London's young female soccer players thrilled for Canada's pro women's league

Whitecaps London player Cindy Lee believes a women's national soccer league will give lots of opportunities to female players. (Isha Bhargava/CBC News - image credit)
Whitecaps London player Cindy Lee believes a women's national soccer league will give lots of opportunities to female players. (Isha Bhargava/CBC News - image credit)

Cindy Lee, 15, has played soccer for most of her life as a defensive midfielder for the Whitecaps London club, and hopes to someday represent team Canada at a future women's World Cup.

And that dream came one step closer to her when she heard a national professional league is underway for 2025. Lee believes it'll open up lots of doors for female athletes like herself looking to pursue to the sport as a career.

"It's time for diversity and more employment opportunities," she said. "There's so much talent in this country and this will unlock lots of new talent and build off older ones as well."

On Monday, soccer stars Christine Sinclair and Diana Matheson shared plans with CBC's The National of launching a domestic league, featuring eight teams throughout Canada. Two of those will be the Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Calgary Foothills Soccer Club.

For Lee, the sport has helped her build lifelong connections with her teammates, but also develop skills in all other areas of life, she said.

"We can all just come together and work towards a common goal. Even if you're playing on opposite sides of the team, you're all playing a sport for fun, trying to compete in a friendly competition," she added.

Isha Bhargava/CBC News
Isha Bhargava/CBC News

15-year-old Portia Metcalfe thinks it's an exciting time for women in all of kinds of sports. She will definitely try to qualify for the league, she said.

"It's important to show player development and see different talents, and having a new team is pretty cool," she said "Soccer's an interesting sport and it's very motivating to get up and play."

A chance to develop local players

Lee and Metcalfe's coach, Robyn Brady, sees the new league as an opportunity for young local players to develop their talent and continue with the sport well into their adult years.

"Right now, if girls want to play past college or at some kind of professional level, they have to do that outside of this country, because there's not a whole lot of opportunities for female players to do that here," she said.

Many of Brady's athletes are at a prime age to qualify for the league, since many of them will head to university in the coming years. Having the option of joining a league available to them is exciting news, she said.

Isha Bhargava/CBC News
Isha Bhargava/CBC News

Brady finds this limits ways in which she and other coaches can develop young players because the pool of local soccer athletes is much lower. But this limitation also applies to coaches.

"The important thing for the league is not only just giving opportunities to players, but also coaches in our country and to develop coaching as well, which will only better our youth program," Brady said.

Lee is confident that the women's team has a strong chance of making it to a World Cup someday soon with all the talent-seeking happening across the country, but knows it'll be competitive.

"I'm just going to try my hardest and have fun in soccer right now but I hope to see a lot of my teammates also build their way up there," she said.