May 23, 2024 

It’s official: Toronto is home to new WNBA franchise

The league’s 14th team will begin play in 2026

The WNBA officially announced Toronto as the site of its next expansion franchise, set to begin play in 2026, on Thursday via the league’s streaming platform.

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On May 10, CBC’s Shireen Ahmed first reported that Canadian businessman Larry Tanenbaum and his Kilmer Sports group would run the WNBA’s 14th franchise. 

“We knew we wanted to bring a team to the North,” Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said. “We knew we wanted to expand globally and have a global platform.”

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Owner Tanenbaum, team president Teresa Resch, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, WNBA Hall of Famer Tammy Sutton-Brown, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow were in attendance Thursday.

The WNBA had tested the market and desire for a Canadian WNBA team by hosting preseason games in Toronto and Edmonton. Toronto’s game sold out within minutes. Engelbert said that the first Canada game, in 2023, was supposed to take place in 2020, the same week the NBA shut down due to COVID-19. 

At shootaround ahead of a game against the Phoenix Mercury, Washington Mystics forward Myisha Hines-Allen said she is excited about the expansion after having seen the other Canada games. She described the growth in the nation’s fan base as “crazy.” Engelbert and Hines-Allen also stressed that expansion means 12 more roster spots in a competitive league.

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In April, Engelbert said the WNBA’s goal is to expand to 16 teams by 2028. Toronto was listed as a contender along with Philadelphia, Portland, Denver, Nashville and South Florida. 

“The more we all recognize the value and potential in women’s sports, the closer we get to a more equitable future in the world of sports,” Tanenbaum said.

Engelbert said she experienced Toronto fandom firsthand when NBA commissioner Adam Silver invited her to Game 6 of the league’s 2019 finals, between the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors. 

Current Canadian WNBA players include Los Angeles Sparks guard Kia Nurse, Washington Mystics forward Aaliyah Edwards, Minnesota Lynx forward Bridget Carleton and Atlanta Dream forward Laeticia Amihere. Nurse is optimistic about what this expansion will do for the next generation.

“The first time I was able to see [professional] women’s basketball, I was in the States,” Nurse told media Thursday. “To be able to be in a place where I feel like is the next generation, we’ll be able to see the reaction right away with the support, fan base and the community work that I know the organization will do. It’s really about the generations that are coming up now and the ones 10 to 15 years from now. That’ll be the kicker.”

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Written by Alexis Davis

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