Toronto WNBA Takes Center Court: First Seasons For Expansion Teams

Toronto WNBA Takes Center Court: First Seasons For Expansion Teams
By Christopher Boan
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

It appears that the next franchise in the WNBA will be Canada’s first. Toronto is expected to land an expansion club that’ll join California’s Bay Area as the newest teams in the women’s professional basketball league. The news, which was first reported by the CBC on Friday morning, paves the way for Ontario billionaire Larry Tannenbaum to join the ever-growing basketball league, which is sure to increase Ontario sports betting interest.

With Friday’s announcement that a Toronto WNBA team is expected to start May 2026, OntarioBets.com used Sports-Reference.com to find first-season results of all WNBA teams – not counting 1997 when the league started – to see how well each new team performed.

 
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How First-Year WNBA Teams Fared

Team

First Season

Record, Win Pct.

Dallas Wings#

1998

17-13, .567

Washington Mystics

1998

3-27, .100

Connecticut Sun^

1999

15-17, .469

Minnesota Lynx

1999

15-17, .469

Indiana Fever

2000

9-23, .281

Seattle Storm

2000

6-26, .188

Miami Sol*

2000

13-19, .406

Portland Fire*

2000

10-22, .313

Chicago Sky

2006

5-29, .147

Atlanta Dream

2008

4-30, .118

#Wings franchise played in Detroit from 1998 to 2009 then in Tulsa from 2010 to 2015.

^Sun franchise played in Orlando from 1999 to 2002.

*Defunct franchise.

Not all teams played the same number of games in their inaugural seasons. The eight charter franchises from the league’s first season, 1997, are not included. Their winning percentages average out to .303 (total combined record of 97-223). Toronto would become the 14th franchise in the WNBA, which has had fluctuating membership over the years.

The new WNBA team would give Ontario a seventh professional top-tier sports franchise, joining the CFL’s Argonauts, MLB’s Blue Jays, MLS’ Toronto FC, NHL’s Maple Leafs, PWHL Toronto and the NBA’s Raptors. WNBA odds are available with Ontario sports betting apps.

WNBA Teams Inaugural Seasons

Since 1998, newfound WNBA teams have been firmly mired in mediocrity out of the gate. The 1998 Detroit Shock (now the Dallas Wings) were the lone club to post a record above .500, going 17-13 (.567) in its first season. The 10 expansion clubs between 1998 and 2008 had a combined first-year record of 97-223 (.303) during that span. None of them made the playoffs in their first season.

Luckily for Toronto’s hypothetical (at this point) WNBA expansion club is the fact that they’ll likely have a one-team expansion draft, because the San Francisco area team is starting in 2025 with Toronto arriving in 2026. That means Toronto’s team leadership will have better access to top talent from the current clubs in the women’s basketball league ahead of its first season, coming in two years.

Hopefully for Ontario basketball fans, the city’s WNBA team will have a better opening year than the Raptors did in 1995, when the NBA franchise went 21-61 (.256), which was the first of four straight sub-.500 seasons for the fledgling franchise. (See our Toronto Raptors draft odds for their current prospects.)

We checked Sports-Reference.com to find out how each Toronto-based team did during their first seasons, including the NHL, NBA, MLB and MLS.

 
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First-Year Toronto Team Results

Team

First Season

Record, Win Pct.

Toronto Maple Leafs*

1917

13-9-0, .591

Toronto Blue Jays

1977

54-107-0, .335

Toronto Raptors

1995

21-61, .256

Toronto FC

2007

6-7-17, .317

*The Maple Leafs franchise launched in 1917 as the Toronto Arenas and won the Stanley Cup in the NHL’s first season. Their first season as the Toronto Maple Leafs was 1927, with an 18-18-8 record and a fifth-place finish in the Canadian Division.

Baseball, men’s basketball and men’s soccer teams have all arrived in Canada’s largest city since 1977. Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC won just six of their 30 games in 2007, with seven draws and 17 losses for 25 points, which translates to a .317 winning percentage. The Raptors (a .256 winning percentage in 1995) and Blue Jays (a .335 win percentage in 1977) also had slow starts, which are typical of first-year expansion franchises in any sport.

The Leafs, by comparison, were an overnight success story, going 13-9-0 (.591) in 1917 in the then-fledgling NHL, winning the Stanley Cup in their first season.

That is the bar that the Toronto WNBA franchise will look to clear when it takes to the court for the first time in 2026. The team will give Canada its first taste of women’s professional basketball after years of waiting and at a time when interest in the league is rising. As for teams playing now, check out our Toronto Blue Jays playoff odds page at OntarioBets.com.

USA Today photo by Kirby Lee

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Author

Christopher Boan is a writer at OntarioBets.com. He's covered sports and sports betting in Arizona for more than seven years, including stops at ArizonaSports.com, the Tucson Weekly and the Green Valley News.

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