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The Three USL Championship Teams to Keep an Eye on

Tampa Bay Rowdies, One of The Three USL Championship Teams To Look Out For

March is here and that means one thing; the 2024 USL Championship season is on the horizon. Expansion teams, new look rosters, rebuilds. It has been a busy offseason for team’s in the USL Championship as we head into the 2024 campaign. With the season set to kick off Saturday, March 9th, Last Word on Soccer takes a look at three teams to keep an eye on this upcoming season.

Three USL Championship Teams To Watch For

Looking to Take the Next Step

Our first team to keep an eye on, making a number of moves to position themselves as a top contender, are the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The Rowdies have been knocking on the door for the past several seasons. Losing in the USL Championship final in 2021, followed by an exit in the Eastern Conference finals two years ago and a quarterfinal exit last season, the Rowdies are feeling like it is their time to take that final step and take home the USL Championship title in 2024.

The Rowdies were one of the best all around teams in the USL Championship last season. They’re coming off a high scoring 2023 campaign which saw the team score 60 goals; third most in the USL Championship. They also conceded only 39 goals and posted one of the best goal differentials in the league.

Some teams coming off a season with that type of success would look to run it back and not fix what isn’t broken.  However, that is not the way they were going to do it in Tampa Bay. They went out and brought in a number of top class players to help round out an already talented roster.

New Faces to Keep an Eye On

Despite their high scoring 2023 campaign, the Rowdies still felt like they could improve up top and they did just that. The Rowdies have brought in one of the league’s best goal scorers, Miguel Arteaga. 

Arteaga spent last season with Phoenix Rising, playing an integral role in helping the team to their first ever USL Championship title. The 26 year old striker finished the season with 15 goals and seven assists. A pure goal scorer who also has strong distribution skills, Arteaga will be a dynamic presence up top for the already high powered Rowdies’ attack.

The plan to bolster the attack did not prevent the Rowdies from improving in the back as well. The Rowdies went out and signed one of the league’s best goalkeepers as well, Jordan Farr. Jordan spent the last several years with San Antonio FC. Farr was the 2022 USL Championship Goalkeeper of the year, setting a league record for most clean sheets with 15. Farr also kept two postseason clean sheets en route to helping San Antonio to the 2022 USL Championship title. 

In addition to bringing in a pair of players with title winning experience, the Rowdies also added some MLS experience to their midfield, bringing in Daniel Crisostomo from LAFC. A complete midfielder, the Rowdies are looking for Criostomo to pull the strings in midfield and allow Tampa Bay to control the game from back to front.

With the amount of talent up top already, having an experienced #10 in midfield may be just what Tampa Bay needs to really compete for this season’s USL Championship title. Even with their strong 2023 campaign, Tampa Bay has refused to be complacent and have strengthened just about every aspect of their game.

The Rowdies open their season on Saturday, 3/16 as they take on San Antonio FC.

A New Look for the Old Guard

The second team we’re keeping an eye on at is the old guard of the USL Championship, Louisville City FC. LouCity are the only team to win back to back USL Championships, winning both in 2017 and 2018. With that said, many players have come and gone since winning back to back and LouCity have looked to reload and contend for the 2024 title.

A lot of teams would have been happy to finish where LouCity did in 2023. A trip to the postseason and first round victory. However, the standards are a little different in Louisville as they expect to be seriously contending for the title every year.

The 2024 LouCity side is missing some key names from their 2023 campaign. Club captain, Paolo Del Picollo, has called it a career. Retiring as one of the USL’s most decorated players, Del Piccolo plans on staying with LouCity as a coach in their academy.

Del Piccolo played a vital part in bringing two titles to Louisville. His presence will undoubtedly be missed in the midfield.

Another departing player is goalkeeper Oliver Semmle, a 2023 standout. Semmle has taken the next step in his promising young career, signing for the MLS side, Philadelphia Union. Semmle was a real bright spot for LouCity in 2023. During a season where the side greatly struggled to find goals, Semmle made key saves week in and week out, making sure that LouCity were competitive in just about every match.  LouCity had the fourth lowest goal tally in the Eastern Conference and still managed to finish fifth on the table. Much of that thanks to Semmle’s heroics in goal.

All Is Not Lost

Despite these key departures, LouCity are optimistic that they can still compete for the USL Championship title. The club have brought in a couple of key signings as LouCIty looks to reload for the 2024 season.

The marquee signing of the Winter is without a doubt former Rio Grande FC midfielder, Taylor Davila. Davila is just about as complete a midfielder as you can get. His tactical awareness sets him apart while also showing tremendous quality on the ball. Davila’s passing accuracy was 84%, a solid stat for a central midfielder.

LouCity manager, Danny Cruz, had the following to say about Davila: “His tactical awareness and quality on the ball were two things that stood out to us. He had a good season individually last year, but I believe the best has yet to come for him.”

He’s also not just great on the ball, but a fantastic defender as well. Posting 49 tackles with a 73.1% success rate and making 203 recoveries. Davila is a true box to box midfielder who will certainly help bring some stability to a team that’s had some major changes.

A top priority for LouCity was to improve in front of goal. They’ve certainly put themselves in a position to do so, signing striker Adrien Perez from San Diego Loyal. Prior to playing for San Diego, Perez previously played for other MLS side’s D.C. United and Los Angeles FC.

Perez finished the 2023 MLS campaign with ten goals and three assists in 31 appearances. He’s a dynamic forward who can play a number of roles in attack. Keep an eye on Perez and expect a far more high-octane attack from LouCity in 2024.

LouCity will open their season on Saturday, 3/16 as they head down to Texas to take on El Paso Locomotive.

New Blood

Our third team to keep an eye on is Rhode Island FC. An expansion team, RIFC kicks of their inaugural season on Saturday, 3/16 against New Mexico United. Rhode Island is a hub of soccer fandom and there is a lot of buzz surrounding RIFC. People tend to count out expansion teams in their first season, however, RIFC has made some interesting moves as they look to compete with the USL Championship’s best.


Rhode Island FC have been quickly assembling a strong roster for their inaugural season. The biggest signing is without a doubt 2023 USL Championship MVP, striker Albert Dikwa. Dikwa was also the 2023 Golden Boot winner for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. He scored 20 goals in 28 games for the Riverhounds. Dikwa looks to continue his superb goal scoring form in Rhode Island in 2024.

RIFC has also agreed to terms with goalkeeper Jackson Lee. Lee who drafted this Winter in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft by Los Angeles FC. Lee looks to play an important role between the sticks for RIFC is his first season of professional soccer. 

There are always a lot of the unknowns that surround expansion teams in their first season. With that said, RIFC has put themselves in a good position to compete, constructing a talented roster in a short period of time. 

While there are plenty of teams to keep an eye on, we feel these three standout. The USL Championship season kicks off this Saturday, 3/9.


Photo Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports, of a Jordan Doherty Headshot, on April 26, 2023.


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