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WNBA expansion timeline, explained: When to expect Toronto, Golden State teams to join league | Sporting News



WNBA expansion timeline, explained: When to expect Toronto, Golden State teams to join league | Sporting News

The WNBA is getting bigger.

The 12-team league is gaining fans in droves — and it’s also adding new teams to the mix. Two franchises will be added in upcoming seasons to bring the total to 14, with the potential for more on the horizon.

“Our plan is to get to 16 teams in the next few years,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said ahead of the 2024 season.

When will the two newest franchises take the court? And where will they be located? Here’s everything you need to know about the WNBA’s expansion plans.

MORE: Everything we know about WNBA expansion plans for Toronto

WNBA expansion history

The WNBA started with eight teams in its inaugural 1997 season.

The league reached as many as 16 teams in 2000, but the Miami Sol and Portland Fire folded after the 2002 season, bringing the total down to 14. The number of teams hovered at 13 or 14 through 2009, as several franchises folded (Charlotte Sting, Houston Comets) but others joined (Chicago Sky, Atlanta Dream.) 

The Sacramento Monarchs folded after the 2009 season, leaving the league with its current 12-team structure.

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When will WNBA expand to 14 teams?

The WNBA has officially announced one expansion team: Golden State, which is set to start play in 2025. And a second expansion team will follow in Toronto in 2026, CBC reported on May 10.

The Golden State team will join the NBA’s Warriors in the San Francisco Bay Area, the WNBA announced in October. The WNBA team will be called the Valkyries and operate under the same ownership pairing of Joe Lacob and Peter Guber.

“We’re coming in here, number one, to win,” Warriors chairman Joe Lacob said. “Number two, we want to see this league and women’s basketball grow, and we hope to be a big part of it.”

The Golden State WNBA team will play its games at Chase Center in San Francisco and will be headquartered in Oakland, utilizing the practice facility and front office used by the Warriors from 1997-2019.

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The Toronto expansion franchise also will have an ownership link to its city’s NBA team.

Kilmer Sports Inc. — which “has been granted an expansion franchise,” per CBC — is led by Larry Tanenbaum. Tanenbaum, 79, is a minority owner of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Raptors, Maple Leafs and several other Toronto sports teams. When the MLSE board turned down the prospect of a WNBA team, Tanenbaum pursued the opportunity separately.

An official announcement of the expansion franchise is expected on May 23 in Toronto, CBC reported. The team will play at Coca-Cola Coliseum, an 8,000-seat arena, again according to CBC.

The WNBA saw an increase of viewership, attendance, and engagement in 2023, and excitement is only expected to grow with the arrival of major college basketball stars Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese, Kamilla Cardoso, and Cameron Brink for the 2024 season.

“I’m thrilled we have household names coming in,” Engelbert said in April. “We need to market around that.”

As that growth continues, Engelbert is eyeing more than just Golden State joining the WNBA ranks. She sees as many as two additional teams joining the league by 2028, per the Associated Press. Options for expansion include Philadelphia, Portland, Denver, Nashville and South Florida.

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