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Vancouver founding member of Northern Super League of women’s soccer

Former Project 8 reveals name, five charter members of Canadian pro league
A Northern Super League logo is shown in a handout. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

The idea of a Canadian women’s professional league was simple, albeit rife with challenges, including coming up with the right name.

On Tuesday, Project 8 turned into the Northern Super League with Ottawa and Montreal joining Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Halifax as the founding franchises slated to kick off in April 2025.

Former Canadian international Diana Matheson, chief executive officer and co-founder of Project 8 along with Thomas Gilbert, unveiled the name and other details about the new league in a speech to the espnW Summit Canada on Tuesday.

Choosing the right name proved to be anything but easy.

“For me, it was very difficult,” Matheson said in an interview. “Us in the Project 8 office, every spare probably 20 minutes we had over the first 18 months we would just brainstorm on our own — ‘Hey, what should the league name be?’ And never came up with anything good.”

So they turned to professionals, with Canadian creative agency Broken Heart Love Affair providing the brand and aurora borealis logo.

“They came up with something that I really, really love,” said Matheson. “So I hope Canadians do too.”

The decision was made not to include women in the league title, even though “we are very proudly building for women and by women,” said Matheson.

“We landed on not including it, because at the end of the day what we are building here is going to be an internationally competitive professional soccer league, period,” she added. “And I think the women’s soccer part of that will speak for itself once we get up and rolling.”

While there is plenty more work to be done before the first ball is kicked, the new league now has a framework to work off.

“I like the runway we have, especially with the group of people we have, … There’s a very collaborative approach to building this league from every ownership group,” said Matheson, who won 206 caps for Canada between 2003 and 2020.

The addition of Ottawa and Montreal fleshes out the initial team roster, bringing the number of franchises to six — the minimum required for Canada Soccer sanctioning.

“It’s huge,” said Matheson. “At the end of the day, we’re in six of the biggest markets across Canada, which we’re thrilled about. Ottawa, Montreal specifically have huge girls’ and women’s soccer communities.”

“We’re happy with the representation we have from (the) West Coast to the Maritimes, in Quebec,” she added. “It’s just the beginning. We’ll, of course, still be looking to roll our expansion plans in the next year and talk about when we’re adding teams (No.) 7 and 8. But we’re really happy with the six teams we’re launching with.”

The Montreal franchise will be spearheaded by Quebec’s Isabèle Chevalier and Jean-François Crevier, who are putting together a group of investors from the business, sports and arts communities.

Ottawa has yet to announce its details.

The new league is owned equally by the clubs, with Matheson’s group also holding an ownership share.

Each team will play a 25-game regular-season schedule, facing the other clubs five times. The top four sides will make the post-season with No. 1 playing No. 4 and No. 2 taking on No. 3 in two-legged semifinals, following by a stand-alone championship game.

The league is looking at a $1.5-million initial salary cap for each team, covering rosters numbering 20 to 25. There will be an additional cap on player benefits such as housing and transportation.

Franchises will be allowed up to seven foreign players. The league also allows teams one marquee player, for whom only $75,000 of their salary will count against the cap.

The league’s founding corporate partners — Canadian Tire, DoorDash, CIBC and Air Canada — were previously announced.

“Congratulations to everyone involved in the exciting evolution of the newly named Northern Super League,” Kevin Blue, Canada’s Soccer’s CEO and general secretary, said in a statement. “Canada Soccer remains steadfast in its support for professional women’s soccer in our country, and we will continue to work alongside Diana and the staff to ensure a successful kickoff next April.”

The governing body, at its recent annual general meeting, approved increases in player registration fees starting in 2025, with a portion going to the new league.

Matheson says it will receive $1 million annually, matching what the governing body has given the men’s Canadian Premier League.

“The expectation has always been between ourselves and Canada Soccer that Canada Soccer would do the same,” said Matheson, calling it a “symbol of support.”

And a sign of equity.

An announcement on the Northern Super League’s leadership is expected in June, which should shed more light on what role Matheson and Gilbert will take.

READ ALSO: 3 more teams apply to join Canada’s new women’s pro soccer league, Project 8