10 February 2024

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The Grand Return: A Bluffer’s Guide to the L1 cup

Here’s all you need to know about the L1 Cup before it comes back to the League1 Ontario schedule in 2024.

L1 Cup trophy

The L1 Cup is a competition that will run alongside the men’s and women’s regular seasons, giving teams another opportunity to fight for silverware.

This year will see the cup return after a five-year hiatus. The men’s tournament was last won in 2018 by Vaughan Azzurri – their third victory – and Woodbridge Strikers won the women’s competition, before both were discontinued going into the 2019 season.

How it will work

There will be five rounds of knockout matches, running parallel to the regular season. Every ‘A’ team in the Premier, Championship, and League2 divisions will take part.

There will be 12 First Round teams in the Women’s L1 Cup and 18 First Round teams in the Men’s L1 Cup. The First Round will see all Championship and League2 ‘A’ teams enter the competition, in addition to five Premier teams in the men’s competition chosen via a draw; a team’s record in the Premier division will determine if they have better or worse odds of receiving a bye to the Round of 16.

Fixtures in the respective first rounds, as well as every team’s place in the men’s and women’s tournament brackets, will be drawn at random. This draw will take place on Thursday, February 22, 2024.

The teams who win in the First Round will then move into Round of 16, where all of the Women’s Premier teams and the rest of the Men’s Premier teams will join the competition.

A pyramid structure of knockout matches will continue through to a final, where potentially new champions will be decided. There will be no postseason to determine the divisional champions in 2024, but this all-or-nothing tournament will provide that playoff feeling throughout the campaign.

L1 Cup Roll of Honour:

2014: Vaughan Azzurri
2015: Woodbridge Strikers
2016: Vaughan Azzurri
2017: Woodbridge Strikers
2018: Vaughan Azzurri

2015: North Mississauga
2016: Vaughan Azzurri
2017: FC London
2018: Woodbridge Strikers

“Big opportunities”

“League1 Ontario has come a long way since the L1 Cup was discontinued after 2018,” said Chris Keem, Operations Manager at League1 Ontario. “We are glad we can bring it back alongside the introduction to promotion and relegation.

“There are big opportunities for every team; while it gives some teams who are out of their title race a second chance at silverware, some will be targeting a league and cup double. It will also enable some teams to test themselves against higher-level opposition, creating the potential for underdog stories and some shock results.

“We see them happen in competitions across the world, and here with the Canadian Championship, and the exciting all-or-nothing nature of a 90-minute knockout fixture. We hope that we can replicate something just as engaging for our teams to fight for and our fans to enjoy.”

Published On: 10 February 2024

League1 Ontario staff