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WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert: League is ‘pretty confident’ it will expand to 16 teams by 2028 season

In Sports
April 16, 2024
WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert speaks to the media before the WNBA basketball draft on Monday, April 15, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert speaks to the media before the 2024 WNBA Draft on Monday, April 15, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

NEW YORK — The WNBA is “pretty confident” it will expand to 16 teams by the 2028 season, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said ahead of the WNBA Draft on Monday.

The league will play its upcoming 28th season with 12 teams. The league announced in October a Bay Area expansion team will enter the league for 2025. The expansion draft will happen this calendar year, likely in December, Engelbert said. The goal is to add a 14th team in 2026.

“That [adding four teams] will add 48 roster spots in just a couple of years,” Engelbert said. “That, in a league of 144, is a lot. That’s 30 percent. I think it’ll be great when we get those done over the next couple years.”

Engelbert said during the WNBA Finals she expected a 14th team to be added by 2025, but said in February the league would instead remain at 13. The number of expansion teams has been a moving target since she first mentioned it in 2021.

Engelbert said Philadelphia, Toronto, Denver, Nashville and South Florida are potential landing spots.

“Those are the cities we’re talking to,” Engelbert said. “But just last week we got calls from two other cities. These can either take a very long time to negotiate or can happen pretty quickly if you find the right ownership group with the right arena situation.”

Many of the rookies drafted Monday will not make regular-season rosters because there are so few open spots. There are between 132 and 144 total roster spots depending on if teams carry the minimum 11, which many do for salary cap reasons instead of keeping the maximum 12. Only 15 of the 36 players drafted in 2023 played in WNBA games.

Most teams use short-term hardship contracts throughout the season when players are injured. Engelbert said she would rather expand the league through teams than expand roster sizes, which is something players have suggested.

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