The WNBA set to expand to Toronto in 2026

The WNBA officially announced its expansion to Canada on Thursday morning. Toronto, selected as the league's 14th team, will begin play in 2026.

Photo by Sara Jane Gamelli/Ballislife

It's official. After months of speculation, Canada is officially the home of the latest WNBA expansion team. Although Toronto was chosen as the next WNBA city, team president Teresa Resch made a very clear statement.

"This isn't just Toronto's team. This is Canada's team."

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced Thursday morning Toronto has been selected as the 14th team. The league's first international team, Toronto, is slated to begin its augural season in 2026. First reported by CBCSports Shireen Ahmed, the WNBA officially confirmed the news today.

“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 in an official press release.

The news doesn't come as a surprise. Along with the growth of women's basketball have come increased opportunities. In addition to charter flights, the league is continuing to broaden. While the 2024 rookie draft class is special, the rise of the WNBA has been well-documented for some time. The latest team arrives on the heels of the successful 2023 season. With the exceptional talent continuing to pour in, the WNBA needs more roster spots. The addition of expansion teams will only resolve that issue. One of the most competitive leagues in sports, the league only has 144 spots, which makes it difficult to accommodate all of the talent. It essentially boils down to supply and demand.

In a league-wide presser, Engelbert addressed the roster spot issues. Often referring to her economic model, the Commissioner has strong plans to build beyond Toronto and Golden State. In fact, she's set a goal to create nearly 48 roster spots and four additional teams by 2028.

Entering a new era, the WNBA saw record-breaking viewership and attendance. With viewers up 21 percent from the 2022 season, the league saw attendance increase by nearly 16 percent. Now in its 27th season, the league is soaring.

Poised for takeoff, the WNBA has been steadily growing over time. With the 2024 season just underway, the New York Liberty and Indiana Fever's matchup drew 1.71 million viewers, making it the most-watched WNBA game ever broadcast on ABC.

Although the team does not have a name, according to Raptors sideline report Savanna Hamilton, Toronto's WNBA team president Teresa Ranch is opening to suggestions. In fact, she hopes the logo can "represent everyone and women strongly."

As for the venue, home games will be played at Coca-Cola Coliseum, which holds 8,700 spectators in downtown Toronto. It is expected additional games will be held at Scotiabank Arena, home of the Toronto Raptors.

Expansion has always been an integral part of Englebert's plan, and it's finally coming to fruition. Transparent about her plans to grow the league, Engelbert has done so methodically and meticulously. Today's news comes just nine days after the newest expansion team, Golden State Valkyries, announced its name and branding.

With the news, the 14th team will owned and operated by Kilmer Sports Ventures. Larry Tanenbaum, Chairman of Kilmer Sports Ventures, brings business and championship experience to this new venture. A member of the NBA Board of Governors, Tanenbaum is also the Chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. In the business for nearly 30 years, Tanenbaum was part of the Toronto Raptors 2019 Championship title run. In an official press release, Engelbert expressed her laudation for Tanenbaum.

“With Larry Tanenbaum’s distinguished record of leading successful sports franchises and Toronto’s appeal as a dynamic, diverse city that cares deeply about the game of basketball, we are confident that this new team will thrive as a first-class WNBA organization and become a great source of inspiration and support for the Toronto-area community and across Canada," said Engelbert.

With the historic news, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was present, along with Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow, and Ontario Premier, Doug Ford.

Committed to growing the women's game, the team announced a new state-of-the-art training practice facility will be built. An issue in years past was that many players didn't even have names on their lockers. In addition to Toronto, Seattle and Las Vegas have invested heavily in their players with state of the art practice facilities. It's only a matter of time where every athlete get's the proper training and recovery centers in the league.

Women's sports is here, and it's only expected to rise. In fact, Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow has officially declared May 23 as WNBA Day in Toronto. After the arrival of Engelbert, the league has only been on the rise. Negotiating the CBA, adding charter flights, and expanding the league to two new cities- the future is bright for the WNBA. It may not be perfect, but changes are happening.

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Sara Jane Gamelli is a full-time Sportswriter, Content Creator and Social Media Manager for Ballislife Bets. She has a focus on the NBA, WNBA, NCAA Basketball, and the NFL. Sara Jane currently resides in Connecticut/NYC area with her Cat and Dog. SJ has her undergraduate degree from the University of Connecticut in Economics, with a minor in business administration.

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