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Saturday, March 2, 2024

WNBA Expansion: Portland Setback Opens Door For Several Cities

  • The WNBA's plans to expand to Portland are on hold for the time being.
  • Cities like Denver could emerge as potential markets for a 2025 launch date.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Portland’s on the backburner as the WNBA looks for its next expansion market, creating an unexpected opportunity for another city to quickly capitalize on the growth of women’s sports.

While Portland could still be considered for a WNBA team down the road, the league in all likelihood needs to find a different city to pair with the incoming Bay Area club as the 13th and 14th WNBA teams in 2025. 

“The goal is to add a second one or a 14th team by 2025,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Englebert said ahead of last month’s WNBA Finals. At the time, Portland had been reported as the league’s choice but not formally announced. 

Englebert confirmed she had made a visit to Oregon, along with Denver, in her review of interested markets. She also specifically called out Toronto — which had a sellout crowd at the Raptors’ 20,000-seat Scotiabank Arena for a preseason game this spring — as well as Philadelphia, Charlotte, Austin and Nashville, in that order.

It’s unclear if the WNBA has made formal visits beyond Portland and Denver, which could make Colorado the new frontrunner for 2025. Englebert has been clear that there would be no more than two additions to the league during this round of expansion, and her top priorities are “the right mix of the ownership group with the arena situation.”

Still, there could be further expansion opportunities later this decade. Atlanta Dream managing partner Larry Gottesdiener recently told Front Office Sports that he would like to see the WNBA double its current footprint to 24 teams.

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