— Top Eight Teams Regardless of Conference Qualify for Postseason —
— ESPN Networks to Televise all Postseason Games —
The WNBA Board of Governors approved changes to playoff seeding and qualification procedures as well as the postseason format, effective with the 2016 season, the WNBA announced in January. The reconfigured postseason structure, featuring live telecasts by ESPN networks of every playoff and Finals game in 2016, dovetailed with a new, more balanced format for the regular-season schedule.
Beginning with the WNBA’s historic 20th season, the eight teams with the highest winning percentages regardless of conference qualified for the playoffs and were seeded based on their record.
Additional changes to the playoff structure are as follows:
- The number of playoff rounds increases from three to four. The top two seeds receive a bye to the semifinals (third round), and the third and fourth seeds receive a bye to the second round.
- Teams will be re-seeded after each postseason round.
- The first and second rounds are single elimination. In the first round, the No. 5 seed hosts the No. 8 seed and the No. 6 seed hosts the No. 7 seed. In the second round, the No. 3 seed hosts the lowest-seeded first-round winner and the No. 4 seed hosts the other first-round winner.
- The semifinals feature a best-of-five format, with the No. 1 overall seed playing the lowest remaining seed and the No. 2 overall seed meeting the remaining team. The Nos. 1 and 2 seeds will host Games 1, 2 and 5, and the lower-seeded teams will host Games 3 and 4 in their respective series. The WNBA Finals remain best-of-five and follow the same 2-2-1 format.
Most recently, the top four teams in both the Eastern Conference and Western Conference qualified for the playoffs and were seeded by conference standings. The East and West each held two best-of-three conference semifinals, followed by a best-of-three conference finals. The conference champions advanced to a best-of-five WNBA Finals.