WNBA reveals record 36-game schedule for 2022

    Mechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.

The WNBA announced Thursday that it will start its 2022 regular season on Friday, May 6, and conclude it on Sunday, Aug. 14, followed by the playoffs.

The schedule accounts for finishing before the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup that begins in September in Australia. The broadcast and streaming schedules for the WNBA’s 26th season will be released at a later date.

The WNBA will play a 36-game regular season and have an All-Star Game on Sunday, July 10, and the second rendition of the Commissioner’s Cup championship game on Tuesday, July 26. It will be the most regular-season games the league has ever played.

Last season, the WNBA had a 32-game schedule. It was 34 games from 2003 to 2019, and 22 games in the 2020 bubble season in Bradenton, Florida, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As was this case this past season, the 2022 schedule will incorporate steps to reduce travel, including the use of a series model.

In some cases in which a team is scheduled to play twice in the same city, the games are scheduled to be played consecutively. The league announced changes to its playoff format last month; the WNBA will return to all-series play in the postseason and no longer have single-elimination games.

“The 36-game schedule will provide fans greater opportunities to see the best players in the world compete at the highest level,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement. “And year two of the Commissioner’s Cup brings added incentive to the first half of the season for players and teams, while offering fans conference rivalry competition through which to support their favorite teams.”

Opening night will include a matchup of defending champion Chicago vs. Los Angeles, as the Sky’s Candace Parker faces her former team. Runner-up Phoenix will take on Las Vegas in a rematch of their semifinal series last season.

The WNBA has adjusted its schedule over the years to finish earlier to account for the fall-based FIBA World Cup, in which the United States is the defending champion. In Olympic years like this past season, the WNBA takes a monthlong break and resumes play after the Summer Games.

The WNBA’s draft lottery will be at 3 p.m. ET on Dec. 19 on ESPN involving the Indiana Fever, Atlanta Dream, Washington Mystics and Dallas Wings.

On Jan. 15, WNBA teams can begin negotiating with free agents; they can start signing them on Feb. 1.

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