06 Jan

Everything you need to know, from start date to the Olympic break

After announcing changes to the Commissioner’s Cup format on Monday morning, the WNBA released the full 2024 regular-season schedule in the afternoon. Opening night is set for May 14 and will feature four games, including the defending champion Las Vegas Aces hosting the Phoenix Mercury.

For a second consecutive season, teams will play 40 games, which marked a record-high last season. Despite the 2024 Olympics, which will require a mid-season break, the All-Star game will take place, as will the Commissioner’s Cup, as the league looks to capitalize on a record-setting and thrilling 2023 campaign.

“We eagerly anticipate tipping off the 2024 season and building on the success of last season, our most-watched in 21 years and a record-setter for social media engagement, digital consumption, All-Star merchandise sales and sports betting,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a press release. “Free agency and the 2024 WNBA Draft are sure to create excitement, and the new format to the Commissioner’s Cup will provide fans a great opportunity to see the best players in the world compete for bragging rights and prize money early in the season.”

Ahead of all the action, here’s everything you need to know about the 2024 WNBA schedule:

When does the season begin?
Opening night is set for May 14, which is slightly earlier than last season to help accomodate the Olympic break and the extended 40-game schedule. The four games will feature last season’s finalists as well as three of the four lottery picks. Here’s a look at the full opening night slate:

New York Liberty at Washington Mystics, 7 p.m. ET
Indiana Fever at Connecticut Sun, 8 p.m. ET
Phoenix Mercury at Las Vegas Aces, 10 p.m. ET
Minnesota Lynx at Seattle Storm, 10 p.m. ET
Note: Broadcast information has not yet been released for any games.

Will there be an All-Star Game?
Yes, the 2024 All-Star Game is set for July 20 in Phoenix, with the Mercury hosting for the third time in franchise history. This is notable because for much of the league’s history, the All-Star Game has been cancelled during Olympic years. Furthermore, the event will be a chance for a new-look Mercury franchise to reintroduce itself to the basketball world.

“As I’ve said from Day 1, we are going to make Phoenix one of the leading basketball destinations in the world, and the 2024 WNBA All-Star Game is going to be an unbelievable experience,” Mat Ishbia, who bought the Mercury and Phoenix Suns earlier this year, said in July when the All-Star announcement was made.

“As the women’s game continues to grow and reach new heights, we are going to put on an All-Star weekend that will accelerate that growth and elevate the league. I want to thank the WNBA and the entire Phoenix community for coming together to help bring the WNBA All-Star Game to the Valley. I couldn’t be more excited to show the world what Phoenix basketball is all about.”

Further details regarding All-Star weekend have not yet been announced. The league has largely been using a captain’s picks format in recent years, though it’s worth noting that in 2021, the last time there was an All-Star Game during an Olympic year, the game was played between Team USA and Team WNBA.

What about the Commissioner’s Cup?
The WNBA debuted its in-season competition, the Commissioner’s Cup, back in 2021, but it has failed to capture anyone’s attention in the way the NBA’s inaugural In-Season Tournament did. That none of the championship games have been competitive certainly hasn’t helped the WNBA’s cause, but neither has the drawn-out, byzantine format.

As a result, two big changes are coming to the cup this season:

Each team will play five Commissioner’s Cup games — down from 10 — against each of its in-conference rivals
All five games will be played in a two-week period from June 1-13. Previously, games were spread out over multiple months
“The newly designed, concentrated structure for this in-season tournament adds an increased sense of urgency and excitement,” Engelbert stated in a press release.

All Commissioner’s Cup games will still count as regular-season games, as has been the case, and qualifying for the championship remains the same: The team from each conference with the best record in cup games gets in. Furthermore, a $500,000 prize pool remains up for grabs.

The championship will be played on June 25 and hosted by the team with the best record in cup games.

What’s going to happen when the Olympics roll around?
The vast majority of basketball leagues around the world, both men and women, start in the fall and end in the spring, which is why major international tournaments are scheduled for the summer. The WNBA, of course, plays in the summer, and as such routinely has to alter its schedule to give players the opportunity to represent their countries.

That is no different this season. With the 2024 Olympics set to take place in Paris from July 26-Aug. 11, the WNBA will pause for a mid-season break from July 21-Aug. 14. Team USA will be competing for a record eighth consecutive Olympic gold medal.

Play will resume on Aug. 15 with a three-game slate.

Are there any other key dates to know?
Jan. 21: Teams can begin negotiating with free agents
Feb. 1: Teams can officially sign players to new contracts
April 15: 2024 WNBA Draft
April 28: Training camps open
May 5: Preseason games begin
Aug. 8: Trade deadline
Sept. 19: Regular season ends

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