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Ottawa joining new Canadian women’s pro soccer league ‘a great next step for the country’

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By Emma Zhao

The summer of 2012 was magical for both Ottawa and Canadian women’s soccer.

The Ottawa Fury finally captured their first W-League North American championship on home turf at Algonquin College, with local goalkeeper Jasmine Phillips playing a starring role in the penalty-kicks shootout win.

From our archives (August 2012): Champs at last!: Led by Ottawa native Phillips in goal, Fury write storybook finish to W-League title quest

The Fury were renowned for bringing a professional approach to amateur soccer, and helped a number of players on their journeys to the Canadian women’s national team.

Among their alumni was Diana Matheson, who came up with the miracle header that landed Team Canada on the podium at the London 2012 Olympic Games, following Canada’s infamous extra-time defeat to USA in the semi-finals.

Now, a full 12 years later, Matheson is the key figure behind the Northern Super League, which recently announced that Ottawa will be home to one of the first six clubs in the new Canadian professional women’s soccer league.

“We would have liked to have a league in place earlier, but it’s a great next step forward for the country,” says Dominic Oliveri, who coached the Fury in 2012 and now directs the Carleton University Ravens women’s soccer program.

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“If anybody is going to succeed in this, it’s going to be Diana,” he adds. “And it’s really great to see someone like her, who’s played through all the levels, represented this country in the Olympics, taking the lead on this. She’s been there and she sees what it takes to have a professional league.”

Phillips, who serves as Oliveri’s assistant with the Ravens by night and as a schoolteacher by day, is well aware of what the new league means for her team and other local athletes.

“It’s just great having a higher level of soccer close by,” she signals. “It’s a reminder that they’re part of something big. You know, university sports is one of the highest levels in Canada, and they are contributing to the sport’s popularity.”

Both Phillips and Oliveri note that the Northern Super League also provides more options for future star soccer players. Previously, female soccer players would have to decide if they wanted to move out of the country to train, they highlight, but now there will be more opportunities to train right on home soil.

Ottawa Fury 2012 W-League champions. File photo

For Canadian women’s soccer players fans, it’s been a long wait. While Team Canada reached unprecedented heights in London, and went on to add bronze and gold medals at the Rio and Tokyo Olympics, Canadian women’s professional soccer went in reverse.

Alongside the other Canadian W-League clubs, the Fury women’s team folded in 2014 – one year before Canada was set to host the FIFA Women’s World Cup. With just about everything minus player salaries, the Fury had closely resembled a pro team, providing players with meals, accommodations, athletic therapy and summer work opportunities.

From our archives (July 2012): Eyeing the top: Paid food, lodging & work for players all key to Fury club’s renowned professional approach to amateur soccer

As Canada took a step back, women’s pro soccer leapt forward globally. While no existing men’s pro soccer clubs, Canadian sports team owners or businesspeople acted on the opportunity to create a domestic pro soccer team or league, crowds grew massively worldwide, including in Mexico, where the women’s championship final drew almost 60,000 fans last year.

Oliveri says there were always discussions at the community level on the need for a Canadian league, but nothing materialized into Matheson’s group stepped up.

“It’s obviously taken a lot longer than we would have liked to get to this place, but the important thing is to look forward to what’s coming,” Oliveri underlines. “All we can focus on now is getting out there and supporting this league and making sure that it has long-term viability in this country.”

Little is known about Ottawa’s Northern Super League club other than a team is planned for the capital, with CEO and league co-founder Matheson noting that it will be up to each team’s owners to release more details.

Montreal was unveiled alongside Ottawa as another of the six cities set to debut in April 2025, joining previously-announced franchises in Halifax, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.

The league will follow a 25-game regular season schedule, followed by playoffs and a national championship.

“After years without a professional women’s domestic soccer league, the Northern Super League and its six founding clubs will fill a significant void in Canada and bring about meaningful change coast to coast,” Matheson says in a Northern Super League news release. “We are proud to launch with a name that will instill pride in all those who play and love the game. With a brand that is fresh, we welcome all who want to be a part of this exciting moment in Canadian sports history.”

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