Initial thoughts on a professional women’s league in Canada

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Last night, news circulated that the long wait for a women’s professional league in Canada may soon be on its way. News has circulated in the past that some traction may be developing in this area, but never with the evident backing of people like Christine Sinclair and Diana Matheson, or clubs like the Vancouver Whitecaps and Calgary Foothills. We’re still a few years away from the proposed 2025 start date, but it appears as though we can officially cheer for joy that a women’s league in Canada will be on its way.

THE AMERICANIZATION OF CANADIAN SPORTS

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Canada’s long history of not having professional leagues arises from the Americanization of our most popular sports, where most of our professional teams play against other American sports giants. Whether this be the Raptors in the NBA or Blue Jays in the MLB, Canadian franchises become part of a sports scene dubbed ‘North American’ simply by having one single team from our nation. Many of the leagues control much of what happens from the professional side of their sport, with athletes from across the globe coming over to the States to earn the big bucks and ply their trade in a ‘National’ league that can reasonably claim it has global intentions. In the footballing world, Major League Soccer has unsurprisingly been able to replicate that same global reach, with just about any other nation boasting a greater historical establishment in their footballing roots.

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Due to the perceived lack of commercial success if we were to be out on our own in the snow, Canadian clubs have then been forced to play against American ones, as they do in other ‘North American’ sports. Even when combining our two countries together, we still manage to be behind the vast majority of European and South American nations. Yet no one cares, because Toronto FC, CF Montreal and Vancouver Whitecaps are going to have more ‘competition’ by playing teams from LA and New York, then the CPL clubs that ceased to exist until three years ago.

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All of this helps to build a case as to why it took until 2019 for a professional league to be developed on the men’s side, and why it’s taken until the end of 2022 for two of our nation’s greatest ever players to finally put an end to something that should have been started years ago.

USING THE CPL AS A REFERENCE

Since the very start, the CPL has enjoyed perpetually positive vibes. There was a whole tryout process at the very beginning where clubs were able to scout players from both our nation and around the world (how did no one make a documentary about this?); and footballing fans from cities like Hamilton, Calgary and Winnipeg finally had their own professional club. We’ve allowed for the likes of Kyle Bekker and David Edgar to return home and play in Canada at the end of their careers, and a better pathway for the likes of Joel Waterman and Victor Loturi to rise through the ranks and gain traction in the global footballing market. The league remains miles behind many other professional leagues, but any time a CPL club plays one from the MLS, matches are always highly competitive. It will never be a perfect league, but it’s been incredibly positive for the development and continuation of the direction Canada wants to go on the grandest stage.

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In developing a women’s league, Canada Soccer can look to the CPL as a useful reference. We’ve achieved much success through a prioritization of young players, even introducing rules around the number of minutes U-21 players must accumulate across the season. Sometimes that’s meant players are no longer as useful when they turn 22/23, and even come to their own realizations that there’s more to life than football. But other times it’s resulted in the likes of Woobens Pacius, Diyaeddine Abzi and Victor Loturi putting themselves on the map and attracting interest from clubs across the globe. Positively, the likes of Kadin Chung and Joel Waterman also moved to Canadian MLS sides after excelling from a young age, and the league prides itself as simply being used as a stepping stone for greater endeavours.

At the start, even despite all of our success on the world stage, this might be the best way for the women’s league to establish itself on the global market. If we prioritize a mix of young players hungry to make a name for themselves with older, cooler heads coming to the end of their careers, and the odd international player who suddenly finds themselves to be a free agent shortly before the inauguration of the league, we’ll be setting ourselves up for success. I think this is a line that the CPL has always balanced well. While we want to prioritize players rising through the ranks of local clubs and popping up from places like USports or League 1 Ontario, it’s always a net positive to have the likes of Alejandro Diaz, Ollie Bassett and Joao Morelli tearing up our league.

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It simply gives us more legitimacy, and provides a sound home for players from around the globe who may have seen their careers end up going nowhere otherwise. Imagine if Alexander Achinioti-Jönsson had never found Forge; or if the likes of Tristan Borges or Marco Bustos had been forced to ride the benches of European sides not willing to trust them.

This has all been a positive for Canadian soccer, and we’ve seen that in the ever-so-small role that the CPL has played in raising the level of soccer in our nation, and helping to provide Canadian internationals like Joel Waterman and Lukas MacNaughton with a route into the game. It’s no surprise that it coincided with Canada’s men’s team qualifying for a World Cup from their first attempt in the post-CPL era. A women’s league will only be positive in helping Canada kick on from their historic gold medal last year, and continue to establish themselves as one of the greatest soccer nations in the world.

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Meanwhile, it will be a positive for young Canadian players to stay at home in their attempts to play professionally, rather than needing to go to Paris, London or Portland to make a name for themselves. While these are all fantastic places to play and great directions for a career, they remain unrealistic for the vast majority of players who could easily make a career out of playing professional football in this country.

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Beyond just the playing side, the CPL has paved the way for young coaches like Jimmy Brennan and Thommy Wheeldon Jr. to shine and secure their first jobs in the professional management of football. Wouldn’t it be great to give the same opportunity to the likes of Christine Sinclair and Diana Matheson as they take on a new legacy in the game? Why have some of our all-time greats have no other option but to go to the States or beyond to coach professionally, when they could do so here in Canada?

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So if the new women’s league is to learn anything from the CPL, it’s to continue prioritizing young, hungry players and coaches, without shying away from the global aspects of the game and the very Canadian thing to do in including others from around the world.

It’s an exciting time for soccer in this country across the board, and we can’t wait for 2025 to begin.


So there it is! Our thoughts on a women’s professional league in Canada. Be sure to check out more of our articles on Women’s Football, Canada, and more, before heading over to social media and giving us a follow @mastermindsite and @desmondrhys. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

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