Women’s soccer in Canada has received a boost after it was announced a new domestic professional league will be launched in 2025, featuring eight teams across the country.
The new league will be run by Project 8, a company founded by former national player Diana Matheson and business partner Thomas Gilbert, which has added women’s national team captain Christine Sinclair as an official advisor.
Announcing the league on Canadian news program The National yesterday, Sinclair and Matheson said the Vancouver Whitecaps, of US soccer’s MLS, has been the first to commit a team to the league, while Calgary Foothills Soccer Club has also joined the league.
The six remaining teams in the league will be announced in 2023.
The league also already has two major domestic sponsors on board in financial services firm CIBC and airline Air Canada.
In a statement, Matheson said: “We are thrilled to announce that the development of a Canadian professional women’s soccer league is well underway.
“Much work has gone behind the scenes to get to today, and we want to extend our thanks to our founding partners, CIBC and Air Canada, and Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Calgary Foothills, who have shown leadership in creating equal opportunity and recognizing the importance of bringing professional women’s soccer to Canada.”
Under Project 8’s plans, the league will kick off in April 2025, with an inaugural champion crowned in the North American fall season.
It will operate nationally through two conferences, each comprising four teams, with each team containing at least one Canadian women’s national team player.
Most Canadian national team players currently play for clubs in the US National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) or Europe, including Chelsea, Juventus, and Benfica. With over 100 Canadians currently playing abroad, the league is looking to bring many of them home.
Project 8 is looking to replicate a similar pay structure to neighbors the NWSL, which has a minimum salary of $35,000 and a maximum of $75,000, plus allocation money beyond its $1.1 million salary cap to spend on select superstars.
Owners will pay a franchise fee of $1 million, with each ownership group estimated to need $8 million to $10 million to operate a club through the first five seasons. Project 8 plans to own 20% of the league, while teams own 80%.
The league is looking to be independent of Canada Soccer but it will still need to be sanctioned by the national governing body.
In her statement, Sinclair said: “We believe it is important that women build this league, and we are committed to developing something that is built differently, for women by women.
“We want to change the soccer landscape in Canada so women’s players can develop and play professionally here at home instead of having to go abroad, as every one of our national team players must do now to be successful.”
Canada’s women’s national team won gold at last year’s Tokyo Summer Olympics after beating Sweden on penalties following a 1-1 draw.
The team has qualified for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, which is being co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand being held from July 20 to August 20 next year.