July has kicked off with some major events on the League1 Ontario radar, and the fireworks look set to continue throughout the month.
Check out the top nine League1 Ontario stories for July 9!
1) Just on the cusp of June ending and July beginning, Toronto FC drew the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-2 in the second leg of the Amway Canadian Championship on June 29, claiming the Voyageur Cup on away goals after a last-gasp Will Johnson goal.
In what was a great achievement by the Reds, it was also a chance to witness the progress of three League1 Ontario alumni - Raheem Edwards, Molham Babouli and Christopher Mannella - who were all in the squad to take the Cup.
With Babouli becoming more and more of a fixture with the first team, and Mannella and Edwards transitioning as leaders between TFCII and appearances with the first team, the future is looking bright for the homegrown player pathway at TFC.
2) At half-time in the Voyageur Cup second leg, commentator and broadcast anchor Vic Router interviewed CONCACAF and Canada Soccer president Victor Montagliani, who spoke to an upcoming format change to the Voyageur Cup.
Montagliani revealed that among changes to the format of the competition will be inclusion of DIII league representatives from League1 Ontario and Quebec's PLSQ.
Keep your ear to the ground in coming months for details about when you can see your favourite League1 club squaring off against the Canadian NASL and MLS teams in pursuit of the national title.
3) Speaking of Quebec's DIII PLSQ league, this week League1 and PLSQ announced a joint-initiative in the inaugural Women's All-Star Game for July 27 (7:30 p.m.) at the Ontario Soccer Centre.
With every team represented by at least one player, the best of League1 women's players will be selected by a panel of coaches and league officials to take on a team assembled by the Quebec Soccer Federation, featuring the top talent from the province.
The League1 Ontario Women's All-Star roster and coaching staff will be announced on July 13!
4) Details are top-secret at the moment, but a League1 Ontario Men's All-Star match is also in the works, with a number of exciting details to be announced on July 13 as well!
5) The road to the L1 Cup finals has been hotly contested this season, with no end of underdog wins resulting in some of the top ranked sides bowing out early.
Semi-finals will commence next week (July 12-13) and, on the women's side, feature FC London v Vaughan Azzurri in one bracket, and Woodbridge Strikers v North Miss in the other.
In the men's semi-finals, Masters v Vaughan + North Toronto Nitros v Woodbridge should be two full-tilt match-ups to guarantee an exciting final.
Both finals happen on July 30 at the Ontario Soccer Centre with kickoffs at 3:30 p.m. at 7 p.m.
6) Unbeaten (Women): Looking closely at League1 Ontario league play, we've seen several upsets of late disrupting some unbeaten starts to the 2016 campaign - yet there are two teams that have yet to drop points.
On the women's side, Woodbridge Strikers has shown an incredible depth of talent, from stalwart vets, ex-pros, current and former internationals, and a wide array of youth prospects and NCAA D1 players.
Credit to both the players and head coach Joe Parolini for going nine matches unbeaten in the league. A sparkling 2-0 win over division leaders FC London last weekend was certainly a highlight for the Strikers, but it certainly won't be the last time the two sides meet this season, with both still involved in the L1 Cup semis and scheduled to thrash it out again in league play on September 17.
However, with a tough fixture in matchweek eleven, Woodbridge won't be looking any further than their date with Durham United FA on Sunday July 10 (7 p.m.) at Vaughan Grove, Woodbridge.
7) Unbeaten (Men): On the men's side, Vaughan Azzurri also has a team filled with talent - youthful and experienced - and head coach Carmine Isacco has had his work cut out for himself managing a massive panel of players.
The Azzurri has at times dropped focus and struggled to get the finishing touch, but the team has never dipped far enough to lose a league match. Currently with a record of 7-0-3, Vaughan is one point out of first spot in the east, but has a game in hand on leaders Woodbridge Strikers.
Still, much like the Woodbridge women, Vaughan will not be looking past their match-up this Sunday July 10 (3 p.m.) against 2015 League1 Ontario title-holders Oakville Blue Devils at Sheridan College Stadium, Oakville.
Jade Kovacevic (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
Christabel Oduro (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
8) Scoring race (Men): Sigma FC's Leaford Allen again separated himself from the pack after getting a brace mid-week that sent his total up to 11 goals in 12 matches.
However, right behind him in the race on eight goals apiece is FC London's Elvir Gigolaj and 2015 Golden Boot holder Felipe Vilela from Oakville Blue Devils.
Windor's Michael Pio (7) and Vaughan's Jonathan Lao (5) have also shown the ability to nab goals in bunches, as has Durham's Kashiff De Jonge (5) and Stefan Lamanna (5), North Miss's Jose Melo (5), Sigma's Marcel Zajac (5), and Windsor duo Celso Carapau (5) and Jumbo Iyowuna (5).
With the second half of the season about to close, who can maintain their scoring form to claim the 2016 Golden Boot??
9) Scoring race (Women): One name has been dominating the scoring stats since the start of the season on the women's side, and it is FC London's Jade Kovacevic.
Currently on 15 goals from nine matches, Kovacevic has only been shut out in two matches - May 28 at home to North Miss, and July 3 away to Woodbridge Strikers.
Behind Kovacevic on ten goals each is Woodbridge duo of Golden Boot 2015 holder Jessica Lisi, and Canada U20 player Christabel Oduro.
Kingston's Jackie Tessier has shown a tendency for highlight reel goals, now with eight finishes to her name, while Durham's Laura Gosse and Woodbridge's Lisa Pecheresky sit on seven.
The question will be a big one throughout this month: can anyone catch Kovacevic?
Leaford Allen (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
Elvir Gigolaj (Photo: Martin Bazyl)
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