The WNBA will launch its first Commissioner’s Cup competition during the 2021 season as an added competition that will include $500,000 in prize money and a championship game in a lucrative time slot on the league calendar.
The WNBA announced details of the Commissioner’s Cup on Wednesday, along with additional information on Amazon Prime Video’s plans to stream WNBA games.
Regular-season games take on double duty
Under the WNBA’s plan, early-season league games will double as Commissioner’s Cup contests. Each team will play 10 games for the competition: the first home and away game against each of its divisional rivals.
Those games will determine the Eastern Conference and Western Conference representatives for the Commissioner’s Cup Championship Game. The two representatives will then play in the championship on Aug. 12.
That date slots the Commissioner’s Cup title game directly after the Summer Olympics. Regular WNBA league play won’t resume until Aug. 15.
Players who compete in the Commissioner’s Cup Championship Game will split a $500,000 prize pool. Each member of the winning team will take home $30,000, with the runners-up earning $10,000 per player. The championship game MVP will earn an additional $5,000.
“To have the Commissioner’s Cup come to life in this historic 25th WNBA season is a testament to the players, fans, partners, and WNBA teams who have supported and driven innovation at the league,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement.
All Commissioner’s Cup games will also count toward the regular-season standings as normal. While the competition will take advantage of the two-conference setup, the WNBA playoffs will continue to include the top eight teams overall, regardless of conference.
WNBA Commissioner’s Cup mirrors NBA proposal
No sportsbooks have released specific odds for the Commissioner’s Cup as of yet, but the top teams in the league figure to rank among the top picks to appear in the cup finals.
In the Western Conference, FanDuel Sportsbooks sees the Seattle Storm as the +250 favorite to win the WNBA Championship in 2021, just ahead of the Las Vegas Aces (+280). The Washington Mystics (+450) come into the year as the class of the Eastern Conference, with the Chicago Sky (+850) slotting in as the second choice.
The NBA also considered adding a cup competition in recent years. NBA commissioner Adam Silver told ESPN in January 2020 that he wanted to create an NBA Cup that would run as an in-season tournament during November and December – relatively early in the league’s season.
Silver embraced the idea of a cup competition after seeing the success of such tournaments in European sports, particularly in soccer.
“I’m jealous in certain ways of soccer globally,” Silver told ESPN. “I think I say this based more on objective data that the two biggest team sports in the world are clearly soccer No. 1, basketball No. 2.”