The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) is the premier women’s professional basketball league in the United States. As interest in women’s sports continues to grow, more and more fans are tuning in to watch WNBA games. One common question new fans have is how many games do WNBA teams play in a season?
The WNBA regular season and schedule have evolved over the league’s 25+ year history. When the league first launched in 1997, teams played 28 games in the regular season. This increased to 34 games per team in 1998 and 1999. From 2000 to 2002, the number of games played was 32.
In 2003, the WNBA shifted to a 34-game schedule where each team played 17 home games and 17 away games. This format continued through the 2009 season. Then in 2010, the regular season expanded to 34 games with teams playing 17 home and 17 away games.
The league moved to a 34-game schedule in 2012 and 2013. In 2014, it increased to 34 games with teams hosting 17 home and 17 away matchups. This has been the format ever since, giving WNBA teams a total of 34 regular season games each year.
Why Do WNBA Teams Play 34 Regular Season Games?
The WNBA settled on a 34-game regular season for a few key reasons:
- Allows for 17 home and 17 away games, an equal split.
- Provides each team with enough games to determine playoff standings.
- Prevents too many back-to-back games for player rest.
- Fits within the compact May-September WNBA season.
The league has found the 34-game schedule provides the ideal balance between showcasing competition and keeping players healthy and rested between matchups.
WNBA Regular Season Format
The 34-game schedule kicks off in May every season. Here is how the format works:
- 12 teams in the WNBA, divided into Eastern and Western Conferences.
- Teams play 2 games (1 home, 1 away) against each conference opponent. That’s 20 games.
- Teams play 1 game against each non-conference opponent. That’s 12 games.
- The regular season runs through mid-September.
This adds up to 17 home games and 17 away games against their conference rivals and non-conference foes.
The season culminates with the WNBA Playoffs in September featuring the top 8 teams overall. The Finals are held in early October to crown a WNBA champion.
Additional Preseason and Postseason Games
In addition to the 34 regular season matchups, WNBA teams play extra preseason and postseason contests:
- Preseason games: Each team plays up to 3 preseason games in May. This allows teams to test lineups and strategies. Stats don’t count toward regular season records.
- WNBA Playoffs: The top 8 teams overall qualify. First round is best-of-3 series. Later rounds are best-of-5. A team could play up to 17 postseason games if they make the Finals.
- WNBA All-Star Game: Selected players from Eastern and Western Conference teams compete in a mid-season exhibition. It’s not counted as a regular season game.
So WNBA teams end up participating in roughly 40+ games if they make deep postseason runs. But the core 34-game regular season has proven to be the right balance for the league.
WNBA Schedule Breakdown
Let’s look at a breakdown of the WNBA’s 34-game regular season schedule:
- 2 games against each conference opponent (4 opponents x 2 games = 8 home, 8 away)
- 1 game against each non-conference opponent (6 opponents x 1 game = 6 home, 6 away)
- That adds up to 17 home games and 17 away games = 34 total
This schedule allows fans to see their favorite teams face every league opponent at least once, with plenty of exciting conference matchups that factor into playoff positioning.
The mid-season All-Star Game provides additional entertainment for viewers midway through the schedule.
Why Don’t WNBA Teams Play More Games?
Some fans wonder why WNBA teams don’t expand their schedule and play more games like NBA teams. There are a few reasons why the WNBA settled on 34 games:
- Injury prevention: More games mean more opportunities for overuse injuries. The compact schedule allows appropriate rest.
- Travel demands: WNBA teams travel commercially, not via chartered flights like the NBA. A lengthier schedule increases time away from home.
- Olympic participation: WNBA players compete in the Summer Olympics every four years. The 34-game schedule works within that timeline.
- Venue availability: WNBA teams share arenas with NBA and NHL teams. Booking that many more home dates is challenging.
The league determined 34 games was the ideal number to highlight competition while also looking out for player health, travel, rest, and venue scheduling. Expanding significantly beyond that mark could disrupt those important factors.
How Does the WNBA Schedule Compare to Other Leagues?
The WNBA’s 34-game regular season is on the shorter side compared to some other major professional sports leagues in the United States:
- NBA: 82 games
- NHL: 82 games
- MLB: 162 games
- MLS: 34 games
However, it’s important to note those leagues are all men’s leagues. When comparing to other women’s pro leagues around the world, the WNBA is very much aligned:
- Women’s Super League (England): 22 games
- Women’s National Basketball League (Australia): 16 to 22 games
- TWBL (Taiwan): 18 games
The WNBA strikes a balance appropriate for a major women’s professional sports league. The 34-game schedule is long enough to showcase the sport while limiting injury risk and fatigue.
To summarize the key points:
- WNBA teams play 34 games in the regular season since adopting that format in 2003.
- The schedule consists of 17 home games and 17 away games against conference and non-conference opponents.
- Additional preseason and postseason matchups can bring a team’s total games played to 40+.
- The 34-game format provides the right balance between competition and player health.
- While less than leagues like the NBA, the 34-game schedule is appropriate for a top-tier women’s league.
The WNBA’s 34-game regular season gives fans plenty of exciting basketball while allowing players enough recovery time between matchups. This format has worked well for the league since it was implemented.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How many home games do WNBA teams play each season?
WNBA teams play 17 home games each regular season. They host each conference opponent once and each non-conference opponent once.
How many total WNBA games are there in a season?
With 12 teams playing a 34-game schedule, there are a total of 408 games in a WNBA regular season.
How long is the WNBA’s regular season?
The WNBA regular season tips off in mid-May and runs through mid-September, lasting right around 4 months. The playoffs begin soon after in September.
How many minutes are WNBA basketball games?
WNBA games are played with four 10-minute quarters, the same timing as NBA games. Quarters are 12 minutes long during the playoffs.
Why is the WNBA season during the summer?
The WNBA season takes place during the summer to avoid overlapping with the NBA season (Oct-June). This allows maximum exposure for both leagues.