Matheson hopes World Cup will further raise profile of women’s game, boost new league

A four-time World Cup veteran as a player, Diana Matheson knows the platform that a women’s football showcase provides.

Matheson hopes that the attention of the 2023 tournament will serve as a springboard for the Canadian Women’s Professional League, which is being launched by Project 8 Group, with a scheduled kickoff in 2025.

“For us, this is a big piece just in terms of awareness, and the growth of women’s football, the growth of women’s professional football, and the awareness of what we do,” Matheson said from 20 July. He spoke about the tournament, which will be held until August 20 and will feature 32 countries. 20 in nine host cities in Australia and New Zealand.

“So while there’s a lot of extra attention and attention during the Women’s World Cup, we’re definitely going to try to stand out because every time we’ve been able to make a big announcement, we’re Because we’re getting really good quality inbound prospects.” The Women’s World Cup is another platform that will bring more attention to women’s football, and that’s always a good thing. ”

In April, AFC Toronto City joined the Vancouver Whitecaps and Calgary Foothills to become the third franchise to be created in the new league.Matheson’s plan is to launch a league of eight teams split into two conferences in 2025.

Existing corporate partners include Air Canada, Canadian Tire, CIBC and DoorDash Canada.

Project 8 has already received official league accreditation from Canadian Soccer.

Just look at the United States and you can see the importance of domestic professional leagues. Twenty-two of the 23 members of the USA World Cup roster have played in the domestic women’s soccer league, with Lindsey Horan of France’s Olympique Lyonnais being the sole exception.

“I think that speaks to the growth of the NWSL especially over the last 18 months to two years,” said Matheson, who has played for four different NWSL clubs during his career.

Matheson cites collective bargaining agreements for players that have raised the bar for U.S. leagues, as well as the entry of women-led franchises like Los Angeles-based Angel City FC.

Nine of the NWSL’s twelve clubs are on the American roster.

By contrast, 13 of the 23 Canadians in the World Cup play club football in Europe, nine of them in England. Portland Thorns captain Christine Sinclair is one of eight NWSL players. The other two are college players from the United States.

“This has been the case in previous World Cups, but when you go back through the roster and look at which clubs they play for, it’s actually only Canada where most of the players don’t play at home. said Matheson. “Hopefully this will be the last World Cup where we see a situation like this.”

“That’s exactly our goal,” she added. “I think we can provide a place for some of the best players on the national team and a lot of Canadians who are playing abroad or not yet playing professionally. I’m hoping to get my name out there.” We don’t know the squad for the next cup yet, but they’ve been climbing the ranks in Canada and we’ll get to know them first through his professional league and see them at the next Women’s World Cup. can be done. ”

The World Cup has given Matheson many memories.

In 2019, she enjoyed her new role as a television analyst, although she was sidelined due to injury. She remembers her 2015, when Canada lost her 2-1 to England in the quarterfinals in Vancouver, as her missed chance.

“I think that game will leave a bitter aftertaste in all of us’ mouths because we knew there was an opportunity out there to perform and fight hard to win the World Cup at home.” she said. “And we weren’t up to the level of performance to get there.”

The Canadian was unable to make it out of the group stage after losing all three games in Germany 2011 under Italian coach Carolina Morace. Canada finished bottom of the table in 16th place with 7-1 victories over France, Germany and Nigeria.

“It was heartbreaking, but in a way I think it kind of connected me to 2012,” Matheson said, referring to his bronze medal at the London Olympics under coach John Hardman. “Especially with John on board, I think we’ve been able to focus more on what we’re doing.”

Matheson says finishing fourth in the 2003 United States under Norwegian Eben Perel has a special place in her heart. It was her first World Cup and her first year with the Canadian team. Canada defeated China 1-0 in the quarterfinals, but lost 2-1 to Sweden in the semi-finals and 3-1 to the United States in the third-place play-off.

“We were fourth. At that time it was mainly Route 1 football, direct football. The midfielders were mainly defending, stealing the ball and trying to get it to the forwards quickly,” she said. “But it worked. And I almost made it to the final.”

“I have very fond memories of that team,” she added. “It was a team like London, it was a team like Tokyo[where Canada won Olympic gold in 2021]where Charmaine Hooper, Andrea Neal, Silvana Burtini and many others. , there was this really core group that set the tone for this great veteran team, this really young group of hungry kids came in with Sink (Kristin Sinclair) and me and Erin McLeod. is.”

In the 2007 match against China led by Peru, Canada failed to make it through the group stage, conceding a goal in the 92nd minute in a 2-2 draw with Australia, which prevented the Canadians from advancing. Sinclair scored a goal in the 85th minute to give Canada the lead.

Matheson recently completed his MBA from Queen’s University’s Smith School of Business. She has also completed UEFA’s Executive Master for International Players (MIP). The program is a 20-month program aimed at equipping top international players with the tools they need to transform their playing strengths into effective off-pitch management skills.

The proposed new women’s league will have a franchise fee of $1 million, requiring an estimated total investment capital of $8 million to $10 million for the first five seasons, in addition to the required infrastructure expenditures. Owners have bought not only their own franchises, but also parts of leagues.

Project 8 Sports Inc. was founded by Matheson Gilbert and Thomas Gilbert.

Matheson’s outstanding playing career includes an injury-time goal that earned Canada a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics. She earned 206 caps (including 193 starting) for Canada from 2003-2020.

This report by the Canadian Press Agency was first published on July 17, 2023.

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