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WNBA Expands Internationally: Toronto to Host New Franchise in 2026

The Toronto franchise will be the league's 14th team.

The WNBA’s decision to grow to Toronto marks a major turning point for the league and Canadian basketball. Larry Tanenbaum’s Kilmer Sports Ventures will own the new franchise, which will make its debut in the 2026 season. 


Tanenbaum brings a wealth of experience to this new endeavor. He is a prominent figure in Toronto's sports industry, serving as chairman and minority owner of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE). The NBA’s Raptors, NHL’s Maple Leafs, MLS’s Toronto FC, CFL’s Argonauts, and AHL’s Marlies are just a few of the prominent sports teams in Toronto managed by MLSE. Teresa Resch, the Raptors’ former vice president of basketball operations and player development, will be another key member of the new team. Her basketball knowledge will be valuable to the club's leadership.


A sold-out 2023 preseason game, which showed the city's tremendous support for women's basketball, helped Toronto's strong campaign to host a WNBA team. The fans' passion, along with a growing pool of Canadian basketball talent, attracted the league to Toronto. Cathy Engelbert, the WNBA commissioner, noted that Toronto ranked highly among  possible expansion cities. The choice to move into Canada is consistent with the league's plan to take advantage of the growing international interest in women's sports.


The Coca-Cola Coliseum, a well-known and convenient stadium, will host the new team's home games. The Coliseum, which is home to the Toronto Marlies, is expected to give WNBA fans a fantastic game-day experience. 


Canadian former WNBA player Kayla Alexander voiced her enthusiasm for the expansion. She emphasized how crucial it is to give Canadian athletes the chance to compete at the professional level domestically, since doing so will inspire future athletes. Alexander's thoughts are in line with the wider excitement of the Canadian basketball community, which has been waiting a long time for a WNBA organization.


The addition of a WNBA club in Toronto is another big step toward increasing the league's global reach. It will raise awareness of women's sports abroad and inspire more funding and support for female athletes. Alongside the Golden State Valkyries franchise, which will debut in 2025, the Toronto club will show the WNBA's dedication to expansion and creativity.


Moreover, the expansion is expected to boost Toronto's economy by generating new jobs and energizing nearby companies. The team's presence will likely increase community involvement and tourism, adding to the city’s thriving sports culture.


The WNBA's historic expansion to Toronto is predicted to enhance both the league and Canadian sports. With a passionate fan base, growing talent pool, and competent management, the Toronto franchise is well-positioned for success. The WNBA’s first international team represents a significant turning point in the expansion of women's professional basketball on a global scale. In the coming months, more information – including the team's name, branding, and roster – should be revealed. The WNBA's recognition of Toronto as a crucial market is an exciting sign for the future of women's basketball.

 

Edited by Ella Chang

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