Ottawa South United is on the move.
OSU’s men’s and women’s teams will compete in Première ligue de soccer du Québec next season, switching from League1 Ontario in a historic agreement between the two provincial division III leagues.
L1O’s most-eastern club, OSU joined Ontario’s top tier in 2017 with a men’s side before adding a women’s outfit for 2019.
Thursday’s move, sanctioned by Canada Soccer, is the first time League1 Ontario and PLSQ have transferred a club between organizations.
“We have two high-performance Canadian leagues, from two provinces, combining to assist a member club in a crucial market,” Canadian Soccer Business vice president Eva Havaris said. “This is a key moment for our organizations as we will continue to look to work together in the near future.”
Reduces travel cost
OSU’s move to PLSQ will reduce travel time and cost for both the club and League1 Ontario teams. Rather than traveling five hours or greater for road matches, OSU president Bill Michalopulos saw an opportunity to send his group’s top men’s and women’s programs to closer-by Montreal and Quebec City.
“Travel has a direct impact on players,” Michalopulos said. “Players and coaches get burnt out on travel. There was an opportunity to limit these efforts from 10 hours to four, roundtrip. We jumped on that right away. It makes everyone more successful.”
PLSQ features seven clubs in the Montreal area and one (Dynamo de Quebec) in Quebec City. Commissioner Kambiz Ebadi says OSU’s transfer to his league is a “win-win” as the Ottawa side replaces FC Gatineau – who are taking a step away from the league in 2020 – as PLSQ’s lone club in the Ottawa Valley.
“Our point of view was very clear that, geographically speaking, Ottawa makes sense playing in Quebec,” Ebadi said. “We have been working with Ontario clubs at different levels for years now.”
“Proves interprovincial play is possible”
This isn’t the first time PLSQ has featured a side from Ontario – Ottawa Fury FC Academy fielded a men’s side in 2015 and 2016. But, as mentioned, Thursday’s historic agreement is the first time PLSQ’s and L1O’s top tiers have exchanged a club since the two high-performance pathways launched in 2012 and 2014, respectively.
“League1 Ontario and PLSQ have been working together since Day 1,” Ebadi said. “It’s great to have a club to have a club in Ottawa and touch that part of the province.”
Ottawa South’s men’s side never finished higher than 11th in L1O regular season play, while their women’s group made the playoffs in 2019 after placing seventh in regular-season action.
For Michalopulos, his club’s switch to PLSQ is the beginning of an enhanced relationship between the two leagues.
“It will prove interprovincial play is possible,” Michalopulos said, referencing the Inter-Provincial Cup played between L1O and PLSQ sides from 2014 to 2016. “That underpins a whole number of other movements. To me, this will be the first tangible way that proves this Canada-wide thing, where every level is involved, can work.”
League1 Ontario’s top women’s division will feature 14 clubs for 2020: Alliance United, Aurora FC, Darby FC, DeRo United FC, Hamilton United, FC Oshawa, FC London, North Mississauga SC, North Toronto Nitros, Oakville Blue Devils, Pickering FC, Unionville Milliken SC, Vaughan Azzurri, and Woodbridge Strikers.
League1 Ontario's top men’s competition is set to feature 17 teams:
Alliance United, Aurora FC, Darby FC, Hamilton United, FC London, Master's Futbol, North Mississauga SC, North Toronto Nitros, Oakville Blue Devils, Pickering FC, ProStars FC, Sigma FC, Toronto Skillz FC, Unionville Milliken, Vaughan Azzurri, Windsor TFC, and Woodbridge Strikers.