The WNBA, fresh off a historic bargaining agreement, has announced some more new changes involving an expanded regular-season schedule and the new Commissioner’s Cup in-season tournament.
The first major part of the announcement was the expansion of the regular-season schedule. Between the league’s first eight seasons, the schedule had grown from 28 to 34, where it had stayed since 2003. Starting with the 2020 season, each team will now play a 36-game schedule.
The second — and potentially biggest — part of the announcement was the introduction of the inaugural Commissioner’s Cup tournament. The tournament will.consist of designating a portion of regular-season games (10 per team) as counting toward Cup play. The team from each conference with the best record in said “Cup games” will then meet for The Commissioner Cup title (tentatively scheduled for August 14, two days before resuming regular-season play following the Olympic break) and a special pool prize.
The “Cup games” will be the first home game and first road game each team plays against its five conference rivals, all completed from May 15 – July 10 before the WNBA takes a monthlong break while many WNBA players participate in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan, including the USA Basketball Women’s National Team, which will be competing for its seventh consecutive gold medal.
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Englebert expressed optimism and excitement as she discussed how the new tournament can help expand the league’s fanbase.
“We are incredibly excited to introduce a first-of-its-kind in-season tournament for our league and present more regular-season games on ABC, increasing the WNBA’s national television exposure,” Englebert said in a written statement. “The Commissioner’s Cup offers fans another competition through which to support their favorite teams and adds a new dimension to the season for our players and teams. And the 2020 schedule gives fans even more opportunities to see the best players in the world compete at the highest level and highlights the ABC/ESPN family’s continued commitment to the WNBA and women’s sports.”
The Thursday announcement also came with news of an increase of nationally televised games on ABC – five this season, up from three last year. All in all, ESPN networks will air 17 regular-season games and up to 19 playoff games, all of which will be available for live streaming on the ESPN app.
“We are honored to once again offer fans an extensive slate of WNBA matchups this season, with games on ESPN/ESPN2 and an increase on ABC,” said Carol Stiff, ESPN vice president of programming and acquisitions. “The WNBA continues to be a priority for ESPN, as it has been since its launch. We look forward to working hand-in-hand with the league, elevating women’s professional basketball to new heights.”