The WNBA changes its playoff format

The WNBA eliminate knockout games in the playoffs.

Starting in the 2022 season, the first round will consist of four best-of-three series to determine the semi-finalists. The WNBA Semifinals and Finals will both remain best-of-five series.

“This is exciting news for our league,” Connecticut Sun coach and general manager Curt Miller said Thursday. “The coaches and general managers strongly believed that our professional league deserves to play each round in a series format.”

Under the new format, the eight teams with the highest winning percentages across a 36-game schedule – regardless of conference – qualify for the postseason and are seeded by record.

In the first-round game, the top seed faces the eighth seed, and No. 4 meets No. 5, with the winners then facing each other in the semifinals. In the other box, No. 2 meets No. 7 and No. 3 meets No. 6, and those winners advance to the semifinals. These first-round series will be in the 2-1 format, with the highest seed serving at home in Games 1 and 2 and the lowest seed receiving Game 3, if necessary.

The WNBA Semifinals and Finals will continue under the 2-2-1 format, with the highest seed receiving Games 1, 2 and 5 and the lowest seed receiving Games 3 and 4.

“The new format was something that players, coaches, business operations and even fans were looking forward to as a series provides more opportunities to forge and showcase rivalries,” said Minnesota Lynx coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve. “It will also allow for further story development for all eight teams in the playoffs, highlighting the depth of the league’s talent, on the biggest stage in the league.”

Los Angeles Sparks coach and general manager Derek Fisher agreed, saying, “I am excited and grateful for the communication and vision shared between teams and league officials to finalize a WNBA playoff expansion. the playoffs make legends, and we wanted this more robust format for our players. “

This is the most recent change in the evolution of the WNBA playoffs since the league was created in 1997. The format from 2016 had byes for the top two seeds through the semifinals and knockout matches for the first and second rounds. This format first introduced the best-of-five semifinals.

Before that, from 2000 to 2015, the eight playoff teams were divided by division: four from the Eastern Conference and four from the Western Conference. The conference semifinals and finals were best of three. The WNBA Finals were a best of three until 2005, when they became a best of five.

The first three seasons of the WNBA all had different playoff formats as the league grew. In the league’s inaugural year, 1997, the WNBA had four teams in the playoffs with three knockout games to decide the champion.

In 1998, the league again took the four teams with the best records, but this time they played best-of-three series in the semifinals and the Finals.

In 1999, the league moved to a six-team postseason, taking the top three teams from each conference. The top seed from each conference received a bye to the best-of-three conference finals that year, with the 2-3 seeds playing a knockout game to face No. 1 there. The winners were then measured in the WNBA Finals.

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert had said throughout the 2021 season that the league was considering changing the playoff format for 2022, so Thursday’s announcement was not unexpected.

“We have been evaluating different playoff formats for the past 12 months, and the new playoff format being announced will allow fans to interact with all the best teams in the league and top stars since the start of the postseason with all eight contenders. to the championship immediately engaged in exciting first-round action, “Engelbert said in a statement.

“After significant discussions with our Competition Committee and a playoff subcommittee that we formed last year, it was clear that while the knockout games of the previous format created a very high level of excitement to kick off the postseason, the new format with series a best of three will provide additional opportunities to create and showcase rivalries with the participation of all teams eligible for the playoffs. “


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The WNBA changes its playoff format