For years WNBA fans have begged the league for a new expansion team and finally the WNBA has delivered. WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced that the seven-time NBA champion Golden State Warriors have been awarded a WNBA expansion team. The league announced that its 13th team will be added to the Bay Area and will begin play in the 2025 season. This expansion franchise is the first team to join the league since 2008.At its largest, the WNBA had 16 teams in 2000, but has stalled at 12 since 2010.
Another expansion team is expected to be announced later this year, likely in Portland. This additional franchise would also begin playing in 2025. Engelbert has stated that the league's goal is to have 14 teams by 2025. The last time the league had 14 teams was 2008 when the now folded Sacramento Monarchs and Houston Comets were still playing. At 12 teams currently, the league has a maximum of 144 players, at 12 per team, so adding these new franchises will open up more roster spots. Bringing an expansion team to the Bay Area will reestablish a previous market. The Sacramento Monarchs were an original franchise from 1997 to 2009, including a championship in 2005. Portland also used to have a franchise, The Portland Fire, which was added in 2000, but folded shortly after in 2002.
The Golden State Warriors’ expansion team will be owned and operated by Warriors Co-Executive Chairman and CEO Joe Lacob and Co-Executive Chairman Peter Guber. The team will play their home games at the Chase Center in San Francisco; the home court of Golden State. The Warriors’ Oakland practice facility which housed the Warriors’ front office and practice facility from 1997-2019 will be used as the expansion team’s headquarters.
The Warriors are set to become the sixth NBA franchise to own a WNBA team, alongside the Washington Wizards (Washington Mystics), Brooklyn Nets (New York Liberty), Indiana Pacers (Indiana Fever), Phoenix Suns (Phoenix Mercury), and Minnesota Timberwolves (Minnesota Lynx).
Both Engelbert and Warriors personnel refused to disclose the expansion fee the Warriors paid, but Engelbert commented that it was "a record-breaking expansion fee" for the league, along with other significant investments that have to be made when building a WNBA franchise. The 2023 season made history, breaking records in viewership, attendance, and digital engagement. Even the offseason showed improvement with the most-viewed WNBA Draft since 2004, a sold-out preseason game in Toronto, and the most-watched regular season game since 2002. The WNBA also enjoyed an increase in sponsorships including CarMax and ION. This increase in fans and funds proves that now is the perfect time to capitalize on the increasing attention and build the league. Adding franchises now will be wise as the league will strike while the iron is hot, especially with the influx of talent in the upcoming draft years. As players like Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese, Hailey Van Lith, and Cameron Brink go pro, hopefully college ball fans will follow them to the WNBA. As college players get better, more will deserve to play professionally and more roster spots will be needed, hence the need for more teams.
How Golden State will create its roster is still undecided, but will be discussed when the competition committee and board of governors meet. Engelbert said it is likely an expansion draft will happen in late 2024, after the draft lottery for the 2025 draft. We can look at past expansion teams to know what to expect in an expansion draft. In 2008, the Atlanta Dream created their first 13 player roster through an expansion draft. The draft was held in February before free agency. The team selected players from a pool of options from the other 13 teams.
Each team was allowed to protect up to six players from drafting by Atlanta. The Dream was allowed to select one player from each team despite contract status, but they couldn’t select multiple unrestricted free agents. Atlanta could then “core” that unrestricted free agent.
The new name and mascot of the franchise have yet to be announced, but WNBA fans know all they need to know. The WNBA is finally growing for the first time in over a decade; right before a crop of generational talent gets ready to be drafted. And it's about time.