10 Storylines To Watch For This L1O Season
The wait is finally over! After what seemed to be the longest off-season ever, the 2023 League1 Ontario season is under way! The men’s season kicked off on Wednesday with a 2-2 draw between reigning champs Vaughan Azzurri and the North Toronto Nitros, while the women’s season will get underway this weekend.
A lot has changed during the off-season heading into this year’s season openers. Transfers in and out of the league, ownership changes, new teams affiliations, and so much more has shaped 2023 to be one of the best season to date!
Here are ten things you should know going into this season!
1) Wins Mean More This Year
Preparations for L1O’s 2024 plan are well underway. With it’s announcement in January of last year, the eventual make up of Promotion/Relegation and the three new leagues within L1O will be determined by this season (and last year’s, to a lesser extent). Whereas teams will only retain 75% of their points earned in 2022, 100% of the points this season will count towards determining which teams get placed in the Premiership, the Championship, and League2. This means that every goal, every save, every win puts teams one step closer to those sought-after top-12 (mens) and top-10 (women’s) spots.
2) Inter-Province Rivalries Galore!
The League1 Canada Inter-Provincial Cup is back in 2023 and with a vengeance! 2022 saw the women’s tournament kick off for its inaugural title, with the PLSQ’s AS Blainville beating their rivals AS Laval in the final. Representing L1O were the women’s runners-up Alliance United FC (they replaced NDC Ontario due to scheduling issues) who held their own into the third-place match up vs L1BC’s Varsity FC. For 2023, the men now have the opportunity to call themselves L1Canada champs as their Inter-Provincial cup kicks off later this year. And with the new League1 Alberta potentially getting a seat at the table this summer, we are sure to see new rivalries from with whoever makes it all the way!
3) Oh Captain, My Captain?…
After their absolute domination over the course of the season (18W-0L-3D record), Vaughan saw the departure of their head coach and three of their top players, all of whom got call-ups to the CPL’s Halifax Wanderers. Former head coach Patrice Gheisar oversaw Vaughan for ten years, which in his tenure won three L1 Cups, three regular season titles, and three play-off championships. Taking the helm from Gheisar will be Sergio De Luca who will be looking to replicate his predecessor’s success while knowing he has massive holes to fill with the likes of Massimo Ferrin and Riley Ferrazzo going to the east coast.
4) The Bigger They Are, The Harder They Fall…
As mentioned above, the Azzurri have quite the history of winning when it matters most, and thats no different with the women’s side, having never finished outside the top five since they joined L1 in 2015. But pride does come before the fall, and when Vaughan faced off against Alliance United for their second meeting that season – this time during semi-finals – they were held back by the Alliance keeper until the final whistle. This first-seed elimination by the sixth seed should hopefully light a fire under the Azzurri going into 2023, turning them into a team seeking redemption.
5) An Affiliation is Born
Hamilton United has generally floated under the radar for many who follow L1O and League1 Canada at large. Their women’s team has continuously fallen mid of the pack whereas the men’s first venture into the premier division last season saw them 11pts out of the playoffs. But this year will be different, as Hamilton United’s rebrand comes with an newly-announced affiliation agreement with CPL champs Forge FC. Time will tell whether this will improve the product on the fired however, one can only assume that the professional links could raise the club’s stature and point totals.
6) More CPL Double-Headers
League1 Ontario as a whole lauded the CPL double headers with Forge FC and York United as great successes for promotion, brand recognition, and the experience for the players at large. Luckily for everyone, these loved events are back for 2023!
The first two double-headers of the season are to be hosted by Forge at Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Field as Bobby Symrniotis’ former club Sigma FC takes on Hamilton United and Prostars on April 15th and 22nd respectively.
7) High Goals, High Rewards
Only seven points separated the top five teams in the women’s division, but all teams were in contention from the get go, including the North Toronto Nitros. Unfortunately, despite finishing with the second-highest goals for in the division, the Nitros ended the season in 7th place. Luckily for them, they were graced with the Golden Boot of Olivia Smith (18 goals) and the skilled hands of GK Raven Edwards-Dowdall who only conceded 8 goals over the 1080 minutes she played. And while Edwards-Dowdall has confirmed her return for 2023, Smith’s status with the club remains unknown, so we will see if the Nitros can fill that void and hold on to another top-10 finish.
8) New Team, Who Dis?
With some of the big names from their championship-winning roster like Jace Kotsopolous, Tomasz Skublak, Svyatik Artemenko moving on to other rosters within L1O, Guelph United FC Head Coach Justin Springer and Manager Keith Mason have have needed to do some massive restructuring over the winer. It is unknown if the club’s disappointing 2022 season – which saw the Royal City side miss the playoffs by a single point – played a role in these departures. Though the signing of fullback Zach Ellis-Hayden from Electric City may just mark a return to form and as contenders this year…
9) Doing The Devil’s Work in Oakville
Duncan Wilde’s Blue Devils side have a lot to be proud of when they look back on 2022. Finishing second in the mens premier division with just two losses and a +38 goal differential, BDFC have held on to a podium position every year since 2017, including back-to-back finals appearances in ’21 and ’22. But it seems whenever the Blue Devils play their nemesis in Vaughan, the goal faucet is turned on full, with them going 7-3 over their season series with the Azzurri, including their 5-1 finals loss on September 3, 2022. Will they be able to stem this flow of goals conceded come 2023?
10) More Soccer = More Fun!
If you like soccer, then this will be your year! Both mens and women divisions are bursting at the seams with talent and both are boasting the largest tables across League1 Canada’s four leagues. With games being available on-demand on L1O’s Youtube channel, while others are being streamed live Youtube and on OneSoccer (limited to CPL Doubleheaders as of right now), there are more ways than ever to follow your local club. To follow along and make sure you don’t miss a moment of the action, check out the men’s and women’s schedules and keep up with your favourite team!
The 2023 League1 Ontario season kicked off on April 12th with the mens division. The L1O women’s premier division will begin on the 21st with Tecumseh SC hosting Darby at 8pm. L1Ontario will be entering it’s ninth season while it’s three sister leagues in the League1 Alberta Exhibition Series, League1BC, and the Premiere Ligue de Soccer du Quebec (PLSQ) will be going into their first, second, and twelfth seasons respectively.