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Canada’s First Professional Women’s League Announced

CanWNT Midfielder Diana Matheson Playing Against the USWNT at LiveStrong Sporting Park and Is Also Involved in Canada's First Professional Women's League

ANALYSIS – For the last five years, the CPL has helped the development of men’s talent. It was created so that Canadian men’s soccer players could look to be competitive and grow in their homeland. Now, for the first time ever, Canada will add a women’s professional soccer league to do the same.

Founded by former CanWNT/XNT player Diana Matheson, alongside Thomas Gilbert, and current CanWNT/XNT captain Christine Sinclair, the yet-to-be-named league will debut in 2025. Vancouver Whitecaps FC is one of the first teams to be committed to founding a team for the league, alongside the Calgary Foothills SC from Alberta.

Partnered with major sponsors Air Canada and CIBC, the league will look to compete with the best women’s leagues in the world, and that begins with playing homegrown talent.

Canada’s First Professional Women’s League Was Announced

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What Canada’s First Professional Women’s League Will Look Like

This league is “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” according to Diana Matheson in an interview with Lindsay Hamilton for TSN.

The league is founded by Matheson and Gilbert’s sports group Project 8 Sports and will look to make up the league with eight teams to start.

“There is going to be eight teams across the country, four in the east and four in the west”

“We have already secured our first two markets in Vancouver and Calgary, and in the next six months we are going to be out there for the right other six markets and six owners.”

With a league of 8 teams, the same as the CPL, the currently unnamed league will look to emulate the success of the CPL in promoting Canadian soccer but this time for women, and it comes at a perfect time.

With a Women’s World Cup in 2023 to put the CanWNT/XNT back in the spotlight, and the Men’s World Cup in 2026 and 2028 Summer Olympics being held in North America to attract attention to Canadian sport, the time is now to have a women’s national league here in Canada.

Notably, the league is independent of Canada Soccer: A choice that was made intentionally by Matheson and Project 8 Sports:

“We think that [the league being independent] is important, we think that’s a strength because we get to build this from scratch. A league built by women, for women.”

With this unique origin for the league and the promise of success, it will surely become a trailblazer for how women’s leagues can operate if it lives up to its own high expectations.

Developing Talent and Bringing It Home

“We are going to build a top-tier women’s professional league, bring some of the world’s best players here to Canada” exclaimed Matheson in the same interview.

And while they do want to attract international talent, allowing seven roster spots for international players, the focus will always be on Canadian talent.

“This is going to change everything [for women’s soccer in Canada]”

“This is about widening the pool [of eligible Canadian women’s soccer players]by magnitudes. We are going to have eight high-performance pathways across the country that lead will lead to our pro teams.”

But to develop the league, they will also be looking to bring back Canadian talent from abroad, and have each team spearheaded by at least one CanWNT/XNT player.

“We [Canada] have the third largest player pool [for women’s pro soccer players], there are 110 Canadian players playing professionally around the world, and there is incredible talent in the pipeline already.”

“We are looking to bring at least one Canadian women’s national team player per team.”

With current and upcoming Canadian internationals helping the image and evolution of the league, this league will look to set itself apart from others of its kind.

Statement From Vancouver

Alex Schuster on the New League

To some, having a team like the Whitecaps commit to the league shows how much women’s soccer has grown in Canada. Whitecaps owner Alex Schuster, however, thinks it should have happened ages ago.

“It’s just ridiculous that a country like Canada, which has proven that it has so much talent, that has won a gold medal, has not a platform for its girls and women at the highest level,” Schuster remarked in TSN broadcast.

“It’s time- it was time a long time ago, but now it’s really time to do it,” Schuster said. “We are here to support, and do everything to make it [the league] successful.”

Stephanie Labbé and Her Involvement With the League

The Whitecaps FC team that will join the league will be led by former CanWNT/XNT star goalkeeper, Stephanie Labbé. Labbé is now taking the rule as General Manager of Women’s Soccer at Whitecaps and has been working behind the scenes with Matheson for some time now to bring Canada’s first professional women’s league to Vancouver.

“I, at the time [when Matheson retired], was helping her in any way I could, as a friend, as a colleague, as a supporter” explained Labbé in an interview with AFTN.

“And then this summer, when the opportunity came along with the Whitecaps, it was just a perfect blend of the understanding I had of the league from working with Diana already, to be able to bring that to the Whitecaps.”

Labbé knew how much work she would have to put in to be able to secure a team as big as Whitecaps to be able to commit to the league, but she was determined nonetheless:

“It’s a process, it’s not a decision that is made overnight; it’s a big investment,” Labbé said. “We have had a lot of conversations behind the scenes to make this happen and I’m just excited we are at the place that we are.”

Future Is Promising for Canada

READ MORE: CanWNT makes history with first-ever Olympic gold medal

With the league now confirmed for 2025, having acquired a huge pledge from Whitecaps to boost them, it seems that Canada will look forward to seeing two domestic leagues flourish in the next couple of years. The future of Canadian soccer looks promising, indeed.

Additionally, credit to Gavino De Falco of 98,5 Sports for first breaking the story (would do another Tweet that it is coming in 2025) and also to wsoccer.ca for first hinting at the big news with the pro league happening.

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