May 23, 2024 - Sports

"Game-changing": Toronto lands WNBA expansion team

Multicolored floor of a basketball court with the logo of a woman with a basketball in hand.

The WNBA logo is at the center of Canada's first WNBA-themed basketball court in Toronto, unveiled in 2023. Photo: Lance McMillan/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The WNBA announced Thursday it will expand outside of the U.S. with a new Toronto-based team joining the league for the start of the 2026 season.

Why it matters: The professional women's basketball league has seen a surge in popularity, ticket sales and prices — as interests mounts in the women's sports industry as a whole.

Zoom in: The Toronto team will mostly play at the Coca-Cola Coliseum, and sometimes at the Scotiabank Arena, the WNBA's announcement said.

  • The name of the team will be determined with public input, per the AP.

What they're saying: "Today is a game-changing day not only for women's basketball but also for sports in Canada," said Larry Tanenbaum of Kilmer Sports Ventures, the Toronto team's ownership group. "This franchise will be Canada's team, and we are so excited to unite the country and inspire pride and passion in fans from coast to coast."

  • Tanenbaum is also the chairman of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, which owns the NBA's Toronto Raptors, NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs and the MLS' Toronto FC.
  • "Just look around — it's not a moment, but a movement and it's just the beginning," he told the AP. "The investment that we'll put into the franchise will also be no different than the other franchises."

State of play: The WNBA currently has 12 active teams, including in Atlanta, Las Vegas, New York City, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Seattle.

  • The Golden State Valkyries, the league's 13th franchise, unveiled its branding this month and will begin playing in 2025.
  • The league is expected to grow to 16 teams by 2028, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert told the AP.
  • Several cities expressed interest in launching a team after the most recent draft class — one of the most anticipated in the league's history, she added.

Context: The league's expansion is gaining momentum amid a growing dialogue around player compensation and the pay disparity between the WNBA and NBA.

Go deeper: WNBA to launch full-time charter flights for teams

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