Indian Super League (ISL) will begin its landmark tenth season when Kerala Blasters FC and Bengaluru FC kick off the 2023-24 campaign in Kochi on Thursday.

A journey that has spanned 815 matches and seen 2266 goals scored in the process has helped Indian football grow and take a step towards becoming a strong football nation.

As the league approaches an important milestone, here’s a look at some of the most iconic moments and numbers that have defined the journey.

ISL 2014: An epic semi-final that set the tone

The ball got rolling in the ISL in 2014 with a cracking match between ATK FC and Mumbai City FC but it was the semi-final clash between Kerala Blasters FC and Chennaiyin FC that indeed announced the league as a spectacle.

Leading 3-0 from the first leg where a rapturous home crowd had cheered them on to a big lead, Kerala Blasters FC were given a taste of their own medicine when Chennaiyin FC threatened supported by a packed Marina Arena wiped off the deficit to force the tie into extra-time.

A Kerala Blasters FC goal three minutes from time by Stephen Paul sent the Kochi side through breaking Chennaiyin FC's hearts but not before the people of Chennai had warmed up to their team who showed incredible spirit and quality to almost pull off the unthinkable. The semi-final clash was an anomaly in a season where defences had dominated. With just 2.11 goals per game, it remains the lowest-scoring season in ISL’s history.

The Kerala Blasters FC versus Chennaiyin FC rivalry has lived on since and so has ISL’s ability to surprise and enthrall Indian football fans.

ISL 2015: When the floodgates opened

The 2014 season was about defences proving their mettle, and the 2015 campaign saw the floodgates finally open. 57 more goals were scored in 2015 as compared to the previous season. With a goals-per-game ratio of 3.05, the 2015 season is the third-highest scoring season in the league’s history. A total of eight hat-tricks were scored in the season which remains an ISL record in a single season.

Indians also joined the party contributing to 48 goals as compared to 27 in the previous campaign. The final which remains one of the most thrilling in the league’s history was the perfect way to end a goal-laden season as Chennaiyin FC won 3-2 against FC Goa with three of the five goals coming in the dying minutes. John Stiven Mendoza who scored the winner for Marco Materazzi’s side won the Golden Boot with 13 goals in 16 matches.

ISL 2016: ATK FC underline winners’ mentality

The defences settled scores with the attackers in ISL 2016 with the goals-per-game ratio dropping to 2.32 which is the second-lowest in the league’s history. Mumbai City FC who finished top of the pile conceded just eight goals in the league stage while keeping nine clean sheets.

However, it was ATK FC, another team built on defensive stability that lifted the ISL Cup after peaking at the right time. After edging out the high-flying Mumbai City FC in the semi-final, they beat Kerala Blasters FC in the final in Kochi on penalties to win their second title. For the second time, ATK FC produced the goods when it mattered the most to win the ISL Cup despite not finishing top of the standings in the league stage. They became the first club to win multiple ISL Cup titles and are one of only two teams along with Chennaiyin FC to achieve the feat.

ISL 2017-18: The season of the strikers

The 2017-18 season became longer and bigger with the addition of Bengaluru FC and Jamshedpur FC. It was also memorable of the Blues’ remarkable debut that saw them reach the final but also for some of the forwards who left a lasting impression on the league.

For the first time in the league, five forwards scored ten or more goals in a single season which is the joint second-best tally in the league’s history. Leading from the front was FC Goa’s Ferran Corominas who scored 18 goals which remains a joint record for most goals by a single player in a season. Bengaluru FC skipper Sunil Chhetri netted 14 goals which is the most by an Indian in a single ISL season.

Delhi Dynamos’ Kalu Uche also set a record of scoring in eight straight matches which is the longest scoring streak by a player in the league.

ISL 2018-19: Bengaluru FC, the gold standard

Bengaluru FC won the ISL Cup for the first time in their history and in just their second season in the ISL by beating FC Goa in the final, a team that they also staved off to get first place in the standings in the group stage.

The Blues were deserving winners after being the team to beat for two successive seasons in the league. They accumulated a total of 74 points across the two seasons in 36 matches, scoring 64 goals and conceding just 38. They won 26 out of the 36 games during that period.

The 2018-19 season thus saw the coronation of one league’s greatest-ever teams. It was also the season when the Indians took over the goalscoring mantle contributing to 35.03% which is the second-highest tally for a season in ISL history.

ISL 2019-20: Goals galore

Teams got rid of their handbrakes in the 2019-20 season as it became the highest-scoring season in ISL history in terms of goals per game. With 3.09 goals per game, it ranks at the top for being the most potent season in the league’s history.

Sergio Lobera’s FC Goa were rampant in front of goal as they became the first team to score 50 goals in a single season. They won the ISL League Shield in the process. But Chennaiyin FC and ATK FC who played the final also netted 39 goals apiece. Three forwards – Chennaiyin FC’s Nerijus Valskis, ATK FC’s Roy Krishna and Kerala Blasters FC’s Bartholomew Ogbeche finished on 15 goals each but the Chennaiyin FC man took home the golden boot thanks to having more assists.

ISL 2020-21: Mumbai City FC win epic battle with Mohun Bagan Super Giant

The ISL’s greatest battle for the ISL Shield and Cup played out in 2020-21 when two teams Mumbai City FC and Mohun Bagan Super Giant battled it out for both honours till the very death.

The League Shield race went down to the final match with the Islanders needing to beat the Mariners to claim their first silverware in ISL and they claimed a 2-0 win to pip Mohun Bagan Super Giant on head-to-head record to win the Shield. Both teams finished on 40 points in what was an epic battle.

The two sides were at it again in a few weeks’ time in the ISL Cup final and there was no separating the two teams after 90 minutes. It was Bipin Singh who won it for the Islanders in the dying minutes of stoppage time making them the first and the only team to win the ISL League and Cup double.

ISL 2021-22: The season of surprises

Mumbai City FC and Mohun Bagan Super Giant were expected to resume their battle for supremacy in ISL 2021-22 but the script didn’t exactly pan out that way.

New forces emerged to challenge their duopoly and made the ISL League and Cup a much more open battle. Hyderabad FC who had finished fifth a season before made it to the semi-finals finishing just behind Jamshedpur FC who went from sixth to first in a remarkable recovery to win their first-ever League Shield. Kerala Blasters FC having finished seventh the season before reached all the way to the final losing to Hyderabad FC as the latter became another new winner of the ISL Cup.

At the start of the season, no one expected Jamshedpur FC and Hyderabad FC to take away the main honours in the ISL further underlining the surprise element of the league.

ISL 2022-23: When the records tumbled

The record books were rewritten in ISL 2022-23 as Mumbai City FC unleashed a streak of dominance never seen before in the league’s history.

Des Buckingham’s men played irresistible attacking football that saw them score 56 goals in the campaign, a new record. They also went on an 18-match unbeaten run, also a new record. The Islanders won 11 matches on the spin, another new record to win the League Shield, becoming the first team to win it twice, obviously with a record goals tally of 56.

The league saw eight different players score ten or more goals in a season which was a record and Lallianzuala Chhangte became only the second Indian player after Chhetri to register double figures. The young winger led the Indian charge as Indians scored 121 goals which is the most in terms of pure number and also the percentage of the total goals in a single season.

Mohun Bagan Suoer Giant, the eventual ISL Cup winners and Hyderabad FC both kept 12 clean sheets each which is a record for a team in a single season.

The 2022-23 campaign couldn’t have signed off on a better note for the 2023-24 season which will be the first one with 12 teams after the promotion of Punjab FC from the I-League to build on. Exciting times lie ahead.