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Christine Sinclair to help launch Canadian women’s soccer league

Christine Sinclair celebrates with the Canadian flag after winning her third NWSL title with the Thorns. (Ira L. Black/Getty Images)

A professional women’s soccer league is coming to Canada, with former Canada women’s national team player Diana Matheson and current captain Christine Sinclair leading the way.

The unnamed league is expected to begin play in April 2025, according to CBC, with each team featuring at least one women’s national team player.

Matheson and business partner Thomas Gilbert will launch the league under their venture Project 8 Sports Inc., and they have has founding partners in bank CIBC and Air Canada. Two clubs have been confirmed: Vancouver Whitecaps FC and the Calgary Foothills.

Sinclair, Canada’s all-time international scoring leader, is on board as an advisor. Sinclair plays with the NWSL’s Portland Thorns and recently re-signed with the club on a one-year contract.

The league is looking for eight teams. Expected buy-in for clubs is between $8 and $10 million, and salaries are expected to be competitive with other professional leagues. The goal is to bring home roughly half of the more than 100 Canadians playing abroad.

Stephanie Labbé, former Canada WNT star and current Whitecaps FC general manager of women’s soccer, spoke with CBC about the club becoming one of the first teams in the league.

“Whitecaps FC are thrilled to be one of the first teams to sign on to a professional women’s soccer league in Canada,” Labbé said. “The creation of this league is something we have been advocating for over many years, and to be part of seeing it come to fruition is truly exciting.”

For Sinclair, who captained the national team to an Olympic gold medal in 2021, the league has been a long time coming.

“I really thought that 2012 was going to be a turning point for this country in bringing professional soccer home,” she said. “But it never happened. And there’s still no pathways within this country.

“We’ve inspired Canadians on the podium. Now it’s time to actually make an impactful difference here in Canada.”

For Matheson, having the right owners involved will be key.

“One of the things is having more diversity to begin with — more women, diverse voices to begin with, more players voices to begin with. And that’s top to bottom. I want women owners, women in the executive, women’s player voices as part of this,” Matheson said.

Sinclair alluded to the abuse issues in the NWSL, which have roiled that league over the last two seasons.

“[It’s] unfortunate just how women are treated and taken advantage of,” Sinclair said. “That’s why we need women owners. We need female executives.”

The league will also look to ensure protection for players, particularly in the wake of reports of abuse and sexual misconduct in the NWSL.

“It’s training, it’s vetting, it’s independent reporting systems,” Matheson said. “And for us, that’s going to mean working with those groups that are really good at doing those things.”