Toronto makes history as first WNBA franchise outside the United States. 'X' @WNBA_Toronto

The WNBA is expanding, and in 2026 it will do so in Canada with the arrival of a new franchise. It will be the fourteenth team to play in the league and it will play in an 8,000-seat arena, which will be shared with the city's Professional Women's Hockey League club. Vancouver and Montreal will also host games.

It's official. The WNBA has announced its first international expansion. Toronto will have a WNBA team in 2026. The announcement was made by WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. It will be the first international expansion, bringing the league to 14 teams: The current 12, the Golden State Valkyries (who will join in 2025) and the new Canadian club. 

"Toronto, welcome to the W," Engelbert said at a press conference attended by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, rapper Drake and Toronto Raptors star Scottie Barnes. "This is such a pivotal moment for our league," she said. "We've set attendance records, sold out season tickets, grown the game, and the addition of this 14th team is an especially significant milestone in the league's continued growth."

The WNBA's Toronto team is the last to be named. It has yet to announce its name, colours and full organisational and coaching staff, which will complete a new franchise and mark a historic milestone. It will arrive in two years' time, before which the Golden State Valkyries are due to start playing in San Francisco in 2025.

"Go women's sports! Go!" Trudeau cheered, commenting: "The energy that's been built up around women's professional sports, the hunger for it, the excitement for it and just the glory of it is huge."

The team will play at the Coca Cola Coliseum, which is also home to the city's Professional Women's Hockey League team. However, it will not be their only venue. They will also play in Vancouver and Montreal, said Canadian billionaire Larry Tanenbaum, who will own the new club through his company Kilmer Sports. 

Tanenbaum is also chairman of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, which owns the NBA's Toronto Raptors, the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs, MLS's Toronto FC and other sports teams. It was he who decided to bring Toronto into the NBA three decades ago, and now he is backing the WNBA with an investment estimated by local media to be in excess of $50 million (€46 million).

The Raptors joined the NBA three decades ago. Now Toronto will have a team in the WNBA. 'X'@WNBA_Toronto
The Raptors joined the NBA three decades ago. Now Toronto will have a team in the WNBA. 'X'@WNBA_Toronto

Toronto has played two pre-season games this year, one of which drew a sell-out crowd of 19,800, while a pre-season game in Edmonton earlier this month drew nearly 17,000.

"Our team will complete the journey for women in this country. They will see heroes who look like them in person and on the air all summer long," said Tanenbaum. "They will see that the sport they do as girls and women is just as important and worthy of investment. The more we all recognise the value and potential of women's sport, the closer we get to a more equitable future in the world of sport."

The WNBA was founded on 22 April 1996 and began play in 1997. The regular season runs from May to September, with the mid-season All-Star Game in July (except in Olympic years) and the WNBA Finals at the end of September and beginning of October

The current WNBA teams are Indiana Fever, Los Angeles Sparks, Minnesota Lynx, New York Liberty, Phoenix Mercury, Atlanta Dream, Chicago Sky, Connecticut Sun, Dallas Wings, Las Vegas Aces, Seattle Storm and Washington Mystics. Another team, the Golden State Valkyries, will be added in 2025 and Toronto in 2026.