NEW YORK — The WNBA’s playoff format change has officially been approved, the league announced Thursday.
Starting in 2022, there won’t be any more single-elimination playoff games. There won’t be any single or double byes, either. Instead, the new format will consist of three rounds of playoffs in which the first is a best-of-three series and the semifinals and WNBA Finals continue to be best-of-five matchups.
The move comes after an exciting 2021 playoffs that left fans, players and pundits complaining about the lack of opportunity for more action. Everyone simply wanted more as single-elimination rounds in the first two of four rounds didn’t allow for drama to develop.
The Liberty, Storm, Lynx, and even the Wings, could have benefited from a best-of-three matchup. The Libs, who backed into the playoffs, lost their first-round game by one point and had the Mercury on the ropes down to the wire. And the Storm lost to the Mercury by five points in their second-round meeting. Both teams would have still had a shot under the new format.
“We have been evaluating different playoff formats over the past 12 months,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement, “and the new playoff format being announced today will enable fans to engage with all of the league’s best teams and top stars right from the start of the postseason with all eight championship contenders immediately involved in exciting, first-round action.
“Following significant discussions with our Competition Committee and a Playoff subcommittee we formed last year, it was clear that while the prior format’s single-elimination games created a win-and-advance level of excitement to the start of the postseason, the new best-of-three series format will provide added opportunities to create and showcase rivalries with all playoff-eligible teams participating.”
The format the W played under in 2021 was originally adopted in 2016 and did away with the traditional Eastern and Western Conference-based playoffs. The eight teams with the best records regardless of conference made the postseason. The Liberty (12-20) were the No. 8 seed in 2021. The new format will still include the top eight teams.
While the single-elimination games were exciting this season, and the byes gave the top teams something to play for down the stretch, the new format is a positive step for the league.