FILE PHOTO: Oct 6, 2020; Bradenton, Florida, USA; Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart (30) is presented with the MVP trophy by WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert after the 2020 WNBA Finals at IMG Academy. Mandatory Credit: Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo
July 14, 2021
By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) – The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) hopes to have more concrete expansion plans in place by this time next year after the COVID-19 pandemic delayed progress, Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said on Wednesday.
Engelbert, speaking to reporters ahead of Wednesday’s WNBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas, said growing the 12-team league remains a priority.
“This would be something I would be talking with you more seriously about if it wasn’t for the pandemic,” Engelbert told reporters.
“We are evaluating it constantly. I would say about this time next year we will be talking a lot more seriously about what that path looks like, how many teams, where, what cities.”
The WNBA began play in 1997 with eight teams, grew to 16 clubs by 2000 before dropping back down to 12 clubs after several franchises folded due to financial hardship.
Engelbert said several data-driven factors will go into deciding on the next place to put a WNBA team, including fans and the popularity of the game at college level in potential markets.
“We are starting that analysis but nothing yet to commit to,” said Engelbert. “Nothing yet to talk about other than I do think I’d like to consider it, you know when you are only in 12 markets and you are in a country of our size and scale and there are some cities where you would think a WNBA team would thrive.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis)