Multiple teams in the title picture
Vaughan Azzurri, Alliance United, and NDC Ontario all showed the credentials of being worthy champions last season, but it was the latter who came away with the crown powered by their high-scoring style of play.
A 3-1 victory in the final against Alliance United made it 11 games in 2022 where NDC Ontario scored three goals or more in a match, and top scorer Amanda Allen secured a move to NWSL’s Orlando Pride in the offseason. At the other end of the pitch, the team’s regular-season defensive record was only bettered by Vaughan Azzurri.
It will be tough for the other clubs to stop NDC Ontario securing another title in 2023, and St. Catharines Roma Wolves will be the first to test the champions on Friday, April 21 – the opening day of the new season.
Vaughan Azzurri will also have big ambitions for the title . The club had an outstanding 2022 and finished top of the table at the end of the regular season, their strong performances built on an incredible defence that conceded only eight goals in 19 games. It was Alliance United, though, who put an end to their title aspirations in a highly competitive playoff semifinal.
Alliance creeped into the playoffs in sixth place last season and demonstrated they have what it takes when their campaign is on the line, beating both of last year’s top two. On paper they have a very tough start to this season, facing most of the top sides in their opening seven matches.
Given that last season’s top five were only separated by seven points, don’t rule out Woodbridge Strikers, FC London or Simcoe County Rovers. Woodbridge had the same defensive record as the eventual champions, and FC London and Simcoe County Rovers were just shy of 50 regular-season goals.
FC London do however enter the new campaign without 2022 League1 Ontario MVP and their main source of goals, Julia Benati, who has signed a professional contract with Portuguese side Valadares Gaia FC.
A tight battle for playoff places
The top-six battle was extremely close in 2022 and perhaps no club will be more determined to reach the knockout phase this season than North Toronto Nitros, who missed out on the playoffs by a single point.
Electric City had a very promising debut season, taking maximum points in more than half of their matches and finishing five points off a playoff place. They will be hoping for another strong season but will be without the impact of Holly O’Neill and Hailey Walsh who have both signed with clubs in Europe.
North Mississauga, Darby, Tecumseh and St. Catharines Roma Wolves all ended the season within three points of each other in mid-table. Tecumseh had a strong end to 2022 with four wins in their final six matches – a run that may provide some inspiration going into this season.
Elsewhere, Guelph Union merged with Men’s Premier Division side Guelph United in the offseason, a relationship they hope will have an immediate impact on the field, helping them join the hunt for a playoff place like United did last season.
Unionville Milliken will aim to sure up their backline in 2023 after conceding 57 goals last season, the most in the top 17. They have the daunting task of facing Vaughan Azzurri in their opening fixture, but a strong performance could provide a significant boost to their confidence this season.
Every point matters ahead of 2024
Blue Devils head into this year looking to get back to the heights of previous years. The Oakville club were top of the table at the end of 2019, also making it to the title game in that season and again in 2021. Last year’s 15th-place finish didn’t continue the same trend.
Last season was BVB IA Waterloo’s first in L1O and the team got off to a flying start, winning their first three games, but one victory during the rest of the campaign saw them end up near the foot of the table. Last year’s bottom three, Hamilton United, Burlington, and ProStars, will be aiming for improvements in results this season.
With teams being placed in either the Premier or Championship divisions next year based on their results during 2022 and 2023, this season will be fiercely competitive. It begins with a bumper opening weekend – nine games across Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, starting with Tecumseh hosting Darby.
We can’t wait.