The WNBA has finally announced an expansion franchise. Set to begin play in 2025, the new team will be based in the Bay Area.
At long last, the WNBA will expand. After years of debating the topic and exploring potential cities, the league announced on Thursday that the Bay Area will be the site of the league’s next expansion franchise.
The team will begin play in 2025 alongside a second new franchise announcement expected to be confirmed soon. Though nothing is official regarding this additional WNBA expansion team, Howard Megdal of The Next reports that it will be based in Portland, Oregon.
“We are thrilled about expanding to the Bay Area and bringing the WNBA to a region with passionate basketball fans and a strong history of supporting women’s basketball,” Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a press release. “Joe Lacob, Peter Guber, and their leadership team know how to build and operate a world-class organization, as witnessed by the immense success the Warriors’ franchise has enjoyed from both a business and basketball perspective over the last decade. Their interest in joining the WNBA family is yet another sign of the league’s growth potential.”
The San Francisco Bay Area has long been speculated as an expansion city, and with Golden State Warriors‘ ownership group led by Lacob and Guber set to own the team, the WNBA felt confident that the investment and energy is there to give athletes a top-flight experience.
“We’re coming in here, No. 1, to win,” Joe Lacob, the Warriors’ chairman and governor, told ESPN. “No. 2, we want to see this league and women’s basketball grow, and we hope to be a big part of it.
Though this is the first time the WNBA has expanded since 2008, it comes at an opportune time for the league. Interest in women’s basketball has boomed over the last few seasons, culminating in a 2023 NCAA Tournament that shattered ratings records and introduced even casual fans to the professional stars of tomorrow like Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese. Clark, along with fellow phenom Paige Bueckers, will be eligible for the WNBA Draft after this season, but both also have the option to return to school. That could make either of them franchise cornerstones for expansion clubs.
With only 12 teams currently in the WNBA, highly qualified women’s basketball players — even top 10 draft picks — are being shut out of the league. A 13th and 14th team will create 24 more roster spots for a league quickly gaining popularity. The Bay Area and Portland will also ease the travel burden for the Seattle Storm, who have been geographically isolated from the rest of the league. The Las Vegas Aces are currently the closest team to the Storm at more than 1,100 miles away.
The WNBA will make the news official Thursday afternoon with a joint press conference with the Warriors.
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