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Pulse of Pittsburgh Soccer: Riverhounds newly announced W League franchise is exciting, but far from groundbreaking

It was a monumental night of soccer on Saturday night, when the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC triumphed over Detroit City FC, 2-0, as the club picked up its first home win of the season, while veteran Kenardo Forbes became the USL Championship’s all-time leader in minutes played.

If you missed PSN’s coverage — we had plenty of it — check out numerous features including:

Colton Coreschi’s Match Summary & Post Match Reaction from interviews with HC Bob Lilley and defender Pat Hogan

John Krysinsky’s Takeaways & Player Grades – Griffin, Forbes point the way for Riverhounds Core Group of Leaders to Dominate Detroit 

Kenardo Forbes becomes USL Championship’s All-Time Leader in Minutes Played

This Saturday, the Hounds will run it back again at Highmark when they take on The Miami FC, in the midst of a three-match homestand, that will also include next week’s Open Cup match vs fellow USL Championship side, FC Tulsa.  Look for more to come on those matches including previews, pre-game features and — of course — on site coverage.

However, the other big news coming from Saturday night’s festivities, came when Hounds President Jeff Garner stepped up to the microphone as fans began settling into their seats before a packed crowd to announce that the club will be starting a W League franchise that will kickoff play in 2025, with matches to be played at Highmark Stadium.

While this is exciting news that the Riverhounds organization will have a women’s pre-professional club, competing in the W League, one of the fastest growing entities in the US Women’s Soccer pyramid, this team will now join an already crowded field of local women’s teams that are currently providing higher level opportunities for players who are in college, recently played in college or are at the academy level but ready to play against more elite level.

Most casual fans and mainstream media who reported on this story reacted as if Pittsburgh never had a Women’s soccer team before.

That is simply not the truth.

In the past decade, two local clubs have sponsored Women’s ‘pre-professional’ teams that have been competing on the very same level where the Riverhounds W League team will be in 2025.

Those two clubs are Steel City FC (formerly Pittsburgh Hotspurs) and Beadling Soccer Club.

Pittsburgh’s original second division WPSL club Steel City FC, started in 2014, then became part of the Pittsburgh Hotspurs in 2019, 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.

To learn more about these clubs, we had representatives from both Steel City FC and Beadling, on PSN’s Sounding Off on Soccer Podcast last Spring ahead of their season openers.

Sounding Off on Soccer Podcast: Steel City FC’s Tom Ovenden and Beadling SC’s Matt Fonagy

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 and USL Super League
  2. Women’s Independent Soccer League (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.

PSN’s Rachael Kriger broke it down for Pittsburgh fans in this feature last year, when she explored whether it would be realistic for Pittsburgh to be on the radar to get a women’s professional team — most likely as a USL’s Super League franchise.

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

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 Division I 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.”

So, what does all of this mean for Women’s soccer in Pittsburgh?

It’s a clear sign that the game continues to grow, and there will be more opportunities for female players to stay close to home to play at a high level if they have aspirations to play professionally or keep playing the game they love after their college career ends.

With the Riverhounds finally also throwing their hat in the ring, and with the organization’s ties to the USL, along with outstanding resources they have at their disposal, the W League franchise can push the process faster for Pittsburgh to eventually having a USL Super League club — and women’s pro soccer eventually landing in Pittsburgh.

This will be very fascinating to watch and see how things progress in the next couple of years.

For this coming Summer, some of Pittsburgh’s top players will opt to stay home and play with Steel City FC and Beadling SC, while some others, including two Pitt standouts, Sarah Schupansky and Ellie Coffield, along with Piper Coffield (Indiana Univ) and Tessa Dellarose (North Carolina), will be playing with Racing Louisville’s W League club.

Four local players to join Racing Louisville W-League team

In the meantime, if you are looking for high-level women’s soccer to watch in our region, you don’t have to wait until 2025.

Steel City FC and Beadling SC are currently in the process of preparing for their 2024 seasons.   Beadling SC kick off their WPSL season on May 18, facing Corktown WFC at Southpointe Fieldhouse, while Steel City FC are already training, and will start with a pair of friendlies, before UWS competition starts on May 19.  We have posted their schedules below.

PITTSBURGH SOCCER SCHEDULE (5/4 – 5/8)

Saturday, May 4, 2024 — 7 pm — Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC vs The Miami FC

Tuesday, May 7, 2024 — 7 pm — US Open Cup Round of 32 — Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC vs FC Tulsa

Beadling SC Women’s Schedule (2024)

Sat, May 18, 2024 – 2 pm – vs Corktown WFC (Southpointe Fieldhouse)
Sat, May 25, 2024 – 2 pm – vs GTFC Impact (Southpointe Fieldhouse)
Sat, June 1, 2024 – 2 pm – vs Columbus Eagles FC (Southpointe Fieldhouse)
Sat, Jun 8, 2024 – 3 pm –  vs GTFC Impact (Elmer Graham Stadium)
Sun, Jun 9, 2024 – 2:45 pm – vs Corktown WFC

Wed, Jun 12, 2024 – 7 pm – vs Ambassadors Cleveland (Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy)

Sun, Jun 16, 2024 – 2 pm – vs Columbus Eagles FC (Historic Crew Stadium)

Wed, Jun 26, 2024 – 7 pm – vs  Ambassadors Cleveland (Southpointe Fieldhouse)

Steel City FC Women’s Schedule (2024)

Date Time Visitor Team Home Team Location Address City State Zip
5/4/2024 TBD Friendly Steel City FC No Offseason Sports Little Deer Creek Valley Rd Russellton PA 15076
5/12/2024 TBD Friendly Steel City FC Founders Field 101 Eisele Rd Cheswick PA 15024
5/19/2024 1:00 PM Steel City FC Berlin FC Buffalo State – Coyer Field 801 Grant St Buffalo NY 14213
5/24/2024 6:00 PM Steel City FC Erie Commodores Mercyhurst University 501 E 38th St Erie PA 16546
6/2/2024 3:00 PM Steel City FC FC Buffalo TBD
6/8/2024 2:00 PM FC Buffalo Steel City FC Founders Field 101 Eisele Rd Cheswick PA 15024
6/16/2024 5:00 PM Flower City FC Steel City FC Founders Field 101 Eisele Rd Cheswick PA 15024
6/23/2024 3:00 PM Berlin FC Steel City FC Founders Field 101 Eisele Rd Cheswick PA 15024
6/30/2024 2:00 PM Steel City FC Flower City FC Rochester Community Sports Complex 460 Oak St Rochester NY 14608
7/2/2024 7:00 PM Erie Commodores Steel City FC Founders Field 101 Eisele Rd Cheswick PA 15024

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).

Glory on the Grass

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Riverhounds MF Kenardo Forbes

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