WNBA officially names Toronto its first international franchise, will start playing in 2026

The WNBA's popularity is growing by the day, and so is the WNBA itself. Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced Thursday morning that Toronto is the home of the newest team to join the WNBA. It will be the league's first international franchise and will begin playing in 2026.

The team will be owned by Kilmer Sports Ventures, a company led by Larry Tanenbaum and created specifically to run the team. It reportedly cost $115 million for Kilmer Sports Ventures to purchase the Toronto team. Tanenbaum is deeply familiar with Toronto sports franchises as chairman and minority owner of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors.

“Our Toronto sports franchises are thriving, but we have been missing one critical piece — women’s professional sports,” Tanenbaum told the AP. “The world is finally taking notice of something that’s been there all along — the immense talent, passion and competition in women’s sports. So, once again, I saw an opportunity and knew we were in the right place at the right time to bring Canada’s first WNBA team to Toronto. And now we have, making sports history.”

There's no team name or logo yet. Following the timeline of the Golden State Valkyries, that will likely come later this year. San Francisco was announced as an expansion team in October 2023, and it announced its team name and logo earlier this month.

The WNBA is experiencing a tremendous amount of growth right now, with an enormous wave of fans becoming interested in the W following the 2023-24 NCAA season. Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese, Kamilla Cardoso and others were major college stars who made their mark on the 2024 NCAA tournament, and their arrival in the pros has already made waves.

But as the WNBA grows in popularity, one of the hard truths fans learn is that the W doesn't have enough room for all the talent that exists in women's basketball right now. So the league is expanding as quickly as it can. The Valkyries are the W's 13th team, and Toronto is the 14th. Engelbert has said she wants the league to grow to 16 teams by 2028, so two more teams will likely be added in the next few years.