ANALYSIS – The AFC Toronto City team is set to become the city’s first professional women’s soccer team. It is also the third pro soccer team to be confirmed in the new tentatively named Project 8 league. This of course was not the only news as DoorDash has now become a founding partner of Project 8.
A.F.C. Toronto City Team Confirmed for Project 8
Toronto. We’re here.
Alongside @project8sports, we’re powering up women’s soccer in Canada. A.F.C. Toronto City will now be the 3rd founding team for Canada’s women’s professional soccer league, kicking off in 2025.
— AFC Toronto City (@AFC_TorontoCity) April 26, 2023
A.F.C. Toronto City will be the third pro women’s soccer team in Canada and the first-tier pro-Canadian women’s soccer team in Ontario. This is what former CanWNT player and Project Eight CEO, Diana Matheson, said about the move in John Molinaro’s Sportsnet article:
“Personally, for me, as someone who grew up in Oakville, which is 30 minutes down the highway, I know what it would have meant to me as a kid to have a pro soccer team in Toronto. I didn’t have those kinds of local role models to look up to when I was growing up, and A.F.C. Toronto City is going to help address that. So, this is a little extra special to me.”
The ownership will be from the North Toronto Soccer Club, this is what Matheson said in the same Molinaro Sportsnet article:
“The group of owners has come out of the city, out of a neighbourhood, and out of North Toronto Soccer Club. That was important to us to have a club with deep community roots. That’s really hard to build in North American sports, but I love that this team has come out of the community, and women lead it. I’m really excited to see what they can do in this city,” Matheson stated.
The ownership group will all have links to the North Toronto Soccer Club. The North Toronto Soccer Club was established in 1980 and is a program that serves 5,200 children and youth and 200 young adults in the community of North Toronto (source: KidsOutAndAbout.com).
What It Means for the Toronto NWSL Bid
Toronto FC/MLSE held discussions earlier this year about the possibility of bringing an NWSL franchise to Toronto. They were going to do it, and the goal was to bring a franchise to Toronto around 2026. I wonder, with the launch of this new league in 2025, if that plan now shifts
— Michael Singh (@MichaelSingh94) December 6, 2022
As Michael Singh indicated above, MLSE was planning to get an NWSL team around the time the 2026 FIFA World Cup takes place. This might still happen as MLSE is not part of the ownership group of this team. One could say that MLSE was trying to get an NWSL team in Toronto before Project 8 emerged. However, an argument can be made that Toronto does not need a NWSL team as much as other American cities as they already have one in this league as of right now.
Furthermore, politics can be a difficult thing to predict sometimes. For example, Ottawa Fury FC got in trouble by not joining the CPL, which resulted in the team folding.
A.F.C. Toronto City: What It Means for Toronto
This is what Helena Ruken, CEO of A.F.C. Toronto City, said about the league coming to the city in a CityNews interview:
Some examples include some of the players that were on the CanWNT Olympic Gold Medal roster from the GTA including Nichelle Prince, Kadeisha Buchanan, Ashley Lawrence, Adriana Leon, and others.
Toronto has an abundance of professional sports teams in Toronto like the Maple Leafs, Raptors, Blue Jays, and Argonauts. As it relates to soccer, Toronto or the GTA has two professional soccer teams. This is Toronto FC and York United FC.
There are some problems with York United FC, as they were recently purchased by the Canadian Premier League. however, if everything remains the same and with the addition of this new team, Toronto becomes only the fourth city to have three first-tier professional soccer teams in Canada and the U.S. Los Angeles and New York City metropolitan areas are the only current areas to have three pro women’s soccer teams, with Metro Vancouver set to join that elite category in 2025.
— PHF (@PHF) April 24, 2023
With all the rumours about the CCCRL. PWHPA, and the WNBA arriving in Toronto, the A.F.C. Toronto City will be only the second professional women’s sports team in Toronto. The other, the Toronto Six, recently won the Isobel Cup in the PWF earlier this year. Of course, there are still things to be sorted out and Project 8 still needs sanctioning from Canada Soccer.
This is very exciting news for the team and the league. There is now an Eastern presence in the league, and there is also a lot of talent to draw from the Greater Toronto Area, in Canada’s financial centre. Project 8 also has teams in the first, third, and fourth largest metropolitan cities in the country.
Photo Credit: Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports on February 22, 2023.
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