Prior to Sunday’s AT&T All-Star Game, WNBA commissioner Cathy Englebert addressed the media during her pre-game press conference, in which she spoke about a variety of topics facing the league.
One of the main things Englebert announced was the increase in regular season games for the upcoming season. This past summer, the WNBA expanded the regular season to a record 36 games, which will last only one year, with the increase to 40 games adding an extra 4 games per team for the 2023 season. "We're seeing tremendous interest in the game, evidenced by viewership, and everything from the draft on to today," Engelbert said. "Our response to that also is to continue to try to grow, and we want to grow our footprint. Beginning next season, we're going to play 40 games. ... On the 40 games, I would love to do that consistently every year," Engelbert continued. "I'd like to go to 44 at some point when we have a good footprint to do that." The current WNBA collective bargaining agreement allows for up to 44 games per season but in seasons with major tournaments happening, such as the Olympics or FIBA Women’s World Cup, this may not be possible. The league is able to have 40 games next season as there are no major tournaments happening.
In addition, Englebert revealed teams will fly on charter planes for the 2022 Finals. Earlier this year, the New York Liberty owners were fined $500,000 for providing their players with charter planes. The topic of travel is something that has been a point of concern for teams for a while, with Las Vegas coach Becky Hammon mentioning it as a major issue in her All-Star game pregame news conference. In Engelbert's first year as commissioner, she organized charter flights for playoff teams that had to cross multiple time zones with a day or less turnaround time. Englebert also said, “In the spirit of finding other ways to compensate our players, we're planning to increase the postseason bonus pools by almost 50 percent to a half-million dollars. That would almost double the bonus for each player who wins the championship.”
Another thing that Englebert announced was that there will be an expansion before 2025. Englebert has previously stated that she hoped to add two teams for the 2024 season and that there were 10 or 12 cities that were being considered. While 2024 is still her goal, Englebert said “I’m hoping that it’ll be a couple [of] teams by no later than ‘25, but I’d love it in ‘24, but probably looking out to that kind of timeline, and again, lots of cities interested.” When discussing potential markets being considered, Englebert said they have about “100 cities through a lens of psychographics, demographics, arena, NCAA fandom, current WNBA fandom, merch sales, viewership.” Englebert added that Philadelphia was one of the cities being considered, but declined to go into any further detail. She was also asked if local politics will play a part in choosing where the expansion teams will come from. "Obviously, we continue to advocate for gender and health equity, especially in communities of color, and access and reproductive health care," she said, “When we do our analysis of those hundred cities and run it through our psychographics and demographics, that comes through as a very important element as to how diverse the city is, what the support is around the city and state.”