May 24, 2022 - Sports

Report: WNBA ready to expand

WNBA ball
Photo: Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert gave the clearest indication yet that the league will soon be looking to expand — just as Nashville ramps up efforts to attract its first women's professional sports team.

Driving the news: Engelbert told the Seattle Times earlier this month that the WNBA is looking at adding two expansion franchises in the next few years.

  • Engelbert was responding to criticisms from top players that the 12-team league doesn't have enough roster spots to accommodate a rich pipeline of talent.

Why it matters: City leaders have been pushing to bring a WNBA or National Women's Soccer League team to Nashville in recent years. After billions of dollars of investments in men's pro sports, advocates say it's time for the city to invest in women's teams as well.

Context: A report by CAA Icon earlier this year showed Nashville has the fan interest and corporate support to justify a WNBA or NWSL franchise.

  • Margaret Behm, who chairs the advisory committee spearheading this effort, says the consultant will soon meet with league representatives to present the report's findings and key data points.

What she's saying: "What we've tried to be is ready when the league says it's ready to expand," Behm tells Axios. "So we can say we have what it takes to have a women's professional team. I think we're ready to do that on both the basketball and soccer front."

Yes, but: While Behm and the advisory committee have laid the groundwork, she acknowledges it will be competitive to land a WNBA franchise.

  • "There is pent-up demand nationally for more women's pro sports," Behm says. "You only have 12 teams in both the WNBA and NWSL. So it's competitive, and we need to be ready."
  • A report by CBS Sports ranked Nashville among the top possibilities, behind both the Bay Area and Toronto.
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