Professional women’s soccer is coming to Canada.
Christine Sinclair and former national teammate Diana Matheson announced on Monday plans to kick off a domestic professional women’s league in 2025, featuring eight teams throughout Canada.
The two players sat down with The National‘s Adrienne Arsenault to reveal the news.
After the duo helped Canada capture bronze at the 2012 Olympics — Matheson scored the medal-clinching goal — Sinclair expected progress. After all, the team had just snapped Canada’s 108-year podium drought in the sport.
“I really thought that 2012 was going to be a turning point for this country in bringing professional soccer home,” Sinclair told Arsenault. “But it never happened. And there’s still no pathways within this country.”
And so, a decade later, Sinclair and Matheson took matters into their own hands.
The still unnamed league would begin in April 2025 with an inaugural champion crowned sometime in the fall. Each team will have at least one Canadian international, and the goal is to bring home about half of the over-100 Canadians currently playing abroad.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Calgary Foothills Soccer Club are confirmed as the first two teams to join the upstart league.
“Whitecaps FC are thrilled to be one of the first teams to sign on to a professional women’s soccer league in Canada,” said Stephanie Labbe, Whitecaps FC general manager of women’s soccer. “The creation of this league is something we have been advocating for over many years, and to be part of seeing it come to fruition is truly exciting.”
The league is being built by Matheson and her business partners at Project 8 Sports Inc. Sinclair, soccer’s all-time international scoring leader, is on board as an official advisor.
“The whole idea behind this is to aim high. And like, if you’re not, what’s the point?” Sinclair said.
“So let’s go out from the get-go and compete with the best leagues in the world and bring in the top talent. And yeah, have 10 year olds watching a game that 10 years later is on the Whitecaps, for instance. That would be my dream.”
Matheson, who retired from playing in July 2021, has visions of the league pushing the entire Canadian women’s sports infrastructure forward.
“It’s health and wellness. It’s confidence. It’s tied with better academics. There’s a huge tie between women in sport and women in business,” Matheson said. “And this is about soccer, but it’s about the coaches, it’s about the referees, it’s about women in executive roles in sport.”
Part of that women’s sports fabric comes down to marketing like jersey sales. Sinclair said she can’t even get her hands on her own jersey to gift to her niece.
“I don’t know if they exist,” Sinclair said.
Matheson, 38, said she’s been working on obtaining her Master of Business Administration, as well as partaking in UEFA programming. She’s hoping the league becomes a Canada Soccer member by 2023, with full sanctioning by 2024
She said Air Canada and CIBC are already on board as sponsors, and that it’s especially important to have the right team owners involved in the league.
“One of the things is having more diversity to begin with — more women, diverse voices to begin with, more players voices to begin with. And that’s top to bottom. I want women owners, women in the executive, women’s player voices as part of this,” Matheson said.
The Oakville, Ont., native made the case that the buy-in, which is expected to be between $8-10 million, is a worthwhile investment, noting that National Women’s Soccer League clubs, which were bought for $150,000 US 10 years ago, are now valued at a minimum of $35 million US. The Orlando NWSL franchise was purchased in 2021 for about $400 million US.
Matheson said her league can compete with average player salaries across the world right now.
“We just have way more opportunities to monetize our own brand. Players can do appearances, they can work with companies, they can run camps in a way that they just can’t when they’re playing in Italy and England,” she said.
Another point of importance for Matheson and Sinclair is ensuring players in their league are protected. Reports of abuse in the NWSL last season resulted in the resignation of half of the league’s coaches.
Sinclair is captain of the Portland Thorns, whose CEO Merrit Paulson stepped down in October following reports of systemic emotional and verbal abuse, as well as sexual misconduct.
“[It’s] unfortunate just how women are treated and taken advantage of. That’s why we need women owners. We need female executives,” Sinclair said.
Added Matheson: “It’s training, it’s vetting, it’s independent reporting systems. And for us, that’s going to mean working with those groups that are really good at doing those things.”
At its crux, though, the league intends to establish pathways for young Canadian women to stay in soccer and work their way onto the national team — to foster future generations so that one day they could get their golden moment like Sinclair had in 2021 in Tokyo.
“It’s time to change the narrative and inspire the next group,” Matheson said. “I believe kids need to see it to believe that it’s possible to happen. And with the launch of this league, kids will be able to go into their own backyard and watch their heroes play and dream of one day representing their hometown professional club and maybe representing Canada.”
Sinclair said she was once one of those kids, watching the 1999 World Cup with a dream to be on that pitch herself one day.
23 years later, the Burnaby, B.C., native has accomplished nearly everything she could in her sport.
“We’ve inspired Canadians on the podium,” Sinclair said. “Now it’s time to actually make an impactful difference here in Canada.”
Bengals vs Chiefs Touchdown Props for the AFC Championship – Best Touchdown Scorer Bets – Covers
The AFC Championship on Sunday features a rematch of last year’s conference title game as Cincinnati travels to Arrowhead to take on Kansas City. Read more to find out our favorite anytime touchdown props for Bengals vs. Chiefs.
There’s plenty of scoring opportunity in this game for bettors, so why don’t we get right into the action? Don’t miss our NFL anytime touchdown prop picks for the Bengals vs. Chiefs on January 29.
Bengals vs Chiefs touchdown props
Click on each pick to jump to the full analysis.
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Bengals vs Chiefs TD props
At +100, you won’t find a better prop bet for the AFC Championship game. While the injury to Patrick Mahomes will probably limit Kansas City‘s volume of passing, Travis Kelce is the heartbeat of this team and will always be involved — especially in the red zone.
He’s had 14 touchdowns this season, with two of those coming last week against the Jaguars. With the season on the line and Mahomes banged up for most of it, Kelce was still targeted an incredible 17 times and recorded 14 receptions.
The Mahomes-Kelce connection is one of the strongest in the NFL. With the chance to reach the Super Bowl in play, you can guarantee they’ll be looking for their All-Pro tight end to play an important role.
Prop: Travis Kelce anytime touchdown (-105)
Chase can’t be caught
If Kelce is the man to trust for the Chiefs, then the same can be said of Ja’Marr Chase for the Bengals. His chemistry with Joe Burrow is arguably in the same bracket as that of Mahomes and Kelce, dating back to their time playing together at LSU.
Chase finished the regular season sixth in touchdowns scored (9), which is not bad for a player who missed all of November with a hip injury.
The star wideout has scored in each of the Bengals’ two playoff games and has been targeted at least eight times in all but one game this season. At odds of +100, it makes too much sense to bet on Chase’s anytime market.
Prop: Ja’Marr Chase anytime touchdown (-105)
Covers NFL betting tools
1B to Chase’s 1A
You could make a serious argument that Tee Higgins is the best second option in any team’s receiving corps. Although he isn’t always Burrow’s first read, he’s still a hugely important part of this team and can often thrive with the opposition’s best corner shadowing Chase.
Higgins surpassed 1,000 yards on the season, scored seven touchdowns, and could very well add to that tally against a Chiefs secondary that is far from the best in the NFL.
Although he’s gone scoreless in his past three outings for the Bengals, Higgins successfully reached paydirt in all of the four games prior. When these two teams met in early December, Higgin hauled in three of his five targets and scored a touchdown.
It wouldn’t be a shock to see him do it again on Sunday.
Prop: Tee Higgins anytime touchdown (+195)
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Eagles ride ground game to Super Bowl LVII with win over 49ers – TSN
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jalen Hurts can conduct a singalong about as well as he can orchestrate the kind of punishing scoring drives that sent the Eagles into the Super Bowl.
At the end of one more triumph, Hurts stood on the stage on the field — as his Eagles teammates passed around the NFC championship trophy — and clutched a microphone in front of what was suddenly Philadelphia’s largest karaoke joint. His rendition of the team fight song was a tad off-key.
Hurts may not sing as well as he can score, but it was another memorable moment in a season full of them. And the Eagles don’t believe they’re done yet.
“We’ve got new moments,” Hurts said. “New moments and new times.”
Hurts had one of Philadelphia’s four rushing touchdowns and the Eagles soared into the Super Bowl, forcing both of San Francisco’s quarterbacks out of the game with injuries and beating the wounded 49ers 31-7 in the NFC championship game on Sunday.
The Eagles, who won the Super Bowl five years ago with a different coach and quarterback, will try to do it again behind the formidable duo of Hurts and coach Nick Sirianni. Philadelphia will play either the Cincinnati Bengals or former Eagles coach Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs.
“We get to do it because we did it better than anyone in the NFC this year,” Sirianni said.
Hurts had a modest game by his standards after a season in which he was a finalist for MVP. He was 15-of-25 passing for 121 yards and ran for 39, improving to 16-1 as a starter this season. The Eagles (16-3) lost two games that he missed with a sprained right shoulder.
Hurts sat alone at his locker dressed all in purple and he took a few puffs of a cigar as the Eagles celebrated around him. He understood there was one more game to win.
“I never knew how far we’d go,” Hurts said, “but I never said it couldn’t be done.”
Miles Sanders ran for two touchdowns and linebacker Haason Reddick made the hit that forced 49ers rookie quarterback Brock Purdy out of the game with an elbow injury. Reddick also recovered a fumble by Purdy’s replacement, Josh Johnson, who later suffered a concussion.
That forced Purdy back into the game, but his injury was clearly a factor as the 49ers all but gave up on the passing game, even while trailing by multiple scores. Purdy said he was unable to throw the ball more than 10 yards after his elbow got hurt.
San Francisco’s bad luck at quarterback was finally too much to overcome as its 12-game win streak ended. The Niners (15-5) lost both Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo to season-ending injuries, and Purdy — the final pick in April’s draft — lost as a starter for the first time.
Philadelphia police greased traffic and light poles in what proved again to be a futile attempt to slow the postgame revelry. The city now has its beloved Birds in the Super Bowl just three months after the Philadelphia Phillies reached the World Series.
“When you guys go into our indoor (practice facility), there’s always that picture in the back part of it of the 2017 NFC championship game, and it’s just the electricity of the stadium,” said Sirianni, who was hired two years ago to replace the Eagles’ Super Bowl-winning coach, Doug Pederson. “We’re looking forward to getting another picture up there of this special moment that we had.”
The game disintegrated in the waning minutes and Philadelphia’s K’Von Wallace and San Francisco’s Trent Williams were ejected for their roles in a brawl. Williams yanked Wallace from behind and slammed him to the ground.
The moment only seemed to rile up Eagles fans even more as they soon waved their green towels and went wild as confetti fluttered around them.
“We’ve got one more game for the rest of our lives,” Sanders said.
The Eagles broke the game open in the final two minutes of the first half, getting a rise out of a crowd that had been quiet with nervous energy since a touchdown on the opening drive.
Sanders broke free for a 13-yard run for a 14-7 lead, concluding a 14-play, 75-yard drive extended by three 49ers penalties.
Johnson bobbled a shotgun snap and fumbled on the next drive, and Reddick — the free-agent pickup from Carolina having one of the great defensive seasons in franchise history — recovered at the San Francisco 30. Boston Scott scooted 10 yards for a touchdown and 21-7 lead.
Even with Hurts almost a non-factor — he had 97 yards passing in the first half — the Eagles were firmly in control. His 1-yard rushing touchdown on Philadelphia’s signature rugby-style QB sneak made it 28-7 late in the third quarter.
“We’ve got a chance to go out there and win it all,” Hurts said. “So we want to go prepare to go do that.”
The Eagles used quick thinking as they scored on their opening drive for the second straight playoff game. DeVonta Smith made a sensational one-handed grab for 29 yards, but replays showed he appeared to lose control of the ball as he hit the ground. Smith popped up and frantically waved the Eagles to the line. Niners coach Kyle Shanahan did not challenge the call and the Eagles got off the next play. Sanders scored on a 6-yard run.
“Smart players do smart things,” Sirianni said. “He did a smart thing right there. I’m going to say he caught it, though.”
Purdy left the game with an elbow injury after he was drilled in the arm by Reddick on San Francisco’s first drive. The play was initially ruled an incomplete pass, but replays confirmed it was a fumble.
“I knew that was a sack-fumble because I got my hand on the ball,” Reddick said.
He also got his hand on Purdy’s arm, changing the course of the game. The 23-year-old Purdy’s improbable rise from “Mr. Irrelevant” to playoff starter ended with a whimper as he failed to become the first rookie QB to lead a team to the Super Bowl.
He was improbably needed again in the third quarter after Johnson, a journeyman backup signed in December, was also injured.
“I hurt for these guys,” Shanahan said. “We felt really good about this game. It was tough circumstances.”
With little hope they could get anything going behind Johnson, the 49ers turned to Christian McCaffrey, a midseason acquisition who led the team with 13 TDs in the regular season and playoffs, to get on the board. He broke three tackles on a 23-yard touchdown run that made it 7-7 in the second quarter.
That turned out to be the only moment of hope for Shanahan’s Niners, who managed 164 yards of offense and 11 first downs.
“You’re never out of the fight,” McCaffrey said. “We believed it and it just didn’t turn out our way. We got beat and wish we had another shot at it with everybody.”
IN THE HOUSE
First lady Jill Biden, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, actor Bradley Cooper, comedian Kevin Hart, Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout and several 76ers, including Joel Embiid, attended the game.
The Eagles will play in the fourth Super Bowl in franchise history on Feb. 12 in Glendale, Arizona.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
Russia issue looms for Paris Olympics, Zelenskyy rebukes IOC
GENEVA (AP) — The question of if and how Russia competes at the Olympics hangs over the 2024 Paris Summer Games.
Just as it has now for five straight Olympics during Thomas Bach’s leadership of the IOC, whose support this week for some Russians to compete in Paris was publicly challenged Friday by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Russia and its athletes have been at risk of being banned — though ultimately competed — at each Olympics since the steroid-tainted 2014 Sochi Winter Games that was Bach’s first as president of the International Olympic Committee.
This time it is Russia waging war on Ukraine. Previously it was Russian state-backed doping and then Russian authorities trying to cover up evidence of that scandal.
Zelenskyy wants Russia excluded from taking part in Paris while its military is occupying and attacking his country. He stressed that this week in talks with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Ukraine’s sports minister first warned on Thursday of boycotting the Olympics. That was after the IOC detailed its preferred pathway to let Russians who have not openly supported the war to qualify for Paris and compete as neutral athletes against Ukrainians.
“It is obvious that any neutral flag of Russian athletes is stained with blood. I invite Mr. Bach to Bakhmut,” Zelenskyy said in a video address, referring to the city in eastern Ukraine wrecked by the war. “So that he could see with his own eyes that neutrality does not exist.”
The IOC was more strident on Russia when the military invasion started within days of the Beijing Winter Games closing ceremony. It was an egregious breach of the United Nations-backed Olympic Truce that is prized by Bach.
Last February, the IOC recommended “with a heavy heart” sports bodies exclude Russia and Belarus from hosting and competing “in order to protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants.”
It could not be fair for Russians to continue competing while “many athletes from Ukraine are prevented from doing so because of the attack on their country,” the IOC said last Feb. 28.
Now, 18 months before the Paris opening ceremony and as qualifying ramps up in the 32 sports, the IOC’s revised public stance has provoked anger from Ukraine.
“If we are not heard, I do not rule out the possibility that we will boycott and refuse participation in the Olympics,” Ukrainian sports minister Vadym Guttsait wrote Thursday on his Facebook account.
One of Ukraine’s top medal prospects does not want to share the stage with Russians — even if such a symbol of peaceful tolerance is exactly how the IOC sees its “unifying mission” to bring all 206 national Olympic teams together.
“They died for me, really they don’t exist in my life,” said Yaroslava Mahuchikh, the high jumper whose rivalry from 2019-21 with Russian champion Mariya Lasitskene made theirs a standout event.
Mahuchikh told German broadcaster DW Sports this week that Ukrainian athletes “will do everything that is possible” to keep out athletes from Russia, which she called a “terrorist state.”
In Bach’s home country Germany, the Athleten Deutschland group said Friday many of its members find it “difficult to imagine contesting competitions against Russian athletes under the current conditions.”
“No athlete should be prevented from competing just because of their passport,” the IOC stressed Wednesday, though this was often not true in Olympic history.
Germany and Japan, the aggressors of World War II, were not invited to the 1948 London Olympics. South Africa was excluded from 1964 through 1988 because of its racist Apartheid laws.
The IOC points instead to the more recent example of Yugoslavians competing at the 1992 Barcelona Games as “independent athletes” while the nation was under UN sanctions during a civil war.
Bach wants to separate athletes from the actions of their government, and has called the situation a dilemma for a stated aim to “always embrace human diversity and never to exclude others.”
That philosophy rankles with Zelenskyy, who can be a compelling advocate for a blanket ban on Russia that was resisted when demanded in the past decade by athletes, the World Anti-Doping Agency or activist groups.
If Russians are allowed to compete, their path to Olympic qualification likely will go through Asia due to Russia’s tense relations with its European neighbors.
Paris is the last of six Olympics for Bach’s presidency before hitting his 12-year term limit in 2025. A presidency that began in September 2013 with an instant congratulatory phone call from President Vladimir Putin has always had a major Russian theme.
After the Sochi laboratory doping scheme was detailed in 2016, Russia sent a limited team — though still nearly 300 athletes — to the Rio Janeiro Games and has been denied its flag and anthem at each Olympics since.
Yet while Russians always were at the Olympics, they were banned entirely from track and field’s world championships last July in Eugene, Oregon.
“The world is horrified by what Russia has done, aided and abetted by Belarus,” World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said within days of the war starting. “Sport has to step up and join these efforts to end this war and restore peace. We cannot and should not sit this one out.”
Track’s ongoing Russia ban excludes Lasitskene, the three-time defending champion in high jump. Last year she wrote an open letter to Bach, who could not defend his team fencing title at the 1980 Moscow Olympics because of the West German boycott after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.
“I have no doubts,” she wrote, “that you don’t have the courage and dignity to lift the sanctions against Russian athletes.”
This week, Bach set governing bodies of some Olympic sports on the path to do just that.
More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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