Canada has a brand-new professional sports league, and it’s one that has been demanded for a long time. Today, former Canadian international Diana Matheson, current Portland Thorns player and Canadian international Christine Sinclair, Thomas Gilbert and Nathalie Cook announced the creation of a professional women’s soccer league in Canada.

It has been a long time coming and many Canadians could be forgiven if they thought this day would never come. After winning their first bronze medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics, many felt there was a movement at the time. It never materialized. But now, building off the success of another bronze in 2016 and a gold in 2020, the time is now.

Diana Matheson, the former Canadian international and CEO of Project 8, the organization behind the league, said Canada has been ready for this for a while now.

“We know that women’s professional sport is a new industry. It’s growing faster than men’s sport. And will keep growing over the next two decades. We know that. So, it’s both the best sport and it’s growing,” she said.”

The new as-of-yet unnamed league is set to begin in 2025 with eight teams across Canada. So far, two of those teams have been named, both to be newly created women’s sides within the Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Calgary Foothills SC organizations.

“We want this to be a Canadian league, so, anywhere from Vancouver Island to the Maritimes,” Matheson said. “We want at least one team in B.C., Alberta. We want a team centrally for sure, so obviously, Saskatoon and Winnipeg are the markets we’re looking at there. We want at least one team in Ontario, in the bigger markets. At least one team in Quebec, either Quebec City or Montreal. And then the Maritimes as well. We’d love an Atlantic team, and obviously, Halifax, having the facilities they’ve started building there for the CPL would be a really good option.”

The goal is to populate each of these teams with at least one current Canadian international player. To that end, they are creating a designated player rule, which will focus on doing exactly that. The rest of the rosters will be filled with Canadian players, new blood and veterans, as well as professional women’s players from across the world.

“I know there’s a core group of veterans that have been waiting their whole careers to come home,” Matheson said. “I think there’s players in their prime we won’t be able to get back. And I think there’s players in their prime we will be able to get back. And I know there’s also our youth pathway. There’s two dozen teenagers right now that are ready to play in this league that are going to be incredible.”

The league has set projected attendance at a 3,700 average per game. They feel this is conservative given that both the Canadian Premier League and the National Women’s Soccer League in the United States both hit around 4,200 average attendances in their inaugural years.

But Matheson believes this gives them a platform to be competitive in terms of player salaries with other leagues across the globe.

For Axel Schuster CEO and sporting director of the Vancouver Whitecaps, he said their organization is excited to be one of the first to sign on. He pointed to the club’s involvement in League 1BC’s first season last year and the success of their women’s team lifting the league title trophy. But he also said there was nothing for many of these young women beyond this level.

“What then came out of that was, we had nothing and have nothing to offer those girls at the next platform. And the end of the season, we see a lot of scouts from the NWSL, college teams coming to our games and picking up our girls, and we couldn’t offer them something to stay in Canada, to stay in our club, to continue to play for our badge although they love our badge, they love our support and they would like to stay close to us. So, we said that there is no doubt we have to do something about that. We have to offer something to these girls.”

The league has been in discussions with Canada Soccer for ratification by May 2024 and expects to kick the first ball in 2025.