League1 Canada’s representatives in the Canadian Championship will be Simcoe County Rovers, CS St-Laurent, and Victoria Highlanders after winning silverware in their respective provinces.
Simcoe and St-Laurent achieved qualification after being crowned champions of League1 Ontario and Ligue1 Québec respectively. The Highlanders gained their place after finishing atop the League1 British Columbia regular-season standings.
Here’s a little more about the teams you’ll see compete for the Voyageurs Cup next year.
Simcoe County Rovers
Formed in 2021 and located in Barrie, Simcoe have achieved lots of success in their short history with their men’s squads winning titles in the L1O Premier Division in 2023, and last year’s U21 Reserve Division.
They were highest-scoring team in this year’s Premier Division with 56 goals in the regular season and a further seven in their two playoff games, beating 2022 champions Vaughan Azzurri 3-0 in the semifinal and 2023 regular-season champions Scrosoppi 4-2 to win the overall crown; striker Jevontae Layne scored a second-half brace in the final.
Rovers have seven teams across L1O with first and reserve teams for both men’s and women’s players, and have plenty of soccer experience in their setup. Their co-ownership group and leadership team features several former and current Canadian internationals, and Jason Beckford, who had a professional playing career in England, is the current head coach of the men’s first team. There will also be a strong contingency of loud supporters wherever the Canadian Championship takes them.
Both the men and women’s teams qualified to play in next year’s Premier Divisions, which will continue to be the highest tier of L1O when the competition introduces promotion and relegation.
St-Laurent are the oldest League1 Canada club to compete in the Canadian Championship next year, having been founded in 1982, and joined Ligue1 Québec in 2022 – their 40th anniversary. They also adopted a new logo with nods to the city’s coat of arms.
Their time in L1QC has been very successful, finishing second in their inaugural season before losing to AS Blainville in the semifinals. Like Simcoe, they did win the Reserve Division last year, topping the final standings by four points.
This year has been even better, having been crowned the 2023 champions of L1QC with three games remaining. A brace from the league’s 2022 Ballon d’or and Golden Boot winner Loic Adrien Kwemi, and a goal from Yann Régis Toualy – a duo who scored a combined 34 goals last year – contributed to a 4-3 victory against AS Blainville that gave them their 16th three-point haul of the season and an unassailable 11-point gap at the top of the table.
They play Ottawa South United this weekend, but with a coach as decorated in Canadian college soccer as Nicolas Razzaghi, don’t expect them to slack off now the title and Can Champ are secured.
The Highlanders were founded in 2008 and first took to the field in the United Soccer League’s Premier Development League – now known as USL League Two. They then became a member of the inaugural League1 BC season in 2022.
Their start to life in L1BC on the field was far from spectacular, losing seven of their 12 games to finish bottom of the table, but it set up for an incredible turnaround this year. They went from conceding the most goals in the league in 2022 to the fewest in 2023, and won 10 of their 14 matches.
Their Canadian Championship hopes went down to the last day of the regular season as they went head-to-head with TSS Rovers, who were tied with Victoria on points at the top of the table. The Rovers had already beaten professional opposition in Valour FC in the Can Champ this year, and looked set to return in 2024 until Victoria’s David Schaefer scored in the 90th minute and again in injury time to turn the game on its head and give the Highlanders a 3-2 win.
The Highlanders had another chance to assert their dominance in the playoffs, beating Unity FC in the semifinal but falling to Whitecaps FC in the final. Nevertheless, their Latin motto ‘nunquam non paratus’ means to always be ready, and the same can be expected once Can Champ comes around.