The Biggest Teams in the Indian Super League


The Indian Super League celebrated its tenth anniversary this season and it has come a long way since the first football was kicked in October 2014. The English Premier League was instrumental in seeing the opportunity of signing a strategic partnership with the ISL as the Indian market was ripe for expansion, given the population and the existing interest in the EPL from Asian markets.

Further delegations from the ISL visited stadiums like Selhurst Park and The Emirates after its inaugural season to try and engage with the richest football competition on the planet. The league was boosted by several marquee signings in its early days like ex-Liverpool star Luis Garcia, Arsenal Invincible Robert Pires and the Italian pass master Alessandro Del Piero. Now it can stand on its own two feet with more home-grown players coming into the ranks.

2023/24 has seen a fair amount of drama within the regular season as the two contenders for the title went head-to-head on the final day. Mohun Bagan SG defeated defending champions Mumbai City 2-1 to claim their first-ever ISL title. Mohun are one of the oldest clubs in Asia. They scored the most goals – 47 – and one of the key components of the side was Australian Dimitri Petratos who made three appearances for his national team back in 2018-19.


Despite losing in the ISL final to Mumbai, Petratos won the Golden Ball for his immense contribution throughout the season, including both assists to claim the Shield.  The striker has amassed an aggregate of 22 goals and 14 assists, while also creating 121 goal-scoring chances across his two campaigns so far.

Every good team needs a great leader and the Mariners certainly found one in Subhasish Bose. There’s nothing starry about the Mohun skipper, but his immense work ethic and statistics speak for themselves. The full-back played in all 22 games and helped to create the foundation for eight clean sheets by winning 32 duels, 131 tackles and 112 recoveries.

Mumbai certainly exacted some level of revenge on Mohun when they defeated them 2-1 in the ISL Cup. One of their star players was forward Lallinzuala Chhangte. He was the joint-highest Indian scorer this season along with teammate Vikram Partap Singh, who is a 22-year-old on the rise having made his debut for the national team too. Singh created history by being named Emerging Player of the Month for consecutive months in February and March 2024.

These developments very much chime with the All-India Football Federation’s ambitions to grow domestic talent. It should be remembered that City Football Group, which owns Manchester City, bought a 65 per cent stake in Mumbai five years ago. City are a team that might produce the players to star in the latest Euro 2024 odds. Can they assist Mumbai in delivering more success on the pitch? With two Leagues and two Cups plus a Super Cup since the portfolio purchase, things are looking that way.

Cricket star Virat Kohli has a 12 per cent stake in third-placed FC Goa who finished the campaign just a few points behind the winners. They have an excellent record of reaching semi-finals after the regular season is done, but an ISL Cup remains elusive. One of their standout players was Brandon Fernandes, who is a stalwart native player of the team. He has been called “Mr F.C. Goa”. The midfielder hasn’t had the greatest term but he is a local and that counts for a lot in Indian football as it works towards establishing itself on a world stage. The club have enjoyed a strategic partnership with FC Leipzig that is focused on youth development.

One of the more striking features of this season has been the continued drop in form of Bengaluru FC. The three-time ISL Shield winners have such a great pedigree, but in the past four seasons they have struggled to replicate their dominance. Last year’s ISL finalists experienced their worst-ever finish and could only secure tenth place. They only scored 20 goals during the campaign and suffered group stage exits in the Durand Cup and Super Cup. The search for a prolific forward will certainly be one of the most important factors in the forthcoming season.

The former chief of FIFA Sepp Blatter once called India the “sleeping giant of football.” They are ranked well out of the top 100 in the current table after a hugely disappointing loss to Afghanistan in the 2026 World Cup qualifiers. Despite this, the ISL is certainly gaining traction.

In a most significant development, Viacom18 has secured the rights to all games. As the fifth biggest league in the world for spectator attendance, there is big potential and hopes for the future. Cricket might always rule in India but there’s space for football.

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