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USL Super League in Pittsburgh? Women’s pro team is (realistically) possible

On May 16, the United Soccer League made a bold announcement. The USL Super League, which was first announced in 2021, would be fighting for Division 1 status on the U.S. Soccer pyramid. The women’s league — which is set to kick off in fall 2024 — announced eight initial markets, with five confirmed future markets.

However, that’s not all.

The Super League also announced the eventual welcoming of either two or four new teams for the inaugural season. The eight confirmed teams to kick off in 2024 are Charlotte, North Carolina; Dallas-Forth Worth, Texas; Lexington, Kentucky; Spokane, Washington; Tampa Bay, Florida; Tucson, Arizona; and Washington, D.C.

There are hundreds of USL teams — if you think about the USL Championship, USL League One and League Two. Some of these cities have men’s clubs in all three of those tiers.

The USL Championship is the top of the three tiers, and sits right underneath U.S. Soccer. Pittsburgh Riverhounds have been part of the USL Championship since its rebranding. Does that mean it could have a USL Super League team?

Realistically, they can. And, from a statement given to me by the front office, it could be possible.

After the USL Super League news dropped, I reached out to the Riverhounds and asked about the possibility of bringing a women’s soccer team to the Steel City.

They replied: “We are open and supportive to the possibility of a USL Super League team at Highmark Stadium and AHN Montour, and while we don’t have an immediate path in place, we are actively working with the league to explore several opportunities to bring professional women’s soccer to Pittsburgh.”

There are a fey key words in this statement, given by a Riverhounds spokesperson, plus additional acknowledgement from Team President Jeff Garner, in his interview on Sounding Off on Soccer Podcast earlier in the year, that this is something that the club is considering.

The Riverhounds have made it clear they are not going to be one of the new two to four teams being added for the first season in 2024. However, the Riverhounds could find themselves on the ‘future club’ list, with cities like Chattanooga, Tennessee; Indianapolis, Indiana; Jacksonville, Florida; Madison, Wisconsin; and Oakland, California.

Pittsburgh does not have an NWSL team or a USL W-League team. The W-League is, according to their mission statement, a “pre-professional women’s soccer league” that kicked off in May 2022. The W-League strives to “use women’s soccer as a force of societal good by creating a national platform to increase opportunity, gender equity and career development.”

Essentially, it is a pathway for women’s players to join in their collegiate offseason and have pre-professional matches. That way, players can get on scouting radars from professional leagues — like the NWSL and, soon, the USL Super League.

Then there’s the WPSL, which has been around since 1998. With 130 active teams, the WPSL has a mission of “providing the highest level of development opportunities” with rosters that include “elite female players from collegiate, post-collegiate, international and standout prep athletes.”

Pittsburgh’s original WPSL club Steel City FC, became part of the Pittsburgh Hotspurs, but is now back as a rebranded Steel City FC. However, with the new team came a new league. Steel City FC now competes in United Women’s Soccer (UWS) a national pro-am league. There are two tiered leagues: UWS1 and UWS2. Steel City FC plays in the first tier of UWS.

Pittsburgh has continued to have representation in the WPSL.  In 2022, both Century United and Beadling SC fielded WPSL squads, but now Beadling SC’s side is the lone club from the area in the WPSL.

UWS and the WPSL are tied on the ‘tier-list,’ according to the U.S. Soccer pyramid of leagues.

The pyramid is as followed:

  1. National Women’s Soccer League
  2. Women’s Independent Soccer League & USL Super League (both have sanctions pending)
  3. Planned UWS Pro League (TBA), Planned WPSL Pro (Sanction Pending, 10 clubs planned)
  4. United Women’s Soccer, Women’s Premier Soccer League and USL W-League — all three are considered ‘amateur leagues’ and not directly sanctioned by U.S. Soccer.

WPSL? USL Super League? USL W-League?

So, where does this leave the city of Pittsburgh?

As the statement provided by the Riverhounds says, there are plans to bring women’s soccer to Pittsburgh. Whether it is with the USL Super League or W-League is up for debate. The Riverhounds didn’t necessarily name the Super League: just ‘the league’ of the USL.

Pittsburgh would ideally fit with the Super League though, for a couple of reasons.

First, Pittsburgh is truly becoming a soccer city.

You don’t need to have an MLS team or fill in Heinz Field to be a soccer city, so get that notion out of your head. Of course, the Riverhounds have found favor and a growth of fans throughout the years of Bob Lilley’s tenure as coach, with immense success on the pitch.

And, the Riverhounds are seeing a national spotlight placed on them from their recent Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup success. Within all the jokes of elevating the team to MLS due to recent ‘Cupset’ victories, there needs to be room for realism: no, MLS wouldn’t work for the Hounds — we’d need a whole other article to discuss why.

However, the idea of bringing a women’s team to Highmark Stadium is realistic and plausible. There are professional women’s soccer that have come out of Pittsburgh, so the talent is recognized. Veronica Latsko currently stars for OL Reign, while Meghan Klingenberg is a World Cup-winning native of the city.

The Women’s game in the Pittsburgh region has also received a boost from Pitt women’s program, who saw their first-ever playoff appearance in the ACC and deep run in the NCAA Tournament this past year. Pittsburgh had a strong season throughout non-conference and conference play. Randy Waldrum is a nationally acclaimed coach.

A few years ago, I ran a poll asking if Riverhounds supporters (posted in the Riverhounds Supporters group on Facebook) would support an NWSL team in Pittsburgh. Here were the results:

Be on the lookout for a new poll asking about a USL Super League team. In response to the Riverhounds’ statement about the league, there were a few excited fans.

There is clearly a ‘want’ for a women’s soccer team in Pittsburgh.

Will it happen?

According to the Riverhounds, there’s at least a plan and conversation with the league, even if it’s not immediate.


The sport of soccer is Rachael Kriger's area of expertise. Kriger covers Steel City FC for Pittsburgh Soccer Now and provides various columns, with occasional work with Pitt Women's Soccer. Elsewhere, Kriger is the co-managing editor of Last Word on Soccer and the social media coordinator and lead Liga MX Femenil writer for Equalizer Soccer. She is a member of the official NWSL Media Association and the North American Soccer Reporters, serving as the NASR's Vice President after two years in the role of Communications Director.

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