The WNBA has approved changes to playoff seeding and qualification process as well as the postseason format, the league announced on Thursday.
The new changes begin with the 2016 season, the playoff format will change with the top eight teams regardless of conference making the postseason. The playoff rounds will increase from three to four and the top two seeds receive a bye to the semifinals, and the third and fourth seeds receive a bye to the second round.
The changes to the postseason are as follows:
- The number of playoff rounds increases from three to four.
- 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.
Additionally, the league announced a change to their season schedule. Teams will now face their five in-conference opponents:
- 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 was selected at random and will be rotated annually to ensure a fair balance of the schedule.
- 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 have been selected at random and will be reversed annually.
The WNBA will tip off their 20th season in May.