WNBA expands with first international team as support booms

Toronto, Canada - Toronto will be the home of a Women's NBA expansion franchise, the first outside of the US, starting in 2026, officials announced Thursday.

Toronto will be the home of a Women's NBA expansion franchise, the first outside of the US, starting in 2026, officials announced Thursday.
Toronto will be the home of a Women's NBA expansion franchise, the first outside of the US, starting in 2026, officials announced Thursday.  © Ethan Miller / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

"Toronto, welcome to the W," league commissioner Cathy Engelbert told a news conference attended by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, rapper Drake and Toronto Raptors star Scottie Barnes.

"It's such a pivotal moment for our league," she said.

"We have set viewership records, selling out season tickets, growing the game, and adding this 14th team marks a particularly significant milestone in the ongoing growth of the league."

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Toronto's as-yet-unnamed WNBA team will be the league's newest club, with the 13th team coming next year – Golden State Valkyries, playing out of San Francisco.

"Go women's sports! Go!" cheered Trudeau, commenting that "the energy that's been built up around women's professional sports, the hunger for it, the excitement for it, and just the glory of it is huge."

Women's sports sees surge in popularity

Indiana Fever star Caitlin Clark has been credited for sparking a ticket surge across the WNBA.
Indiana Fever star Caitlin Clark has been credited for sparking a ticket surge across the WNBA.  © Steph Chambers / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

The team will play out of an 8,000-seat arena that is also home to the city's Professional Women's Hockey League team.

It will also hold games in Vancouver and Montreal, said Canadian billionaire Larry Tanenbaum, who will own the new club through his firm Kilmer Sports.

Tannenbaum is also chairman of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, owner of the NBA Toronto Raptors, NHL Toronto Maple Leafs MLS Toronto FC, and other sports teams.

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A sellout crowd of 19,800 spectators attended a WNBA pre-season game in Toronto last year. Nearly 17,000 also attended a pre-season contest earlier this month in Edmonton.

"Our team will complete the pathway for women in this country. They will see heroes that look like them in person and on the air all summer long," Tanenbaum said.

"They will see that the sport they play as girls and as women is just as important and worth investing in. The more we all recognize the value and potential of women's sports, the closer we get to a more equitable future in the world of sports."

Cover photo: Ethan Miller / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

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