Beginning with the 2016 season, the WNBA implemented a new, more balanced regular-season format, through which teams face their five in-conference opponents in the following manner:
- Four games against one team (two home and two away)
- Three games apiece against the four remaining teams (two home and one away versus two teams; one home and two away versus the other two teams)
- Each team’s opponent breakdown is selected at random and will be rotated annually to ensure a fair balance of the schedule.
Games against the six teams in the opposite conference are as follows:
- Three games against each team (two home and one away versus three teams; one home and two away versus the remaining three teams)
- The opponents for the two formats are selected at random and will be reversed annually.
PRIOR TO 2016:
Under the most recent regular season schedule format prior to 2016, teams faced cross-conference opponents once at home and once on the road (12 games). The remainder of a team’s schedule consisted of five games apiece against two in-conference opponents and four games apiece versus the remaining three in-conference teams (22 games).
PLAYOFFS AND FINALS:
Effective with the 2016 season, the WNBA implemented changes to playoff seeding and qualification procedures as well as the postseason format. Under the new postseason structure, the eight teams with the highest winning percentages regardless of conference qualify for the playoffs and are seeded based on their record.
Additional features of the reconfigured playoff structure are as follows:
- The number of playoff rounds increased 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.
PRIOR TO 2016:
Under the most recent postseason format prior to 2016, the top four teams in each conference advanced to the playoffs. The first round and Conference Semifinals followed a best-of-three format. In the first round, the No. 1 seed in each conference hosted the No. 4 seed from that conference in Games 1 and 3, with the No. 4 seed hosting Game 2. Similarly, the No. 2 seed in each conference hosted the No. 3 seed in Games 1 and 3, with the No. 3 seed hosting Game 2. The winners advanced to their respective Conference Finals where the higher seed hosted Games 1 and 3, and the lower seed hosted Game 2. The WNBA Finals began its current best-of-five format in 2005.