The importance of a healthy goal difference can go a long way in football. It not only gives teams an edge when the margins are fine, but can also win or cost them a piece of silverware. In simple terms, goal difference is worked out by subtracting the number of goals the team has conceded from the number of goals scored.

But there’s more than just numbers when it comes to goal difference. It also displays how productive teams can be in attack as well as defence. Mumbai City FC set a new record for the highest goal difference in the Hero Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season as they won the League Winners' Shield in unprecented fashion. Over the past few seasons in the Hero ISL, clubs with a strong goal difference over their opponents have generally found success, winning trophies along the way.  

With that, we take a look at the teams with the highest goal difference during a single season in Hero ISL history.

1) Mumbai City FC (2022-23): +33

Mumbai City FC were simply unstoppable in the Hero ISL 2022-23 season as they waltzed their way to the League Winners' Shield, while shattering multiple records. The Islanders scooped the Shield after going unbeaten for 18 games, which was an unprecedented feat and finished top of the standings after just facing two defeats all season, which was also a new record.

What made MCFC one of the fearsome sides in the league was undoubtedly their attack, scoring a staggering 54 goals, the best-ever in the league’s history. However, their defence also stepped up during crucial moments, conceding 21 goals from 20 games while recording seven clean sheets that helped Mumbai City FC finish the league stage with a record-breaking goal difference.

2) FC Goa (2019-20): +23

Sergio Lobera-led FC Goa were a force to be reckoned with during the 2019-20 season, as they finished at the summit of the league standings that campaign. A top of the table finish saw them become the first Hero ISL side to lift the League Winners' Shield and they made history by becoming the first Indian team to qualify for the group stages of the AFC Champions League.

The Gaurs shipped 23 goals across 18 games during the league stage, but their attack fired on all cylinders, as they netted 46 goals. Ferran Corominas and Hugo Boumous spearheaded the attack, with the duo alone contributing 25 goals. In the end, the Gaurs topped the league with a strong goal difference, accumulating 39 points from 20 games in the process, five more than second-placed ATK FC.

3) Jamshedpur FC (2021-22): +21

Jamshedpur FC defied the odds as the Red Miners went all the way and bagged the League Winners' Shield under head coach Owen Coyle, which proved to be the first silverware for the club since their inception in 2017. That season, JFC made it to the Hero ISL playoffs for the first time in history and later went one step ahead by topping the league and lifting the Shield.

Coyle’s side formed a reputation as a hard-to-beat unit, grinding out wins game by game while facing just three defeats. Jamshedpur FC scored 42 goals from 20 games, which was the second-best tally in the league that campaign, but it was their defence which laid the foundation of their League Shield triumph, shipping just 21 goals - a tally that no other team could match. The Red Miners ended the league with a stunning goal difference of +21 and were six points ahead of title winners Hyderabad FC, who finished second that season.

4) Hyderabad FC (2021-22): +20

Besides Jamshedpur FC, Hyderabad FC were another team that punched above their weight in the 2021-22 season as they secured the Hero ISL title. Hyderabad FC ended the league phase in the second position. This was the first occasion that the side made it to the playoffs after narrowly missing out on a playoff berth during the 2020-21 season. They beat favourites ATK Mohun Bagan in the semi-finals before getting the better of Kerala Blasters FC on penalties in the final.

Manolo Marquez’s side were one of the most efficient teams that season, at both ends of the pitch. Their tally of 43 goals was the highest that season and they let in 23 goals from 20 matches, concluding the league phase with a strong goal difference.

4) Hyderabad FC (2022-23): +20

Marquez’s Hyderabad FC side may have ended the 2022-23 season without any silverware, but didn’t let the standards drop and replicated the same fighting spirit from the season gone by. They finished second in the league standings for a second straight season, while also bettering their points tally during the title-winning season.

During the 2022-23 season, Hyderabad FC emerged victorious in 13 of their 20 games and were a side that were tough to beat. Surprisingly, they were the only team that did not face a defeat against League Shield Winners Mumbai City FC during the season. HFC pumped 36 goals but it was their defence that stood out, letting in just 16 goals across 20 games, that included a joint-high tally of 12 clean sheets. While recording the same goal difference from the 2021-22 season, they eventually finished four points behind Mumbai City FC.