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    Friday, June 21, 2024

    WNBA will pay for flights for playoffs and back-to-backs. Expansion to 16 teams possible by 2028

    WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert speaks to the media before the WNBA basketball draft on Monday, April 15, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

    New York — The WNBA will once again pay for charter flights for the entire playoffs as well as for back-to-back games during the upcoming season that require air travel, Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said Monday.

    There are more back-to-back sets this season with the WNBA taking a long break for the Olympics in late July and early August. The league spent $4 million on charters in 2023 and will do the same this year.

    “No one wants (charters) more than I do for these players. We need to be in the right financial position,” Engelbert said before the WNBA draft Monday night. “Just a few years ago we were surviving, now we're going from survive to thrive. We want to do it at the appropriate time.”

    Engelbert also said she hopes to have 16 teams in the league by 2028, up from the current 12. The WNBA is adding a team next year, when a Golden State franchise in San Francisco will join the league. Other cities or metropolitan areas that Engelbert said are in the running include Philadelphia; Toronto; Portland, Oregon; Denver; Nashville; and South Florida.

    “Our plan and goal is to get to 16 teams in the next few years,” she said.

    Engelbert said she got calls last week from two other cities the league hadn't been talking to.

    Golden State will get a chance to built its roster through an expansion draft.

    “It will happen before the college draft and we'll share more details when we get closer to that,” Engelbert said. “Talking to general managers and coaches and teams and owners, there will be an expansion draft this year and it will probably be in December.”

    Engelbert knows this year's draft has more household names like Caitlin Clark, who helped the NCAA reach its best viewership in history for women's basketball, with nearly 19 million fans watching the title game. Other well-known players being drafted include Angel Reese, Kamilla Cardoso and Cameron Brink.

    The commissioner noted that the WNBA bought ads that ran during NCAA Tournament broadcasts, starting with the Sweet 16.

    “I'm thrilled we have household names coming in,” Engelbert said. “We need to market around that.”

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