League1 Ontario is pleased to announce a significant restructuring of its competition model, as set out in its recently ratified “2024 Plan”, which delivers a new league pyramid to Ontario’s top Men’s and Women’s football environment.
Beginning in the 2024 season, the Men’s and Women’s competitions will be organized into three distinct tiers: L1O Premier, L1O Championship and League2. Team movement between these tiers will be governed by a promotion and relegation system.
Despite unprecedented levels of interest in joining the league, the L1O Board of Directors has decided that new expansion will be paused until 2024, at which time clubs invited to join the fold will begin their journey starting at the newly-created League2 tier.
The strategy is twofold: New organizations will eventually have the potential to join the League1 ecosystem – especially those in underserved regions of the province – without diluting the quality of competition and the ongoing value of a current license.
“The demand to be part of League1 has grown so much over the last number of years,” League1 Ontario Executive Chairman Dino Rossi said. ”We've achieved a degree of scale that allows for this type of structure to be put in place at this time.”
League1 – which started in 2014 with 10 Men’s sides – is set to welcome 22 Men’s and 18 Women’s license holders for the 2022 Premier Division season.
“Not every club in our league has the exact same ambition. We have some that want to win the league – with hopes of competing in the Canadian Championship on the men’s side as the big reward – and that's amazing,” Rossi added. “We have other clubs that view our competition as integral to their player-development and player-advancement objectives.
“With a system like this, clubs will find their level and have the opportunity to compete in a high quality, standards-based environment, at a tier that is best aligned with their ambitions.”
On the women’s side, the 2024 season will see the Premier and Championship Divisions made up of between eight and 10 teams, each kicking off play in April before closing in mid-August – just in time for the start of the university and collegiate seasons. League2 – which will feature a mixture of new expansion sides and “Reserve” teams of each Premier and Championship division club – will begin in May and run until August, with teams split up into regional divisions.
A similar format will exits on the men’s side, with the Premier and Championship divisions featuring between 10 and 12 teams, also kicking off in April but running into early September. The champion of the Premier Division will represent L1O in Canadian Championship the following year.
The new promotion and relegation system will see the champions of League2 advance to the Championship Division and the top side in the Championship making the jump to the Premier Division for 2025. Conversely, the last place teams in both the Premier Division and the Championship will each fall one tier in the pyramid.
"As President of Canada Soccer, I was an early proponent of the importance of League1 Ontario and the need for more leagues like it to be established,” Victor Montagliani, CONCACAF President / FIFA Vice-President, said in a statement. “Now this league faces an important moment in its history. I speak from personal experience when I tell you that it is imperative at moments like these to be bold and ambitious. The status quo does not move the sport forward. The 2024 Plan is important and it will serve as a guiding light for other leagues to follow."
Dr. Nick Bontis, Canada Soccer President, added: “The work being done by the club leaders, coaches, players, match officials and support staff in League1 Ontario has been and will continue to be a critical piece of the continued growth and success of our sport. I have reviewed The 2024 Plan and fully support this strategy. To continue propelling this league, and our sport, to new heights, you cannot stand still. Be ambitious! Lead the way!
To assign club positions into their respective tiers for the 2024 season, L1O teams competing in the Premier Division during the 2022 and 2023 campaigns will see all the points earned in regular season over those two years aggregated. However, points earned in 2022 will be worth only 75% while points earned in 2023 will be worth 100%. The 12 Men’s teams and the 10 Women’s teams with the most points earned over the 2 season under this formula will remain in the Premier Division, while the balance of teams will start the 2024 campaign in the Championship Division.
League1 Ontario will also bring back its League Cup for 2024, connecting all three tiers of competition (but excluding the “Reserve” teams that participate in League2) for one of the largest high-level footballing competitions in the country. The first and second rounds of the competition are slated to take place in early April, before the regular season kicks off.