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Toronto secures 14th WNBA franchise, slated for 2026 debut

“She The North”, Toronto scores big as WNBA’s 14th franchise is set to hit the court in May 2026.

Toronto secures 14th wnba franchise slated for 2026 debut
Toronto secures 14th wnba franchise slated for 2026 debut

After years of speculation and two successful WNBA Canada games north of the border, the WNBA is finally coming to Toronto.

CBC Sports first reported in the early morning hours of May 10 that Kilmer Sports Inc., headed by Toronto billionaire Larry Tanenbaum, had been granted an expansion franchise with the Women’s National Basketball Association.

Set for an official announcement on May 23 in Toronto, this development marks a significant moment for Canadian sports, particularly women’s basketball. Following this successful franchise bid by Kilmer Sports Inc., the professional basketball landscape in Canada is poised to be reshaped

The team is expected to begin play in May 2026 at the Coca-Cola Coliseum, an 8,000-seat arena nestled on the grounds of Toronto’s Canadian National Exhibition (CNE).

Toronto, known for its passionate sports culture and diverse basketball community, has long been seen as a prime destination for WNBA expansion.

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Toronto wnba fans hold we need the wnba in the six during wnba canada game in 2023
Toronto WNBA fans hold “We need the WNBA in the 6ix during inagural WNBA Canada game in 2023 at the ScotiaBank Arena. Photo: Getty Images.

In April 2024, during the WNBA draft, Commissioner Cathy Engelbert confirmed the league’s intentions of expanding from 12 to 16 teams by 2028. That announcement, alongside the Bay Area being awarded the 13th team in league history on October 2023, and the first since 2008, signaled the potential of Toronto being next.

Tanenbaum, a key figure in Toronto’s sports scene as the minority owner and chairman of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), initially pursued the expansion team through MLSE but faced obstacles from other board members. Undeterred, Tanenbaum’s persistence and vision have now brought Toronto into the WNBA fold.

The WNBA’s decision to expand to 14 teams comes at a pivotal moment for women’s basketball globally, and Canada’s role in the sport cannot be understated.

Ranked as the second-most prolific source of international talent in the WNBA, just behind Australia, Canada boasts 20 players who have played in the WNBA, the second-most of any country after Australia’s impressive 41.

History of Canadians selected in the WNBA Draft

Overall, a total of 15 Canadian women have been selected in WNBA Draft history, with nine of those selections coming since 2013.

As the biggest international exporter of NCAA players, with over 100 women playing in the NCAA annually, Canada boasts a rich talent pool that has made waves in collegiate and professional basketball.

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This is evident in the current WNBA roster, with four Canadians expected to suit up this season: Kia Nurse, Bridget Carleton, Laeticia Amihere, and Aaliyah Edwards.

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Canada's Bridget Carleton selected 21st overall WNBA Draft

The league’s strategic move to hold two WNBA Canada games in recent years, including one in Toronto in 2023 and another in Edmonton in May 2024, showcased the immense fan support and market potential in Canada. Both games sold out, underlining the enthusiasm and demand for top-tier women’s basketball in the country.

2023 wnba toronto canada game scotiabank arena
Soldout crowd packs the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Canada for the 2023 WNBA Canada game – Photo: WNBA Twitter

In addition to filling a geographic gap, Toronto’s addition to the WNBA injects a passionate new market into the league. Last year’s (2023) average attendance across the WNBA was around 6,608 fans during the regular season and 9,346 in the playoffs, with Las Vegas leading at 9,551.

Toronto’s vibrant sports scene suggests it has the potential to be one of the WNBA’s top markets, rivaling established teams like Las Vegas and Phoenix (averaging 9,197 fans).

The choice of the Coca-Cola Coliseum as the team’s home arena adds to the excitement. With an 8,000-seat capacity, the Coliseum provides an intimate setting for fans to experience the fast-paced action of WNBA games.

Situated at Toronto’s Canadian National Exhibition grounds, alongside the Marlies and the city’s Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) franchise, the Coliseum creates a vibrant sports hub in the heart of the city.

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Notably, the 8,000-seat capacity arena will be the fourth-smallest in the league, behind only the Atlanta Dream (3,500), Washington Mystics (4,200), and Dallas Wings (7,000). In contrast, the Minnesota Lynx, playing at the Target Center, boast the highest capacity at 19,356 fans.

Looking ahead, Toronto’s WNBA franchise promises to elevate women’s basketball in Canada, inspiring a new generation of athletes and fans while promoting gender equity in sports.

As the league expands its global footprint, Toronto is poised to elevate women’s basketball to new heights, inspiring the next generation of athletes and fans nationwide.

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