WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert 'pretty confident' league will have 16 teams by 2028 season

Fiifi Frimpong, New York Daily News on

Published in Basketball

NEW YORK — Moments before introducing the newest crop of superstars into the WNBA, commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced her plan to have 16 teams for the start of the 2028 season. The commissioner said she’s pretty confident in the league adding four more franchises, which would create 48 more roster spots around the league.

“We’re talking to a lot of different cities,” the commissioner said Monday. “It’s complex because you need an arena, a practice facility and player housing and all those things. You need committed long-term ownership groups.”

Currently, the league intends to have a Golden State team for the 2025 season, making it the first new franchise to join the WNBA since 2008. She added that 2026 is a target year to expand to 14 teams.

The commissioner mentioned Philadelphia, Toronto, Portland, Denver, Nashville and South Florida as possible suitors to land a WNBA franchise in the future.

League expansion will require the WNBA to hold an expansion draft, which is set to take place this calendar year.

“So probably in December because it has to happen before the college draft,” Engelbert said. “We’ll share more details as we get closer to that.”

Player facilities

Player facilities in the WNBA are a hot topic, with numerous players opting to join franchises (via trade or free agency) with upgraded facilities.

“Yeah, I think everybody is watching those teams that are investing in the player experience. There’s a variety of things in player experience that can attract a player in free agency,” Engelbert said.


The Liberty, Phoenix Mercury, Las Vegas Aces and the Seattle Storm are among teams that have new facilities. This offseason, the Storm formed a star-studded roster by signing All-Stars Nneka Ogwumike and Skylar Diggins-Smith. Last offseason, the Liberty benefitted from upgraded player experience by adding MVP Breanna Stewart and former MVP Jonquel Jones.

On the flip side, the Chicago Sky are one of the teams yet to implement their reported plans of a facility. This offseason, the team lost franchise corner Kahleah Copper via trade with the Mercury.

“I think everybody is looking for an advantage to bring in free agents because the one thing I know these long-term committed owners of the W want: They want to win a championship,” Engelbert said. “So I think practice facilities and other player experience have become more important as you seek free agents in the marketplace.”

Charter flight update

Engelbert didn’t announce plans for year-long chartered flights for WNBA players. But she said chartered flights will once again be provided throughout the postseason and for the Commissioner’s Cup. Chartered flights will also be provided to teams traveling on back-to-backs, with more of those games being on schedule due to this summer’s Olympic break.

The commissioner said the league spent $4 million on chartered flights last season.

“As we build the momentum and build the economic model to fund that longer term — there’s nobody that want’s that more than I do for these player,” Engelbert said. “But we have to be in the right financial decision. We’re not going to jeopardize the financial viability of this league.”


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