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WNBA heads to Toronto with first international team as league expands

2024 WNBA season tipping off
2024 WNBA season tipping off 03:55

Toronto will now be the new home of a WNBA team, the first franchise outside of the United States. Today the Women's National Basketball Association announced it is expanding to Canada, awarding Toronto an expansion team set to begin playing in 2026. The team name has yet to be announced. 

Toronto nearly received unanimous approval with the WNBA board voting 13-0 and the NBA board voting 29-1.The team will be owned and operated by Larry Tanenbaum-led Kilmer Sports Ventures, who paid $115 million for the team. Tanenbaum is also the chairman of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, which owns the NBA's Toronto Raptors, NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs and the MLS' Toronto FC.  

Speaking at the news conference today, Tanenbaum said women's sports have arrived. "Today is a game-changing day not only for women's basketball but also for sports in Canada," said Tanenbaum. "This franchise will be Canada's team, and we are so excited to unite the country and inspire pride and passion in fans from coast to coast."

Toronto is expected to play its home games at Coca-Cola Coliseum at Exhibition Place in downtown Toronto, which has 8,700 seats. Tanenbaum said the team will also play in Vancouver and Montreal. They also could have additional games at the Scotiabank Arena. 

Toronto will be the WNBA's 14th franchise, as the Golden State Valkyries are set to start playing next season. "Bringing a WNBA team to Toronto represents an important milestone for our league as we continue to expand both domestically and outside the United States," said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. 

With support of women's basketball on the rise, several cities expressed interest in launching a team after the most recent draft class. With the league selecting Caitlin Clark as the No. 1 overall pick amongst LSU's Angel Reese and South Carolina's Kamilla Cardoso, there have been record numbers of viewership and attendance across the league. Engelbert said the league is expected to grow to 16 teams by 2028. 

Teresa Resch, a former Toronto Raptors executive who has previously worked as the vice president of basketball operations and player development, is set to be named as the new team's president. 

"It's official: Canada is getting a WNBA team!  This landmark deal will give opportunities to our remarkable athletes across the country, and on the biggest stage," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement. "I can't wait to see our Canadian women win on the court." 

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