League 1 Ontario wrapped up a successful first season in 2014 and now they are setting the stage for bigger and better things in 2015. The league announced that they will be adding a 6 team Women's division for the new season as well as expanding the men's division from 9 teams to 12.
On the men's side all 9 teams will be returning for a second season including the senior team from Toronto FC's academy system. Those nine teams (ANB Futbol; Durham United FC; Kingston Cataraqui Clippers; Master's FA Saints; Sigma FC; Toronto FC Academy; Vaughan Azzurri; Windsor Stars, and Woodbridge Strikers) will be joined by a trio of new comers in Oakville Blue Devils, Pro Stars FC, and Sanjaxx Lions.
The league remains very much based around the GTA with Kingston and Windsor being the farthest away that clubs are currently located but it is good to see them making strides towards growth. As Dino Rossi notes in the official press release from the league, "it was of utmost importance that expansion to the men's division was managed carefully so as to ensure our positive momentum is uninterrupted." By adding three new teams there is little risk of them diluting the talent within the league while also adding more opportunities for elite talent in the province to develop at a high level.
With 12 teams in place for the new season it should set up a good level of competition for both the league and the cup. It will certainly not be easy for Toronto FC academy to defend the title that they won in 2014. The league will kick off play for their second season in May with further scheduling details still to be announced.
The women's division will be brand new for 2015 and will have a big opportunity to fill a major void that has been left in the development pyramid in this provence. With the W League teams all folding this winter it left the most talented females lacking in somewhere to play. This 6 team division is a good first step towards filling that gap and providing a domestic alternative for some of our top young talent.
For 2015 the league will consist of a number of clubs that are also fielding teams on the men's side. ANB Futbol, Durham United FC, Pro Stars FC, Sanjaxx Lions, and Vaughan SC will all have teams in both divisions while North Mississauga SC will be the lone club fielding just a women's team this year.
It is possible that the women's division will add more teams before it kicks off as conversations are on going with other clubs but it will kick off in May of 2015 with a minimum of 6 teams. Like the men's side it will be very much based around the GTA but that is a good place to start and hopefully in the years to come the league will expand further to include more of the province.
2014 was certainly a strong start for the league and it is good to see that the OSA and those in charge of running League One Ontario are not just sitting back and being happy with what they have accomplished so far. Their continued hard work on growing this league is something that Ontario soccer fans should not take for granted as leagues like this will be vital to our success as a soccer nation moving forward.