The WNBA’s expansion plans have been narrowed down to 10 cities with the goal of being announced by the end of the year

LAS VEGAS — The WNBA is about to expand. Exactly when and where these new franchises will be is getting closer to becoming a reality.

Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said Sunday, before the Las Vegas Aces took a 1-0 lead in the WNBA Finals, that the league has narrowed its focus to “about 10” cities that could host an expansion team. The WNBA had at least 100 cities under review where it did due diligence, Engelbert said.

As for when those teams could be announced, Engelbert said she and the league “would like to announce by the end of the year.” Earlier this year, Engelbert said the goal is two teams that could begin play as early as the 2025 season.

“We want to make sure the new ownership group is set up for success. So we’ll announce it when it’s right, when we’ve reached agreements with different ownership groups,” Engelbert said on Sunday. “But we’re still working hard on it, but it’s been a pretty intense season and we’re going to work even harder in the offseason.”

There are additional logistics besides the location that need to be determined.

“You have to find the right owners with the right capital,” Engelbert said. “We have to execute an expansion plan, we have to let our GMs know ahead of time and the head coaches what that’s going to be like. We are working on all of these. We have workflows around all of that.”

One of those expansion teams could be in the Bay Area. Yahoo Sports reported this summer on a bid by the African American Sports & Entertainment Group (AASEG) centered around the Oakland Coliseum Complex.

“Certainly the Bay Area, in general, including Oakland or San Francisco, is definitely on our list, high on our list,” Engelbert said. “… W is everywhere right now. But such a big market out there given women’s college basketball [is] very popular in the bay area. Yes, it’s definitely on the list.”

Other cities that could be frontrunners for an expansion team: Toronto, Philadelphia and Nashville.

WNBA Commissioner Kathy Engelbert speaks during a press conference prior to the 2022 WNBA Finals on Sept. 11, 2022, in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Engelbert announced the league will hold its first preseason game in Canada next season after previously having discussions before the COVID-19 pandemic and finalizing the most recent collective bargaining agreement in early 2020.

“I think the ease of traveling there during, again, an intense boot camp that we had made Canada attractive to us, again, it’s the demographics and the youth and the diversity of the country in some of these cities is the reason I’m going to start there,” Engelbert said. “But we would like to go into Europe, Asia, do an EMEA, an Asian tour at some point in the future as we build the financials of this league and the success of these players’ global brands.”

The WNBA last played internationally in 2011 when the Atlanta Dream played a preseason game in Manchester, England. The league also hosted a warm-up match in Monterrey, Mexico (2004).

Another expansion path would be to implement a developmental league, like the NBA with the G League. There is a pilot program, Force 10, for the 3×3 format that could become a viable path for the WNBA.

“It’s exciting. It’s outdoors. It’s fast, 10 minutes with a very short shot clock,” Engelbert said. “I know for those who studied it at the Olympics last year in Tokyo and the U.S. winning the first gold medal in that sport ever, it is the No. 1 most popular urban sport in the word.

“… Force 10 has been a leader, and you’ve seen other teams sponsoring teams on the 3×3 circuit. I’m really interested in the format and could see piloting it as part of WNBA Live in the future as part of All-Star [weekend].”

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