Ottawa team likely in new pro women's soccer league, expert says
New league looks to secure 8 teams across the country in the next few months
A new Canadian professional women's soccer league plans to establish at least one team in Ontario. One expert says the nation's capital should field one of the eight teams when the league launches in a few years.
The league, which was announced by Canadian soccer legend Christine Sinclair, former national team player Diana Matheson and her business partners at Project 8 Sports Inc., hopes to launch in 2025.
The league already has two teams secured in Western Canada and is now looking for six more in the next six months.
"We've been doing a lot of preliminary calls with ownership groups where we had connections," Matheson said. "John Pugh … [and] I have connections from the Ottawa Fury days and he's aware of the plans."
Matheson said the league hopes to have at least one team in a major Ontario city.
Marie-Ève Nault, a former national team member who played for the Ottawa Fury women's team in the early 2000s, said the creation of a women's league in Canada is long overdue.
"We have so many good players but they're all overseas," she said.
Ottawa would be a great market
Nault said there is interest in Ottawa for a professional women's soccer team and she believes the fan base exists.
"It would be a great market," she said. "Every time there's a women's national team game, the stadium is packed and fans are ... so excited to be a part of it. So I think they would be excited to have a team of their own."
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Terry Vida, president of local soccer organization Ottawa TFC, said it's time for girls in Canada to dream of playing competitive soccer at home.
"This is very exciting news because it gives girls that goal," she said.
"Ottawa economically is a very stable city. We do have good sponsorships that we can reach into so I think it's a very, very good market."
National team member Clarissa Larisey, an Ottawa native playing for Celtic F.C. in Scotland, said playing at home would be "amazing."
"I think that there's going to be a lot more opportunities for some people in Canada, whereas, obviously, when I was younger, I had to go elsewhere. So I think it would be really great," she said.
Women's team won't hurt other pro teams, expert says
Concordia University economics professor Moshe Lander said "probably it's a given" Ottawa would be one of the eight teams, along with the six other cities that have NHL teams — Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg — and Halifax, which he said has a very strong soccer fan base.
"I could probably name what those eight teams are now with very little effort," he said.
If the Ottawa team has affordable ticket prices and shares the space at TD Place with the professional men's team, Atletico Ottawa, there's no reason it can't build a fan base in the capital.
"It's not going to cannibalize any of the other existing teams that are there," he said.
Lander said the women's league will need to better define itself as a whole if it wants to survive a competitive professional women's soccer landscape.
With files from Radio-Canada's Jonathan Jobin