battling to provide women with opportunities to play at a high level.

The Hotspurs will field teams for both UWS and UWS2 in 2021.

In 2021, another local club, under the direction of Century United, also competed in its first-ever season in the WPSL.

As far as preparing for the 2022 season, Overden cited that very little of what they’ve been doing internally as a club will change.

“Things should be the same as normal.  We’ll be playing our system, pointing toward May,” Ovenden said. “Look forward to getting players back from college.  For them, we want to continue to make this a really good experience and training environment.  And for those players already committed college and great opportunity to play at a high level before they go to school.”

Speaking of providing opportunities for young players to reach higher levels, Overden boasted about his club’s role in former Fox Chapel and Pitt standout Dixon Veltri signing to play professionally in Israel.

In November, Dixon signed with Maccabi Emek Hefer of Israel and has joined the professional team recently as she has wrapped up her postgraduate studies at Pitt, where she played for the last three seasons.

“I heard about the league while playing for the Pittsburgh Hotspurs this past summer,” Veltri told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

While Veltri grew up playing for Beadling SC, it was through her involvement playing with the Hotspurs Senior Women’s team which helped push her toward this opportunity

“I played in the Women’s Premier Soccer League. It’s a college girls elite team. Every team was in contact with the Maccabi club and they offered me a contract.”

Emek Hefer is currently in first place in the Israeli league. Its regular season lasts until February and the league champion plays other teams from European countries.

Veltri’s example gives many aspiring young female soccer players with a path to the pros, which is something that continues to motivate Overden and the Hotspurs organization to continue to keep raising the bar for its club and the players that are a part of their programs.

“We’re always trying to move things forward,” Ovenden said. “Instead of being stale, we’re going to try new things.”

The Hotspurs as an organization are fully committed to taking the women’s game to the highest level they possibly can in the Pittsburgh region.

“We have been a part of growing the Women’s game and ensuring the top Pittsburgh talent has a place to compete for quite a few years,” Marikaye DeTemple, Hotspurs General Manager, said.

“We’re all thrilled to now be with UWS to keep raising the level and standards of Pittsburgh soccer and providing a full pathway for the girls to compete.”

The Women’s teams will have tryouts on Monday, December 27th, 2021 at No Offseason Sports (904 Little Deer Creek Valley Rd, Russellton, PA 15076) at 6 PM. For more information, visit their official website. Connect with them on FacebookTwitterInstagramLinkedIn, and YouTube.

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

Riverhounds MF Danny Griffin

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