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Toronto lands WNBA's first expansion team outside the US

The league's 14th franchise doesn't have a name yet, but it will by the time it begins play in the 2026 season.
WNBA Toronto Basketball
Posted at 12:29 PM, May 23, 2024

The WNBA is officially headed to Canada.

Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced Thursday morning that Toronto has been awarded the league's first franchise to be located outside the United States. The team is expected to begin play in the 2026 season and will become the WNBA's 14th franchise — after the Golden State Valkyries expansion team joins the league next year.

Joe Lacob, Peter Guber, Cathy Engelbert answering questions on the expansion

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"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," Engelbert said in the announcement.

Kilmer Sports Ventures chairman Larry Tanenbaum is paying $115 million to fund the expansion. He's also the chairman and part owner of a Toronto-based sports conglomerate that owns the NBA's Raptors, NHL's Maple Leafs, MLS' Toronto FC, as well as other professional sports franchises in Canada.

"Today is a game-changing day not only for women’s basketball but also for sports in Canada," Tanenbaum said. "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."

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The new team will play at the Coca-Cola Coliseum at Exhibition Place located in downtown Toronto. But it's expected that some games will be played at other arenas across Canada.

As for the team name, that hasn't yet been decided. Tanenbaum said he plans to get some input from the public before announcing an official nickname for the city's newest pro franchise.

Nonetheless, the team is joining the league at a time when there is unprecedented interest in women's sports. The WNBA is also planning to announce two more new franchises by 2028 — bringing the total to 16.