The WNBA Board of Governors approved changes to the league’s playoff format and postseason seeding, effective with the 2022 season, the WNBA announced today. The reconfigured postseason structure will include three rounds of series-play using a best-of 3-5-5 format.
Beginning with the WNBA’s 26th season, the eight teams with the highest winning percentages over a 36-game schedule regardless of conference will qualify for the playoffs and be seeded based on their record. All eight playoff teams will participate in first-round, bracket-style play consisting of four best-of-three series.
In one bracket, first-round play will place the No. 1 seed facing the No. 8 seed and the No. 4 seed versus the No. 5 seed in a best-of-three series, with the winners advancing to a best-of-five semifinals series against one another. In the other bracket, the No. 3 seed will face the No. 6 seed and the No. 2 seed will meet the No. 7 seed, with the winners moving on to face one another in the other best-of-five semifinals series.
The winners of the semifinals series will then meet in the WNBA Finals, which also will be a best-of-five series, to determine the WNBA champion.
Additional elements regarding the playoff structure are as follows:
- The number of playoff rounds shifts from four to three and no teams will receive a bye to start the postseason. Teams will not be reseeded following the first round.
- The planned change for the first-round series games will include a 2-1 format in which the higher seed will host Games 1 and 2 and the lower seed will host Game 3 if necessary.
- The new format will add eight potential games to the playoff footprint.
- The semifinals and WNBA Finals will each remain unchanged as best-of-five series and follow the same 2-2-1 format whereby the higher seed hosts Games 1, 2 and 5, and the lower-seeded team will host Games 3 and 4 in their respective series.
The prior playoff format, adopted in 2016 consisted of four rounds using a 1-1-5-5 format, with two single elimination rounds and the No. 1 and 2 seeds receiving double-byes into the semifinals. The new playoff format being announced today will provide the top eight teams with a consistent start to their playoff runs.