Mya Jones could hardly believe the news as she stared down at her phone.
As soon as she’d learned to kick a ball, her instincts were driving her toward a career in soccer. But even then, the goal involved playing in Europe or the United States.
A pro team? In Canada?
It seemed too far-fetched to even dream about.
Now, aspiring professionals like Jones and her Memphis Tigers teammate Grace Stordy won’t just have the opportunity to play in their home country, they have a chance to stay in their hometown.
Calgary Foothills and the Vancouver Whitecaps — led by former Foothills member Steph Labbé — are the first two teams confirmed to be joining an as-of-yet-unnamed professional Canadian women’s soccer league, set to kick off in two years.
The Project 8 venture is headed by two-time Olympic bronze medallist Diana Matheson, her business partner Thomas Gilbert and the greatest international goal scorer of all time: Christine Sinclair.
“Part of the reason I’m doing the announcement so early on was to let these players know that it’s coming, because they’re making decisions about their future, where to go to school, whether to keep playing,” Matheson said.
“We want them to know that professional soccer is coming to Canada in 2025.”
“To hear that there’s going to be a professional league in two years is astounding,” Jones said. “It’s such in the near future that I obviously have something to strive for.
“I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to leaving home to go play in Europe. But it’s really my only option. So to hear that I can actually stay here is comforting in some ways because I didn’t want to leave my family (and) to leave my friends to do something that I love.”
“I’m just super excited to see how it starts and where it ends up,” Stordy said. “I have very high expectations, but also no expectations just because it’s something so new to us here. But I think this league will really open a lot of eyes for people across the world.”
There’s still a long way to go before Foothills will be announcing its first player signings.
The organization’s next steps focus on establishing an ownership group, attracting investors and finding a suitable venue.
Foothills WFC to join new women’s pro soccer league
Deanna Zumwalt, Foothills’ director of women’s pro sport, said a number of interested parties have already reached out in hopes of finding a home for the squad.
“We’ve got an assessment to go through — what makes the most sense, what’s the most logical,” Zumwalt said. “I’m confident we’re going to be able to attract and work with the right ownership and investor group.
“We know what it’s going to take.”
ATCO Field, home of the Canadian Premier League’s Cavalry FC, can house up to 6,000 fans at Spruce Meadows — just south of the city. The facility boasts a pristine Kentucky bluegrass turf.
Foothills said it is not ruling out a partnership with the CPL, but looking at all of its options.
“Obviously we’re not leading the way internationally in terms of having soccer-specific stadiums,” Matheson noted.
“The Canadian Premier League has done an incredible job investing in infrastructure. Similar to what they’ve done, we’re looking — ideally — at 6,000- to 8,000-seat stadiums. Keep it small, keep it community-based and football specific.”
Project 8 is also putting an emphasis on searching for female investors, coaches and medical staff in hopes of providing another pro pathway of sorts.
The league aims to add two more teams in the west and four in the east, with the final six squads expected to be announced in 2023.
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