|Founded||November 15, 2013|
|Number of teams||22|
|Level on pyramid||3|
|Domestic cup(s)||Canadian Championship|
|League cup(s)||L1 Cup (hiatus)|
|Current champions||Vaughan Azzurri |
|Most championships||Vaughan Azzurri|
|Most L1 Cups||Vaughan Azzurri (3)|
|TV partners||OneSoccer (future)[when?]|
|Current: 2023 League1 Ontario season|
League1 Ontario (L1O) is a semi-professional men's soccer league in Ontario, Canada. The league began play in 2014 and is sanctioned by the Canadian Soccer Association and the Ontario Soccer Association as a pro-am league in the Canadian soccer league system. As of the 2022 season, L1O includes 22 teams. Beginning in 2024, the league will become a three-tier league featuring promotion and relegation.
In the Canadian soccer league system, the men's division is behind the Canadian Premier League (CPL). It is part of League1 Canada, the national third tier with regional division, with L1O equaivalent to the Première ligue de soccer du Québec (PLSQ) and League1 British Columbia (L1BC). Dino Rossi serves as the commissioner of the league.
League1 Ontario was founded on November 15, 2013, in an announcement by the Ontario Soccer Association (OSA) that it would pilot the semi-professional league in 2014 and 2015 as a key pillar of long-term player development in Canada. The league would be administered by DG Sports, who also operate the province's amateur Ontario Soccer League, with Dino Rossi serving as commissioner. OSA President Ron Smale stated that the league's core group of players are to consist of U-23s, with League1 complementing the newly formed Ontario Player Development League (OPDL) elite youth league as a pathway for professional player development.
On April 8, 2014, the OSA revealed its plans for the inaugural season of League1 which would begin during the final weekend in May 2014. The season featured 10 teams, chosen through a standards-based application process, which were: ANB Futbol, Durham Power FC, Internacional de Toronto, Kingston Cataraqui Clippers, Master's FA, Sigma FC, Toronto FC Academy, Vaughan Azzurri, Windsor Stars and Woodbridge Strikers. The league champion would face the champion of the Première ligue de soccer du Québec in the Inter-Provincial Cup to determine the national Division III champion.
Dylan Sacramento of Toronto FC Academy scored the first ever goal in the league with a 10th-minute strike against Vaughan Azzurri. In the same game, Mateo Restrepo received the league's first red card. On July 22, 2014, the league and the Ontario Soccer Association announced the termination of Internacional de Toronto's license agreement due to "failure to comply with agreed-upon league standards," with league matches rescheduled for the season to accommodate the change. Toronto FC Academy were crowned the inaugural league champions on October 4, 2014, after defeating the Cataraqui Clippers 3–1 to secure the top place in the regular season standings. Vaughan Azzurri and Sigma FC contested the inaugural League1 Cup on October 19, 2014, at BMO Field, with the Azzurri winning the single-game cup final 2–1 to be crowned champions.
As the number of teams in the league continued to grow through expansion, the league introduced a two-conference format with the winner of each conference facing off in a championship match. After the 2016 season, the Inter-Provincial Cup was cancelled, with the winners of League1 Ontario and the PLSQ instead advancing to the national Canadian Championship the following season, beginning in 2018.
In 2018, the league returned to a single division, introducing playoffs for the top finishers of the league to decide the league champion. The League Cup tournament was eliminated the following season.
On January 25, 2022, League1 Ontario announced a major restructuring of the men's and women's competitions to commence in 2024. The league will be split into three tiers (Premier, Championship, and League2) with promotion and relegation between the tiers. Future expansion clubs will enter at the League2 level and will have to win to earn promotion to the Championship and then Premier divisions. Also in 2024 will be the return of the L1 Cup, a league cup knockout tournament which will feature teams from all three tiers in the L1O system.
The League1 Ontario regular season runs from May through October using a single table format, with each team playing one match against all other teams. The top eight teams compete in the league playoffs at the end of the season. Since 2017, the league champion has qualified for the Canadian Championship.
The L1 Cup is a league cup tournament that features all L1O clubs. It runs concurrently with the regular season, with cup games usually taking place mid-week. It is not a form of playoffs and all matches are separate from the regular season and are not reflected in the season standings. The 2014 and 2015 cups included a group stage and a knockout stage but from 2016 to 2018 the format was a single-elimination tournament. Following a hiatus from 2019 to 2023, the L1 Cup will return in 2024 to coincide with the league's restructuring.
|Season||Teams||Regular season||Play-offs||L1 Cup|
|2014||9||Toronto FC Academy||—||Vaughan Azzurri|
|2015||12||Oakville Blue Devils||—||Woodbridge Strikers|
|2016||16||Vaughan Azzurri (E)
FC London (W)
|Vaughan Azzurri||Vaughan Azzurri|
|2017||16||Woodbridge Strikers (E)
Oakville Blue Devils (W)
|Oakville Blue Devils||Woodbridge Strikers|
|2018||17||FC London||Vaughan Azzurri||Vaughan Azzurri|
|2019||16||Oakville Blue Devils||Master's Futbol||—|
|2020||17||Season cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic|
|2021||15[note 1]||Vaughan Azzurri (E)
Guelph United (W)
|2022||22||Vaughan Azzurri||Vaughan Azzurri||—|
- Originally, 21 clubs were set to participate, but some clubs opted out of the main division due to scheduling impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some clubs participated in a separate short-season division.
Of the 22 current clubs, 3 are based in Toronto, 11 are based elsewhere in the Greater Toronto Area, and the rest are based in other cities in Southern Ontario. There are no clubs based in Northern Ontario.[note 1]
- Thunder Bay Chill, Northern Ontario's only club at a comparable level to L1O, plays in USL League Two.
- Blue Devils FC was known as Oakville Blue Devils FC until the 2021 season
- BVB IA Waterloo was known as Waterloo United in 2021
- The 2020 season was cancelled delaying their debut to the following year
- North Toronto Nitros was on hiatus in 2018 & 2019, and returned in 2020
- Pickering FC was known as Durham United FC/FA until the end of 2019
- Durham United was on hiatus in 2018 & returned in 2019
- Windsor TFC was known as Windsor Stars until the end of 2016
|Team||City||Stadium||First season||Final season|
|1812 FC Barrie||Brampton[note 1]||Terry Fox Stadium||2021|
|ANB Futbol||King||The Country Day School||2014||2015|
|Aurora FC[note 2]||Aurora||Stewart Burnett Park||2016||2020|
|Internacional de Toronto||Toronto||Lamport Stadium||2014|
|Kingston Clippers[note 3]||Kingston||Tindall Field, Queen's University||2014||2016|
|Ottawa South United[note 4]||Manotick (Ottawa)||Quinn's Pointe||2017||2019|
|Sanjaxx Lions||Toronto||Monarch Park Stadium||2015||2018|
|Toronto FC III[note 5]||Toronto||BMO Training Ground||2014||2018|
|Toronto Skillz FC||Toronto||Birchmount Stadium||2016||2021|
- 1812 FC Barrie was originally set to play in Barrie, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they spent their only season in Brampton
- Aurora FC was known as Aurora United during the 2016 season
- Kingston Clippers was known as Cataraqui Clippers during 2014 season
- Moved to PLSQ from the 2020 season
- Toronto FC III was known as Toronto FC Academy from 2014 until 2016
League1 Ontario was founded with a series of values, objectives and standards all aimed at furthering the league's stated objective of improving player development in Ontario and Canada. Some of these regulations include:
- Standards-based club licensing, renewed annually (not a franchise/ownership model). Standards include technical, organizational, facility and financial criteria.
- Maximum of 3 non-Canadian players per club.
- 18-man game day rosters must include a minimum of 8 U-23 players.
- Starting 11 must include a minimum of 4 U-23 players.
- Maximum of 5 substitutions per match.
In 2019, L1O launched a men's U21 Reserve Division open to existing League1 Ontario or Ontario Player Development League license holders. The inaugural year will consist of a 12-game summer season and a separate 10-game fall season. Nine teams will participate in the 2019 summer season with a possibility of more teams joining for the fall.
Players who earned national team caps while in L1O
The following players have earned a senior national team cap while playing in League1 Ontario (the year of their first cap while playing in the league is listed). Players who earned caps before or after playing in League1 Ontario are not included, unless they also earned caps while in the league. This section also does not include youth caps (U23 or below).
|Alain Sargeant||Saint Kitts and Nevis||2018|||
|Justin Springer||Saint Kitts and Nevis||2018|||
|Tristan Marshall||Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||2019|||
|Tyrell Rayne||Antigua and Barbuda||2019|||
|Rahbar Wahed Khan||Bangladesh||2021|||
- Canadian soccer league system
- Première ligue de soccer du Québec
- League1 British Columbia
- USL League Two
- League1 Ontario (women)
- "Competitive S4L Leagues". Ontario Soccer. Retrieved October 15, 2021.
League1 Ontario sits as the highest level of soccer for Ontario-based players and is defined as a semi-professional league
- Davidson, Neil (April 28, 2017). "League 1 kicks off Ontario soccer season, offering a chance to rise up the ranks". Chat News Today. Canadian Press. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
League 1 Ontario and the PLSQ league in Quebec are sanctioned by the Canadian Soccer Association as Division 3 leagues.
- "L1O Commissioners address 2020 cancellation, potential Fall return". League1 Ontario. June 6, 2020.
- Thompson, Marty (March 5, 2020). "L1O tweaks make for 'more impactful' 2020 season: commissioners". League1 Ontario.
- "OSA to pilot semi-pro League1 Ontario in 2014–2015". Ontario Soccer Association. November 15, 2013. Archived from the original on July 6, 2014. Retrieved April 13, 2014.
- "OSA announces League1 Ontario teams". Ontario Soccer Association. April 8, 2014. Archived from the original on May 18, 2014. Retrieved April 13, 2014.
- "OSA and QSF announce Division 3 Inter-Provincial Cup final". Ontario Soccer Association. Archived from the original on October 19, 2014. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
- "Toronto FC Academy 1 – Vaughan Azzurri 1". League1 Ontario.
- "Notification". League1 Ontario. July 22, 2014. Archived from the original on August 9, 2014. Retrieved July 25, 2014.
- "OSA statement on Internacional de Toronto". Ontario Soccer Association. July 22, 2014. Archived from the original on July 26, 2014. Retrieved July 25, 2014.
- Tim Kelly (October 6, 2014). "Toronto FC Academy 3 – Kingston Cataraqui Clippers 1". League1 Ontario. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
- "TFC Academy Triumphs". Toronto FC. October 4, 2014. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
- Hylton, Kamal (October 20, 2014). "L1 Cup Final: Vaughan Azzurri 2 – Sigma F.C. 1". League1 Ontario. Archived from the original on November 4, 2014. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
- Kamal Hylton (October 19, 2014). "Vaughan Azzurri crowned 2014 League1 Cup champions". Red Nation Online. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
- "League1 Ontario growing again in 2016". League1 Ontario. Retrieved February 1, 2016.
- "Canada Soccer Announces Inclusion Of League1 And PLSQ Champions In 2018 Canadian Championship". League1 Ontario. March 9, 2017. Retrieved October 19, 2018.
- "2018 League1 Ontario Season To Feature New Format, Divisional Configuration And Several Exciting New Additions". League1 Ontario. March 14, 2018. Retrieved March 14, 2018.
- "League1 Ontario Kicks Off A Sixth Season With Early May Openers". League1 Ontario. Retrieved March 14, 2018.
- "Canadian Premier League acquires League1 Ontario". Sportsnet. Retrieved November 14, 2018.
- Thompson, Marty (June 6, 2020). "League1 Ontario's 2020 'Summer season' cancelled, officials target Fall start". League1 Ontario.
- Thompson, Marty (September 4, 2020). "League1 Ontario cancels 'Fall season' plans for 2020". League1 Ontario.
- "League1 Ontario 2021 season now slated to start July 29th". Canadian Premier League. June 15, 2021. Retrieved January 21, 2022.
- "League1 Ontario reveals league pyramid, pro/rel system for 2024 season". Canadian Premier League. January 25, 2022. Retrieved January 26, 2022.
- Jacques, John (January 25, 2022). "Seven Things To Know About The League1 Ontario Restructure". Northern Tribune. Retrieved January 26, 2022.
- "2018 League1 Ontario Season To Feature New Format, Divisional Configuration And Several Exciting New Additions". League1 Ontario. Retrieved March 14, 2018.
- "Supporters Like No Others". League1 Ontario. September 13, 2019.
- Krueger, Adam (July 31, 2018). "Toronto FC III battles Vaughan for L1 Cup". Toronto FC. Retrieved February 9, 2022.
- "Three New Teams Join 2020 League1 Ontario Men's And Women's Divisions". League1 Ontario. Retrieved November 19, 2019.
- "Durham United FA Return to League1 Ontario Men's Division for 2019". League1 Ontario. Retrieved January 18, 2019.
- "League1 Ontario Presentation, April 9, 2014" (PDF). Vaughan Azzurri. April 9, 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 17, 2014. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
- "League1 Ontario Announces Men's U21 Reserve Division". League1 Ontario. April 2, 2019. Retrieved April 10, 2019.
- Saul, Duncan (September 15, 2014). "Agard always wanted to be a Golden Jaguar". Stabroek News.
- "Losing is not an option, says coach Shabazz". Guyana Chronicle. April 28, 2015.
- Gallo, Anthony (August 2, 2016). "Men's 2016 East Division All-Stars Roster: A Closer Look". League1 Ontario.
- @sigmafc (June 2, 2015). "Congrats to Emery Welshman, Daniel Whyte & Anthony Whyte on their call ups to the Guyanese MNT" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Toney, Rawle (November 8, 2017). "Three debutants in Golden Jaguars squad for Soca Warriors friendly". Guyana Chronicle.
- "Canada-based Midfielders to attend PAK Football team camp". Football Pakistan. November 5, 2018.
- "Canadian defender Justin Springer proud to wear the colours of St. Kitts & Nevis". The Sports Network. November 18, 2018.
- Reid, Brady (January 7, 2020). "Canada vs. Barbados — Match Preview". Waking the Red.
- @torontoskillz (March 9, 2019). "Congratulations to Toronto Skillz's player Tristan Marshall" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Baptiste, Neto (September 5, 2019). "Benna Boys in Jamaica for Nation's League opener". Antigua Observer.
- "Two NRBs in 23-man squad for Kyrgyzstan series". The Daily Star. August 24, 2021.