Last week, the future of women's soccer in Canada got brighter. A lot brighter.
An announcement was made that a brand new Canadian women's pro soccer league will begin play in 2025. The people behind the announcement were two of the country's best-ever national team players.
The first of these players needs no introduction. She is Christine Sinclair, only the greatest goal scorer in the history of international football and a Canadian sports legend. She is an advisor to this new league.
But the other player is actually the main partner behind the league. Her name is Diana Matheson and her career is almost as magnificent as Sinclair's. The midfielder was a star for years on the national team, where she won two Olympic bronze medals. In fact, it was her, not Sinclair, who scored the goal in 2012 that gave the Canadian team its first-ever Olympic medal. Not bad, Diana!
Now, along with other business partners, the two have combined forces again to fulfill another long-standing goal: bringing a pro league for women to their home country.
What will the league look like? Why is it important?
The plan is two have eight teams in the league. Four in the western half of Canada, four in the east.
So far, two teams are already on board: Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Calgary Foothills Soccer Club. Matheson and the league are nailing down the remaining six teams over the next year, so they can be ready for 2025.
Attracting Canada's best
Currently, many of Canada's best players—Jessie Fleming, Kadeisha Buchanan, Ashley Lawrence, and Adriana Leon—are playing for teams in Europe. Others, including Desiree Scott, Jordyn Huitema, and Sophie Schmidt, are playing for teams in the NWSL in the United States.
This new league wants to change that by having at least one Canadian national team player per team. This will give Canadian fans the chance to finally cheer for their favourite players in person more often. And it will also give the players the thrill of being able to see the game grow bigger than ever before.
Making Canada better
Speaking of growing the game, that is the league's main goal. To give more young female soccer players the chance to play and get better and better.
Despite winning Olympic gold last summer, Canadian women actually have much less support in their own country than many of their rivals do. After their triumph in Tokyo, the stars of that team were determined to see that change by bringing a pro league to Canada.
Right now, over 100 Canadian women play pro soccer in other countries. With this new league, Matheson and Sinclair want to bring at least half of those women home.
Having a domestic (homegrown) league will also give new opportunities to young female players in Canada to improve their game. This is known as player development. Just like with the Canadian Premier League (a men's league that began in 2019), the plan is to give Canadian players more of a chance to play.
Being a great example
And it's not just about Canadians either.
Matheson and Sinclair also want the league to attract players from around the world, too. They want the league to have a really high standard of competition so that its best teams can match up with the best from Europe and the United States.
They also want to try to attract female leadership for the league—owners and coaches—so that the league can be a great example of what women can achieve in pro sports in every way.
"The whole idea behind this is to aim high," Sinclair said to CBC in a recent interview. "So let's go out from the get-go and compete with the best leagues in the world and bring in the top talent."
On the rise
Canada is a big country (just traveling from city to city is expensive) and keeping a sports league running requires a lot of money and effort. (It will help that the league's first two sponsors are an airline, Air Canada, and a bank, CIBC.)
But across the world, women's sports are on the rise. And as the planet's most popular sport, women's soccer is at the front of that new movement.
So if you're a young person in Canada right now, there's a lot to be excited about. Whether as an athlete or a fan, it looks like we're going to get something really special to cheer for in a few years!