June 13th, 2024

Canadian women’s national team excited with Northern Super League announcement

By Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press on May 30, 2024.

Canada forward Cloe Lacasse traps the ball during the first half of the team's CONCACAF Gold Cup women's soccer tournament quarterfinal against Costa Rica on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Los Angeles. Cloe Lacasse wishes a professional womenÕ³ soccer league existed in Canada when she was younger. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Ryan Sun

MONTREAL – Cloé Lacasse wishes a professional women’s soccer league existed in Canada when she was younger.

Growing up in Sudbury, Ont., the Canadian women’s national team forward didn’t garner as much attention as she might have in a big city like Toronto.

Lacasse believes that reality will change with Canada’s pro league, unveiled Tuesday as the Northern Super League, set to kick off in April 2025. Former Canadian international Diana Matheson is the league’s chief executive officer and co-founder.

The NSL will kick off a 25-game season in April 2025 with franchises in Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto, Halifax and Calgary – which unveiled its Calgary Wild FC team name and logo Thursday.

“It’s something that really resonates with me,” Lacasse said Thursday at Centre Nutrilait. “I wish when I was younger that this existed because my journey wasn’t easy.”

The No. 9-ranked Canadian women’s national team takes on No. 31 Mexico in a pre-Olympic friendly Saturday afternoon at Montreal’s Saputo Stadium. Canada will play Mexico again Tuesday at Toronto’s BMO Field.

The 30-year-old Lacasse, who finally broke into the Canadian women’s team in 2021, played professionally in Iceland and Portugal before her prolific goalscoring in those leagues helped her land in England’s FA Women’s Super League with Arsenal.

“I had a very difficult journey to get where I am just because there was no visibility,” Lacasse said. “There weren’t many coaches, so I didn’t have those eyes on me, and I think this league will provide that for kids that maybe aren’t drafted into a (National Women’s Super League) or WSL.

“It gives them a second opportunity, almost.”

Each NSL team is expected to have a $1.5-million initial salary cap for 20 to 25 players on a roster and the minimum salary is $50,000. Franchises will be allowed up to seven foreign players and one marquee player whose salary will only account for $75,000 against the cap.

For reference, the NWSL – the top tier in the United States – increased its salary cap to US$2.75M from $1.375M this season for 22- to 26-player rosters.

Even Canada’s players plying their trade in Europe and the U.S. see playing professionally at home as a possibility down the line.

“I’m really happy where I’m at right now,” centre back Vanessa Gilles, who currently plays for Lyon in France, said. “But obviously it’s something that’s going to be very interesting moving forward for a lot of Canadians. It’s no secret playing at home in front of your friends and family is a huge plus. The downside of being a professional is being away from your loved ones and missing so many life events.”

“It’s really cool to know that Ottawa is going to have a team, or Montreal is going to have a team as well,” the Ottawa native added.

Lacasse is happy chasing her soccer dream in Europe, too, but wouldn’t rule it out either.

“Everyone on this team is seeing this league as a place that they could potentially land,” Lacasse said. “You could definitely see some big names in this league in the future.”

The league will also have an impact on the development of future talent for the national team, they say.

Lacasse and Gilles are focused on playing Mexico as Canada prepares to defend its Olympic title at the Paris Games this summer. But even Mexico provides a window into what this new league could mean for Canadian side.

Mexico’s Liga MX Femenil was founded in 2016 – and Lacasse says the Mexican national team is already reaping the rewards.

“They’ve gotten so much stronger throughout the last four or five years,” Lacasse said. “That’s an attribute to that professional league they started in Mexico. It’s kind of exciting to be able to see a team that’s had that.

“They started building an academy, they started building a pro league and it’s showing with the professional players now.”

Gilles hopes the Canadian league can make a similar impact.

“Mexico has been one of the teams in the past few years to really prove what it is to invest in your team, invest in your home league,” Gilles said. “We need it to be competitive among the national team and have players at the highest level (in Canada).”

After facing Mexico, Bev Priestman’s group is expected to play more exhibitions in Europe during the July 8-16 FIFA international window before the Paris Olympics. Canada opens its tournament July 25 against New Zealand.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 30, 2024.

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