Home Sports WNBA officially names Toronto as first international franchise, will start playing in 2026

WNBA officially names Toronto as first international franchise, will start playing in 2026

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SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – JUNE 20: A detail of the WNBA logo is seen on the basketball during kickoff between the Seattle Storm and the Connecticut Sun at Climate Pledge Arena on June 20, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The WNBA announced Thursday that Toronto will be the 14th WNBA franchise. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The popularity of the WNBA is growing every day, as is the WNBA itself. Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced Thursday morning that Toronto, Canada, is home to the newest team to join the WNBA. They are the league’s first international franchise and will begin play in 2026 according to the Associated Press.

The team will be owned by Kilmer Sports Ventures, a company run by Larry Tanenbaum and created specifically to manage the team. It reportedly cost Kilmer Sports Ventures $50 million to buy the Toronto team. Tanenbaum is deeply familiar with Toronto sports franchises as president and minority owner of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors.

“Our sports franchises in Toronto are thriving, but we are missing a critical piece: women’s professional sports,” Tanenbaum told the AP. “The world is finally waking up to something that has been there forever: the immense talent, passion and competition in women’s sports. So, once again, I saw an opportunity and knew we were in the right place at the right time to bring Canada’s first WNBA team to Toronto. And now we have done it, making history in sports.”

There is no team name or logo yet. Following the Golden State Valkyries’ timeline, that will likely come later this year. San Francisco was announced as an expansion team in October 2023 and they announced their team name and logo in mid-May 2024.

The WNBA is experiencing tremendous growth right now, with a huge wave of fans becoming interested in the W after the 2023-2024 NCAA season. Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese, Kamilla Cardoso and others were major college stars who made their mark in the 2024 NCAA Tournament, and their arrival in the pro ranks has already taken over pro sports.

But as the WNBA grows in popularity, one of the hard truths fans are learning is that the W doesn’t have enough room for all the talent that exists in women’s basketball right now. That’s why the league is expanding as fast as it can. The Valkyries are the W’s 13th team and Toronto is 14. Engelbert has said he wants the league to grow to 16 teams by 2028, so two more teams will be added in the coming years.

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