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Vaughan Azzurri and Blue Devils teams stand before kick off

Men’s Premier Division Playoffs: Final preview

By League1 Ontario staff, 09/01/22, 10:30AM EDT


Two of the most successful teams in L1O history lock horns for the 2022 Men’s Premier Division title.

Players line up alongside referees before a game.

Vaughan Azzurri and Blue Devils

Vaughan Azzurri vs Blue Devils – Saturday 1pm ET (Ontario Soccer Centre Stadium)

The Men’s Premier Division championship final is fittingly a battle between the top two teams from the regular season.

Blue Devils had a topsy-turvy semifinal against Alliance United who finished two points below them in the table. Alliance scored first through Artem Tesker after just six minutes but Matthew Santos and Khody Ellis were each on target for Blue Devils to ensure their side led at the interval.

Samuel Gardner’s header then tied the game again just before the hour mark, only for Blue Devils’ top scorer Taha Ilyass to net his team’s third and eventual winner just four minutes later.

Meanwhile, Vaughan Azzurri are still unbeaten in 2022. They also had to come from behind to reach the final two in the postseason, seeing off Simcoe County Rovers 2-1 in their semifinal.

Ethan Beckford scored for the visitors after 12 minutes and the Rovers carried the lead into the half-time break, but goals from Dylan Carreiro and Orlendis Benitez Hernandez in the second 45 saw the Azzurri come back to keep their campaign alive.

Trophy games are not so unfamiliar

Blue Devils were last year’s Men’s Premier Division runners-up, losing to Guelph United in the final.

They did however champion L1O’s second season in 2015, and then defeated Woodbridge Strikers 4-2 on penalties in the playoff final two years later. Marcos Nunes and Brandon Duarte scored in regulation time for either side that day; the latter is still a talisman for Blue Devils today.

The Azzurri won the title more recently in 2018 when current York United player Austin Ricci netted the second of two Vaughan goals that saw them overcome Woodbridge Strikers. They also lifted the trophy in 2016 against FC London – defender Daniel Gogarty was on target back then and returned to Vaughan for a second spell in 2022 having played in the Canadian Premier League.

Vaughan Azzurri and Blue Devils players challenge for the ball

Vaughan Azzurri and Blue Devils


It’s the first time these historic L1O clubs have met in the championship final, but they have fought many a battle over the years.

They most recently tied 2-2 in the 2022 regular season with both sides’ semifinal heroes – Carreiro, Benitez Hernandez, and Ilyass (who scored two) – hitting the target.

Leaford Allen netted a brace for Blue Devils on the Azzurri’s home soil in last year’s playoff semifinal. Carreiro was on the scoresheet again then as well, but it wasn’t enough to turn the tide and the visitors won 2-1.

The Azzurri saw off Blue Devils 4-1 in 2019 with Ryan Raposo netting a brace; he is now a key figure at MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps. They also won 5-2 the year before, with five different players finding the net.

Semifinal scorer Santos had netted in Blue Devils’ victory against the Azzurri in 2017; his side will be aiming to buck the recent head-to-head trend and upset the Azzurri in the final.

Men's Premier Division Final graphic


You can watch the title decider between Blue Devils and Vaughan Azzurri at Ontario Soccer Centre Stadium on Saturday, August 6; the game kicks off at 1:00pm. 

Please follow this link to purchase your tickets:

The game will also be streamed live on our YouTube channel - L1O TV.

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