Prior to Game 1 of the WNBA Finals on Sunday, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert revealed the league's plan to add another expansion franchise by 2025.
"The goal is to add a second one, or 14th team, by 2025," Engelbert told The Associated Press. "Not more for before '25 but obviously longer term. I've said my goal is to get this league you know additional teams and additional cities that we think would be great. We have a lot of cities interested, which is why we didn't announce the 14th team yet."
When asked which cities are in contention for a franchise, Engelbert mentioned Denver, Philadelphia, Charlotte and Nashville. However, the final team Engelbert mentioned — Portland, Oregon — is the clear frontrunner for the WNBA's 14th team.
In fact, it might have been superfluous for Engelbert to name those other four cities, since The Oregonian reported during the weekend that Portland landing the WNBA's 14th franchise "seems like it's close to a done deal."
The WNBA's interest in Portland has been evident for a while, as Engelbert visited the city in February to discuss potential expansion. Speaking to the Sports Business Journal, Engelbert said, "I visited Portland ... and saw the love for women's basketball there."
Portland makes perfect sense for a prospective franchise. Not only has the city had a WNBA team before — the Portland Fire, which joined the league in 2000 but was dissolved in 2002 — but Portland, as Engelbert noted, is known for its passionate women's college basketball fan base.
Local supporters frequently attend both Oregon and Oregon State games. That support was proven by the Oregon women's basketball team being ranked No. 1 in the NCAA for total fan attendance (101,633) during the 2019-20 season.
While the deal isn't finalized just yet, it appears that Portland fans will only need to wait a few more weeks before celebrating their new WNBA team, as an official announcement for the expansion is likely to arrive before the end of this month.
This expansion news comes after confirmation last week that the San Francisco Bay Area is receiving the WNBA's 13th franchise, which is set to start playing games by 2025. Since Engelbert made it clear that she wants 14 teams playing in the WNBA by that 2025 season, one would expect Portland's team to be ready to play by then.
With this expansion news, the Finals underway and league viewership skyrocketing, the WNBA is thriving right now.
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