WNBA New Playoff Format Approved

NEW YORK, Nov. 18, 2021 – The WNBA Board of Governors approved changes to the league’s playoff format and postseason seeding, effective with the 2022 season, the WNBA announced today.  The reconfigured postseason structure will include three rounds of series-play using a best-of 3-5-5 format.

Beginning with the WNBA’s 26th season, the eight teams with the highest winning percentages over a 36-game schedule regardless of conference will qualify for the playoffs and be seeded based on their record. All eight playoff teams will participate in first-round, bracket-style play consisting of four best-of-three series.

In one bracket, first-round play will place the No. 1 seed facing the No. 8 seed and the No. 4 seed versus the No. 5 seed in a best-of-three series, with the winners advancing to a best-of-five semifinals series against one another. In the other bracket, the No. 3 seed will face the No. 6 seed and the No. 2 seed will meet the No. 7 seed, with the winners moving on to face one another in the other best-of-five semifinals series.

The winners of the semifinals series will then meet in the WNBA Finals, which also will be a best-of-five series, to determine the WNBA champion.

Additional elements regarding the playoff structure are as follows:

  • The number of playoff rounds shifts from four to three and no teams will receive a bye to start the postseason. Teams will not be reseeded following the first round.
  • The planned change for the first-round series games will include a 2-1 format in which the higher seed will host Games 1 and 2 and the lower seed will host Game 3 if necessary.
  • The new format will add eight potential games to the playoff footprint.
  • The semifinals and WNBA Finals will each remain unchanged as best-of-five series and follow the same 2-2-1 format whereby the higher seed hosts Games 1, 2 and 5, and the lower-seeded team will host Games 3 and 4 in their respective series.

“We have been evaluating different playoff formats over the past 12 months, and the new playoff format being announced today will enable fans to engage with all of the league’s best teams and top stars right from the start of the postseason with all eight championship contenders immediately involved in exciting, first-round action,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. “Following significant discussions with our Competition Committee and a Playoff subcommittee we formed last year, it was clear that while the prior format’s single-elimination games created a win-and-advance level of excitement to the start of the postseason, the new best-of-three series format will provide added opportunities to create and showcase rivalries with all playoff-eligible teams participating.”

The prior playoff format, adopted in 2016 consisted of four rounds using a 1-1-5-5 format, with two single elimination rounds and the No. 1 and 2 seeds receiving double-byes into the semifinals.  The new playoff format being announced today will provide the top eight teams with a consistent start to their playoff runs.

(courtesy WNBA)

About the WNBA

Having just completed its 25th season in 2021, the WNBA is a bold, progressive basketball league that stands for the power of women.  Featuring 12 teams, the W is a unique sports property that combines competition and entertainment with a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and social responsibility.  Through its world-class athletes, the in-game fan experience, TV and digital broadcasts, digital and social content and community outreach programs, the league celebrates and elevates the game of basketball and the culture around it.

In 2020, the WNBA and the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA) signed a groundbreaking eight-year CBA that charts a new course for women’s basketball—and women’s sports overall—with a focus on increased player compensation, improvements to the player experience, expanded career development opportunities, and resources specifically tailored to the female professional athlete. Key elements of the agreement are supported through the league’s new platform, WNBA Changemakers, with AT&T, the WNBA’s Marquee Partner and inaugural Changemaker, as well as fellow inaugural Changemakers Deloitte and Nike, and the recent addition of Google. During the 2020 season, the WNBA and WNBPA launched the WNBA Justice Movement forming the Social Justice Council with the mission of being a driving force of necessary change and continuing conversations about race and voting rights, among other important societal issues.  For more information, visit WNBA.com.

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