The 2023 USL Championship season kicks off this Saturday, featuring marquee contests and compelling storylines across the 11-game slate of action which will air on ESPN+.
Here our first edition of the weekly News & Notes column, where we take a look at notable storylines and the numbers you need to know going into the action. On top of that, we’ve got our regular upcoming milestones for players in the USL Championship, and the Week 1 Discipline Report.
Let’s dig in.
INDY’S SEBASTIAN GUENZATTI MAKES EARLY RETURN TO TAMPA BAY
After being the centerpiece of one of the major moves of the USL Championship offseason, new Indy Eleven forward Sebastian Guenzatti will face former club the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Al Lang Stadium this Saturday night in the opening game of the campaign for both clubs (7:30 p.m. ET | ESPN+).
A two-time Championship All-League selection for the Rowdies in 2019 and 2021, Guenzatti departed the club as its all-time goalscoring leader. The 31-year-old recorded 65 goals in 161 appearances across all competitions for Tampa Bay, also placing him second in club history in games played.
Of Guenzatti’s goals for the Rowdies, 59 came in the USL Championship regular season. That ranks him second in Championship history to only Cameron Lancaster, who has recorded 69 regular season goals for Louisville City FC in his career.
Most regular season goals for one club in USL Championship history
1. Cameron Lancaster, Louisville City FC – 69*
2. Sebastian Guenzatti, Tampa Bay Rowdies – 59
3. Cameron Iwasa, Sacramento Republic FC – 57
4. Solomon Asante, Phoenix Rising FC – 49
5. Enzo Martinez, Charlotte Independence – 44
* - Current Club
WEST WAS BEST IN 2022, HOW ABOUT THIS YEAR?
San Antonio FC won eight of its nine regular season contests against Eastern Conference opponents in 2022 as well as the Championship Final. | Photo courtesy Davis Kuhn / San Antonio FC
The Western Conference held the edge in the interconference regular season games against its Eastern Conference counterparts in the 2022 USL Championship season, posting a 53-36-23 record in the 112 games contested across conference lines.
Among the standouts in interconference play, unsurprisingly, was defending Championship title holder San Antonio FC, which posted an 8-1-0 record against the Eastern Conference. Its lone defeat was to Indy Eleven, which marked SAFC’s only defeat in its final 14 games across the regular season and playoffs on the way to its first title.
Memphis 901 FC also shone, going undefeated with a 6-0-2 record against the Western Conference on its way to the best regular season in club history. That also made Memphis the lone club to post an undefeated record in interconference play over the course of the season.
Opening weekend features four interconference contests, led by former title-winners Orange County SC and Louisville City FC squaring off at Championship Soccer Stadium. Elsewhere, the Charleston Battery play host to Phoenix Rising FC at Patriots Point, Monterey Bay F.C. welcomes Hartford Athletic to Cardinale Stadium, and Detroit City FC heading west to take on San Diego Loyal SC at Torero Stadium. We could get an early indicator of where the strength may lie this season.
2022 Championship Assists Champion Antoine Hoppenot has arrived at Hartford Athletic this season, where he'll team up with fellow playmaker Danny Barrera under the mentorship of Head Coach Tab Ramos. | Photo courtesy Hartford Athletic
Four of the top five assist-men in USL Championship regular season will be teammates this season, with Hartford Athletic boasting Danny Barrera and Antoine Hoppenot in their ranks while Indy Eleven brings together Aodhan Quinn and Solomon Asante for their second stint as teammates in the Circle City.
With both closing in on 50 regular season assists for their careers, Quinn (48) and Asante (47) sit on 95 combined assists going into the new season for Indy with Barrera (50) and Hoppenot (44) sitting on 94 combined assists in their careers. With Hoppenot coming off a season in which he claimed the Championship’s Assists Champion award at Detroit City FC, both duos could lead potent attacks this campaign.
Asante and Quinn have both previously been part of the duos that have combined for the most assists in a Championship regular season. Asante’s league-record campaign of 17 assists for Phoenix Rising FC in 2019 also saw Junior Flemmings and Jose Aguinaga record seven assists apieces for a combined total of 24. The prior year, Quinn and former Orange County SC teammate Thomas Enevoldsen had combined to record 23 assists in the season they were both nominated for the Championship’s MVP award.
Most Combined Assists by teammates in a Championship regular season
24 – Solomon Asante (17) and multiple teammates (7), Phoenix Rising FC (2019)
23 – Aodhan Quinn (14) and Thomas Enevoldsen (9), Orange County SC (2018)
20 – Emmanuel Ledesma (16) and multiple teammates (4), FC Cincinnati (2018)
20 – Kyle Bekker (13) and Steven Miller (7), North Carolina FC (2018)
20 – Rodrigo da Costa (13) and Christhian Altamirano (7), FC Tulsa (2019)
20 – Oscar Jimenez (10) and Ilija Ilic (10), Louisville City FC (2018)
MEMPHIS, LOUDOUN, MIAMI, TULSA VIE FOR FIRST GOAL OF 2023
With 5 p.m. ET kickoffs on the opening day of the 2023 USL Championship regular season, players in the contests between Memphis 901 FC and Loudoun United, and Miami FC and FC Tulsa will get the first crack at becoming the first goalscorer of the new season.
Last year, Loudoun United FC’s Kimarni Smith claimed the first goal of the season in his side’s 1-0 victory against Indy Eleven at Segra Field.
USL Championship – First Goal of the Regular Season
2011 – Stanley Nyazamba, Richmond Kickers
2012 – Mike Seth, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
2013 – George Davis IV, Orange County SC
2014 – Jose Cuevas, Charleston Battery
2015 – Jordan Hamilton, Toronto FC II
2016 – Fabian Herbers, Philadelphia Union II
2017 – Florian Valot, New York Red Bulls II
2018 – Pablo Aguilar, Rio Grande Valley FC
2019 – Alec Diaz, Tacoma Defiance
2020 – Chris Hegardt, Tacoma Defiance
2021 – Paolo DelPiccolo, Louisville City FC
2022 – Kimarni Smith, Loudoun United FC
Louisville City FC's Cameron Lancaster will become the third player to record 75 regular season goals in the Championship for his career when he opens his account for the 2023 campaign. | Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC
Approaching 150 regular-season appearances
Joaquin Rivas (MIA) – 148
Sebastian Guenzatti (IND) – 145
Approaching 100 regular-season appearances
Adrian Diz Pe (IND) – 99
Sebastian Velasquez (MEM) – 99
Jake Areman (TBR) – 98
Joe Kuzminsky (COS) – 97
Luis Felipe Fernandes (SAC) – 97 regular
Approaching 15,000 regular-season minutes
Speedy Williams (COS) – 14,674
Alex Tambakis (NM) – 14,657
James Musa (COS) – 14,639
Approaching 10,000 regular-season minutes
Marcus Epps (TUL) – 9,935
Joaquin Rivas (MIA) – 9,884
Malik Johnson (COS) – 9,777
Approaching 75 regular season goals
Cameron Lancaster (LOU) – 74
Approaching 50 regular season goals
Chris Wehan (NM) – 49
Lucky Mkosana (TBR) – 48
Alex Dixon (MB) – 48
Approaching 50 regular season assists
Aodhan Quinn (IND) – 48
Solomon Asante (IND) – 47
Approaching 40 regular season assists
Enzo Martinez (BHM) – 38
Approaching 30 regular season assists
Oscar Jimenez (LOU) – 29
Lewis Hilton (TBR) – 29
Justin Portillo (NM) – 28
Niall McCabe (LOU) – 27
Approaching 250 regular season saves
Trey Muse (CHS) – 241
Approaching 40 regular-season shutouts
Matt VanOekel (BHM) – 38
Approaching 30 regular-season shutouts
Joe Kuzminsky (COS) – 29
TAMPA, Fla. – The following is the USL Championship’s discipline report for Week 1 of the 2023 USL Championship season:
Miami FC’s Bolu Akinyode has been suspended for one game following the review of an incident in his side’s contest against the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2022 USL Championship Playoffs by the Independent Discipline Panel. Akinyode will be unavailable for selection in Miami’s contest against FC Tulsa on Saturday night.
Oakland Roots SC’s Neveal Hackshaw has been suspended for one game following his red card incurred while playing for Indy Eleven against Birmingham Legion FC during their regular season contest on Oct. 12. Hackshaw will be unavailable for selection in Oakland’s contest against San Antonio FC on Saturday night.
Orange County SC’s Thomas Amang has been suspended for one game following his red card incurred while playing for San Diego Loyal SC against Oakland Roots SC in the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2022 USL Championship Playoffs for two cautionable offenses. Amang will be unavailable for Orange County’s contest against Louisville City FC on Saturday night.
San Diego Loyal SC’s Alejandro Guido and Grant Stoneman have each been suspended for one game following their red cards for two cautionable offenses against Oakland Roots SC in the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2022 USL Championship Playoffs. Guido and Stoneman will be unavailable for selection in San Diego’s contest against Detroit City FC on Saturday night.
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC’s Steven Echevarria has been suspended for one game following his red card for abusive language during his side’s contest against San Antonio FC in the Western Conference Final of the 2022 USL Championship Playoffs. Echevarria will be unavailable for selection in Colorado Springs’ contest against El Paso Locomotive FC on Wednesday, March 15.
Tag(s): Features San Antonio FC CO Spring Switchbacks Orange County SC Phoenix Rising FC Rio Grande Valley FC Sacramento Republic FC FC Tulsa Charleston Battery Louisville City FC Pittsburgh Riverhounds Tampa Bay Rowdies Las Vegas Lights FC Birmingham Legion FC Indy Eleven Memphis 901 FC El Paso Locomotive FC New Mexico United Loudoun United FC Hartford Athletic San Diego Loyal SC Miami FC Oakland Roots SC Detroit City FC Monterey Bay F.C.