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WNBA introduces new playoff format

WNBA: Finals-Washington Mystics at Seattle Storm
Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

After a successful 25th anniversary season, the WNBA has announced a new playoff format for its 26th season. This is the third time in league history and the first time in five years that they have presented a new playoff structure.

Since 2016, the WNBA did away with a by conference playoff seeding system in favor of the top eight teams in the league clinching a playoff berth.

In the previous playoff format, the top third and fourth seeds got a bye to the second round of the playoffs and the top two seeds got a bye to the semifinal round.

In the first round, the fifth seed would play the eight seed and the sixth seed played the seventh seed in a single-elimination game.

The highest seed winner advanced the play the third seed while the lower seed advanced to play the fourth seed in the second round which was also single-elimination.

In the semifinal round, the highest seed advanced to face the number one seed and the lower seed advanced to play the second seed in a best-of-five series.

New WNBA Playoff format

WNBA: Chicago Sky-Championship Rally
Oct 19, 2021; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Sky guard Diamond DeShields (1) during the Chicago Sky celebration at Millennium Park. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

As part of the new playoff format, it will operate similar to the NBA playoffs’ current format with three rounds instead of four

The first round will see the one-seed play the eight-seed, the two-seed play the seven-seed, third play the sixth and fourth play the fifth in a best-of-three series. There will be no conference seeding.

The winners of each series will advance to the semifinal roundm still operating under a best-of-five format with those winners advancing to the WNBA Finals which will also still be best-of-five.

“We have been evaluating different playoff formats over the past 12 months, 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.”

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert on the new playoff format