Everything you need to know about the in-season tournament.
The WNBA is celebrating its 25th season this year, and it’s a big one. On top of announcing a multi-year streaming deal with Amazon, the league is also launching the Commissioner’s Cup tournament.
But there seems to be some confusion about what exactly that is. Even players are unsure, with New York Liberty’s Sabrina Ionescu saying she “honestly doesn’t know any thing about this Commissioner’s Cup” and has no idea what it is. She went on to ask if they’re in it now. Yes, Sabrina, yes you are.
So let’s break down this unique in-season tournament and what exactly it means for the league’s 12 teams this season.
So what is the Commissioner’s Cup?
Think of the Cup as a competition within the competition. It’s an in-season tournament that was launched this year as part of the league’s focus on innovation. It designates a portion of regular-season games to count toward Cup standings. All 12 teams will be play in 10 Cup games each, 60 total.
So how do you know which match-ups are Cup games? The first home game and first road game each team plays against its conference opponents will count toward those Cup standings.
Those games take place between May 14 and July 17, which is the start of the in-season break. The standings will decide an Eastern Conference team and a Western Conference team to meet in a championship game on August 12 in Phoenix. That’ll be after the Olympics, but before the rest of the WNBA’s regular season schedule.
And that championship game will be streamed on Amazon Prime Video thanks to that new multi-year deal I mentioned before.
What’s at stake?
The main motivation here (besides bragging rights) is money.
The teams will be fighting for a $500,000 prize pool, or about $30,000 per player, plus an added $5,000 bonus to the championship game’s MVP. The runner-ups will still get $10,000 per player. Of note here, there’s no money prize for the winning coach.
That extra cash is a big motivator for these players that see significantly lower salaries than their NBA counterparts.
“It’s already a competitive league, but when you have money involved it makes it even more competitive,” Storm rookie Kiana Williams said. “That’s a lot of money on the line. Obviously, you want to play hard and compete every night, but this just adds a little more fuel to the fire.”
Does this impact the regular-season’s path to playoffs?
No. The regular-season playoff format will still be the same this year.
- Top two overall teams get double-bye into best-of-five semifinal series
- Third- and fourth- place teams get bye into single-elimination second round
- Teams 5-8 play single -elimination first round games
What are the standings so far?
*updated for games through May 16
When you look at the season schedule on the WNBA’s website, you can see which games are part of the tournament by the Commissioner’s Cup logo next to them. Over the opening weekend (May 14-16), there were seven Cup games.
- New York Liberty (2-0)
- Chicago Sky (1-0)
- Connecticut Sun (1-0)
- Atlanta Dream (0-1)
- Washington Mystics (0-1)
- Indiana Fever (0-2)
- Dallas Wings (1-0)
- Phoenix Mercury (1-0)
- Seattle Storm (1-0)
- Las Vegas Aces (0-1)
- Los Angeles Sparks (0-1)
- Minnesota Lynx (0-1)
Since the time of this writing, there were two more Cup games on Wednesday, May 19 — one between the Chicago Sky and Atlanta Dream (Sky won) and one between the Indiana Fever and Connecticut Sun (Sun won). There will also be one Thursday, May 20 (Seattle Storm vs Minnesota Lynx).