The new Canadian professional women’s soccer league announced by ex-CanWNT stars Diana Matheson and Christine Sinclair on December 5 already has two founding member clubs in Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Calgary Foothills.
Under the banner of Project 8 Sports Inc., Olympic bronze medallist Diana Matheson and her business partner Thomas Gilbert are launching the new league with a projected start date of 2025.
The Whitecaps and the Foothills will be joined by six other teams over the next months and years ahead of the league starting as an eight-team division. Project 8 expects the six remaining teams to be confirmed in 2023. The league will operate nationwide through two conferences, each comprising four teams.
“Whitecaps FC are thrilled to be one of the first teams to sign on to a professional women’s soccer league in Canada,” said Stephanie Labbé, Whitecaps FC general manager of women’s soccer, and former CanWNT teammate of Matheson and Sinclair.
“The creation of this league is something we have been advocating for over many years, and to be part of seeing it come to fruition is truly exciting. We look forward to working with stakeholders across the Canadian soccer environment to make this league successful.”
The Whitecaps are one of the longest-standing professional soccer clubs in North America, having originally been founded in 1974, and are a fully integrated club with development starting from grassroots for boys and girls. Meanwhile, Calgary Foothills were founded as a youth club in 1972 and have a full youth academy system running from ages four to 18 for boys and girls.
Matheson has previously spoken of her desire to provide girls with a strong domestic pathway for a professional soccer career, noting that until now, promising female Canadian soccer players have had to head to the US or further afield to make a living.
Project 8 Sports cited among its motivations that Canada has the third-highest player pool in the world for girls and women and that one in three girls drop out of playing sports in comparison to just one out of 10 boys.
“94 per cent of female executives have sports backgrounds, and we need more female executives!” added the league’s leadership group. “Women’s soccer is good business. We’re talking about the fastest-growing sport product in the world. It’s time. Let’s make soccer for ALL Canadians.”
The group states its mission is “to create an opportunity for every Canadian to engage with the promise of sport through the establishment of a women’s professional soccer league founded on the principles of inclusion, community, and identity.
“We believe in the power of visible opportunities, icons, and pathways for Canadians in sport,” Project 8 adds. “Our goal is to validate the perception of Canada as a global leader in sport and gender equality.”