Home United States USA — Science What to know about Toronto's WNBA expansion franchise

What to know about Toronto's WNBA expansion franchise

74
0
SHARE

The WNBA is going global, expanding to Toronto in 2026. What will the expansion draft look like? Where might the league expand next?
The WNBA announced Thursday that Toronto will be home to the league’s newest team, which will start play in 2026. The Canadian franchise will grow the WNBA to 14 teams. Another expansion franchise, the Golden State Valkyries, begins play in 2025.
The Toronto team will be the WNBA’s first franchise outside the United States. Exhibition games in Canada the past two years proved popular, and women’s basketball as a sport has grown tremendously in that nation over the past 20 years.
The WNBA expanded quickly after its launch in 1997, growing to 16 teams by 2000 — but only stayed at that number through 2002. The Atlanta Dream in 2008 were the last expansion team in the WNBA, which has been at 12 teams since 2010.
WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert has said 16 teams is the goal she hopes to reach by 2028.
With the largest television audience ever for the WNBA draft this year, increased ratings for games and more appearances on national television, the league has never been more visible. Expansion will increase that visibility.
With roster sizes capped at 12, there has been a maximum of 144 jobs — although some teams have carried fewer than 12. More teams means more jobs for players.
ESPN’s Alexa Philippou, Kevin Pelton and Michael Voepel discuss why now is the time and Toronto is the place for the latest expansion.
Philippou: By expanding to Toronto, the WNBA is taking a step as a global brand as it attempts to follow the example set by the NBA. The particular model that this franchise is envisioning is also attractive, too: While it will be based in Toronto, the team will play in some games in Vancouver and Montreal. Team personnel emphasized during the announcement that this won’t simply be Toronto’s team, but Canada’s team.
Engelbert mentioned that when she took over as commissioner, “the basketball was great, but the business was not.” As the league announces its second expansion team in less than a year, the same week the WNBA has moved to full-time charters for the rest of the regular season, the Toronto news conference Thursday felt like a victory lap for all involved in the WNBA and women’s basketball more broadly.
And the momentum from all those markers, including a now-international footprint, should lead to more investment from corporate and media partners, further spurring the league’s business transformation.
Philippou: Sources confirmed to ESPN last month that the league is involved in talks to try to revive a Portland bid, as earlier plans for a team that would have launched for the 2025 season were deferred, and it now looks like a new ownership group could emerge. Engelbert has also mentioned markets such as Philadelphia, Denver, Nashville and South Florida as potential options for expansion teams.

Continue reading...