New WNBA fan? Here's a guide to the rising league

With the WNBA drawing new fans in droves, here's what to know about the league's size, playoff format and more.

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The WNBA enjoyed a record-setting season last year, and the league's trajectory continues to point upward early in the 2024 campaign.

A star-studded rookie class led by Caitlin Clark, Cameron Brink and Angel Reese helped The W put up big opening-week numbers in the viewership, attendance and digital media departments.

The first week of the new season saw a 14% increase in attendance from last year, with 10 sellouts. The New York Liberty's home opener versus Clark and the Indiana Fever made history as the first WNBA game to generate more than $2 million in ticket revenue as Barclays Center in Brooklyn was packed with more than 17,000 fans.

Meanwhile, five games shown on ESPN networks averaged 1.43 million viewers, which marked a 226% increase from the 2023 season average. The WNBA also saw massive gains in terms of league pass purchases (182% increase) and app downloads (146% increase).

With the WNBA drawing new fans in droves, here's what to know about the league's rules, schedule, playoff format and more:

When did the WNBA start?

The WNBA debuted in 1997 with eight teams. The first league champion was the now-disbanded Houston Comets, who went on to claim the first four WNBA titles.

Who is the WNBA logo player?

While the NBA logo features a silhouette of Jerry West, the WNBA logo isn't based on a specific player.

How much is WNBA League Pass?

WNBA League Pass, which provides fans access to out-of-market games, has two subscription options: $12.99 per month or $34.99 for the year.

For more information, check out the WNBA's website.

How many WNBA teams are there?

There are 12 WNBA franchises -- six in the Eastern Conference and six in the Western Conference:

Eastern Conference

Western Conference

  • Dallas Wings
  • Los Angeles Sparks
  • Las Vegas Aces
  • Minnesota Lynx
  • Phoenix Mercury
  • Seattle Storm
WNBA reporter Khristina Williams gives a 2024 season preview discussing which teams are championship contenders and why.

What expansion teams are joining the WNBA?

The WNBA will welcome the Golden State Valkyries to the league in 2025. The Valkyries will be the WNBA's first expansion team since the Atlanta Dream joined in 2008.

The W will then branch out beyond the U.S. border in 2026 when an expansion franchise based in Toronto joins the league as its 14th team.

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in April the league was aiming to have 16 franchises by 2026. Engelbert added she's "pretty confident" the WNBA will expand to 18 teams by 2028.

How many roster spots does a WNBA team have?

A team can have a maximum of 12 players on its roster.

How many games are in the WNBA season?

Each WNBA team plays 40 games -- 20 home and 20 away -- in the regular season.

How many minutes are in a WNBA quarter?

Games are 40 minutes long, broken up into four 10-minute quarters with a 24-second shot clock.

How many fouls to foul out in the WNBA?

Players are allowed up to five personal fouls, with a sixth one fouling them out of the game.

How many timeouts and challenges does a WNBA team get?

Each team gets one coach's challenge and is awarded a second challenge if the first one is successful. A team must have at least one timeout available in order to challenge.

Teams get five timeouts and one reset timeout. A reset timeout, which can be used in the final two minutes of regulation or in overtime, allows a team to advance the ball and make substitutions but not huddle up.

How does overtime work in the WNBA?

In the event of a tie score at the end of regulation, a game moves to five-minute overtime periods.

What is the WNBA Commissioner's Cup?

While the NBA debuted an in-season tournament this past regular season, the WNBA has been holding one for a few years called the Commissioner's Cup. The tournament divides the league up by conference and features a $500,000 prize pool for the players in the title game.

The Commissioner's Cup begins in June with Cup play, where each team plays the five other squads in its conference. The teams with the best records in their respective conferences in those five games advance to the championship game.

Unlike the NBA's version, the tournament championship isn't played at a neutral site. Instead, the team with the superior record in Cup play gets home-court advantage.

The championship is the only Commissioner's Cup game that doesn't count toward a team's regular-season schedule and record.

How long is the WNBA season?

The 2024 regular season runs from May to September. The league will take a month-long break for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

How many teams make the WNBA playoffs?

The top eight teams in the league -- regardless of conference -- qualify for the postseason.

How do the WNBA playoffs work?

The WNBA playoffs feature a three-round bracket format. In Round 1, the matchups by seed are 1-8, 2-7, 3-6 and 4-5. First-round series are best of three with a 2-1 format where the higher seed hosts Games 1 and 2.

The semifinals and Finals are best-of-five series with a 2-2-1 format where the higher seed hosts Games 1, 2 and 5.

What WNBA team has the most championships?

The Lynx and Storm are tied with the Comets for the most WNBA championships at four.

The Sparks, Wings -- formerly the Detroit Shock -- and Mercury have three championships apiece. The two-time reigning champion Aces, who are the only other franchise with multiple titles, can join that group by pulling off a three-peat this season.

With the draft complete, here’s a look at key dates going into the 2024 WNBA campaign.
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