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Sunday, April 21, 2024
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WNBA Already Beginning To Think About More Rounds Of Expansion

  • Commissioner looking beyond planned addition of 13th, 14th teams in 2025.
  • League has lengthy list of candidate cities seeking franchises.
Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

With the WNBA’s forthcoming Bay Area expansion team now set and another likely soon for Portland, the league is considering adding even more teams. 

As the WNBA began its highly anticipated superteam Finals matchup between the Las Vegas Aces and New York Liberty on Sunday, commissioner Cathy Engelbert said the league has started plotting out potential scenarios for subsequent rounds of expansion. 

Last week’s announcement revealed that the Bay Area team, yet to be named, will kick off in 2025. The WNBA’s 14th team is poised to join the league in the same year, with a formal announcement expected before year-end.

But Engelbert is also looking beyond that.

“The goal is to add that 14th team, not more, for 2025,” she said. “But obviously, longer-term, I’ve said my goal is to get this league additional teams in additional cities that we think would be great. It’s a really good problem to have. We have a lot of interest, which is why we haven’t announced the 14th team yet.”

Other potential expansion candidates include Austin, Charlotte, Denver, Nashville, Philadelphia, and Toronto.

The Portland bid, however, is reported to have reached the WNBA Board of Governors. The market had the Fire between 2000-02, but the league is in a far stronger position now, and Oregon has proven itself to be a fertile market for women’s basketball. 

Inflection Points

The next round of expansion also lines up with the expiration of the WNBA’s current media rights deal with ESPN and parent company Disney. The league will be looking to use ongoing increases in key metrics such as attendance and national television viewership to secure a hefty rights fee increase well beyond that agreement’s $25 million annual value.

“Again, ’25 is an important year. But we’ve been doing a lot of work in the meantime to prepare ourselves for that, and that’s why growing the league … has been so important leading into those negotiations,” she said. 

In another sign of growth for the WNBA, celebrity sightings at Game 1 of the Finals included LeBron James, Mark Wahlberg, and Tom Brady, who is also part of the Aces ownership group

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