Project 8 to bring professional women’s soccer to Canada in 2025

Adriana Leon signs autographs
Adriana Leon of Canada signs autographs for fans after the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup quarterfinal against England at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Four years since Canada’s 2020 Olympic success, there are no professional women’s football teams in the country. That’s about to change. This week, Halifax in Nova Scotia became the latest city to sign on to Project 8, the national women’s soccer league launching in 2025.

Defending Olympic champions Canada headed into the 2023 Women’s World Cup as the seventh-ranking team. Yet despite major international success, the nation was the only country in the top 20 without a professional women’s domestic league.

Calls for a national league were at an all-time high when Canada crashed out of the tournament in the group stage. World all-time goalscorer Christine Sinclair went on record saying, “I think more of it is like a wake-up call for our federation and the lack of a professional league, the lack of support for our youth national teams. I think you’re just going to continue to see teams reach our level and surpass us — whatever you want to call it — if things don’t change.”

Players from the current Canadian women’s national team play across Europe and in the USA’s NWSL. From 2025, they’ll finally have the opportunity to play domestically.

What is Canada’s Project 8? 

Project 8 is the working name for the Canadian professional women’s soccer league that will launch in 2025. The official name of the league is expected to be announced within the next two months

Who’s behind Project 8?

Former Canadian international Diana Matheson founded Project 8. Since her retirement, Matheson has been steadfast in her advocacy for a national women’s league. In 2021, she presented her vision for professional women’s football to the Canadian Soccer Association. However, discussions soon fizzled out.

Matheson, who earned 206 caps for Canada, began Project 8 six months later. She currently serves as the organisation’s CEO.

Which teams will play in the Project 8 league?

To date, four teams have been announced. The Vancouver Whitecaps and Calgary Foothills are existing teams that will join the national league. It will also feature new teams: AFC Toronto and Atlantic Women’s Football Club based out of Halifax. 

Additionally, a further two undisclosed teams have submitted applications to Canada Soccer for consideration at the Annual Members Meeting in May. This is a vital step in achieving professional club recognition. 

How will Project 8 work?

As of April 2024, there are many questions surrounding the viability and structure of the women’s league. It is unclear if the competition will now begin with the six teams who have submitted applications to Canada Soccer, as opposed to the eight that were originally planned. It is also unclear if the league will still split teams into two conferences.

The Project 8 teams are receiving funding through private ownership groups. Franchise fees are said to start at $1 million with each group investing $8–10 million over the first five seasons. Under the current proposals, each team will be limited to seven foreign players, with the rest of the squad consisting of homegrown talent. 

At the time of its launch, Project 8 had already secured sponsorship from Air Canada and CIBC. Since then, DoorDash and Canadian Tire have also become corporate partners.

What’s next for Project 8?

With only four of six teams announced and major questions regarding the league’s viability, Project 8 has a long way to go before the inaugural season. 

Indeed, Matheson seems well aware of the significant hurdles the organisation faces but sees no other way.

“It’s giving a professional pathway, a professional environment, in eight markets across this country for our players, for our future players, where we know right now that’s lacking in our environment… Slow and steady is not the route Project 8 is going. It’s going big or go home.”

You can learn more about the campaign to introduce a professional women’s football league in Canada on the Project 8 website.

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