The expanded 40-game WNBA season will tip off its 2023 schedule with four games slated for Friday, May 19, and all teams in action over opening weekend, the league announced on Wednesday. The highlights include a meeting between the reigning champion Las Vegas Aces and the Seattle Storm in their first season since 2001 without retired point guard Sue Bird.
Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said ahead of the 2022 All-Star Game that teams will play 40 games in the upcoming 27th season, an increase from the 36 played last year and 32 in years prior. The complete TV and streaming schedule will be announced at a later date, the league said.
“We eagerly anticipate tipping off the 2023 season and building on the success of last season, which was our most-watched in 14 years and set records for social media engagement, digital consumption and merchandise sales,” Engelbert said in a league release. “The expanded schedule will provide fans greater opportunities to see the best players in the world compete on the game’s biggest stage.”
The schedule has already been contentious for players in years past largely because they still fly commercial, which makes tight game turnarounds difficult. There are eight back-to-backs in the schedule, with the Aces holding two of them, per Across the Timeline. The Dream, Sun, Sparks, Liberty, Storm and Mystics each have one, via Across the Timeline.
The Aces play the first of two back-to-backs in a home stretch May 27 and May 28. It closes a stretch of three games in four days that starts with their trip to Los Angeles on May 25 for their second game of the season. They’ll also do it July 9-12 at Minnesota (July 9), home versus the Mercury (July 11) and in Los Angeles (July 12).
The season will conclude on Sunday, Sept. 10, with every team taking the court, including a matchup between Chicago and Connecticut. The Sun ousted the Sky in the semifinals in a heated five-game series. But both clubs could look very different after free agency. The league said on Wednesday teams can begin negotiating with free agents on Jan. 21 and begin signing contracts on Feb. 1.
The All-Star Game will be Saturday, July 15. The league has not announced a city, though Engelbert said ahead of the All-Star Game in Chicago, “hopefully we'll announce it well in advance.” The third annual Commissioner’s Cup championship, which pays out a total of $500,000 to players, will be played Tuesday, Aug. 15. The first iteration was held at a neutral site and the second at the home venue of the team with the highest winning percentage in Cup play.
Teams are beginning to utilize social media for the schedule announcement. The Sky went full Taylor Swift and the Atlanta Dream tapped a roller skating rink. Here’s an early look at the matchups to circle in the 2023 season.
— Atlanta Dream (@AtlantaDream) November 30, 2022
WNBA Finals rematch: Aces vs. Sun
The Aces are looking to run it back with all five starters signed to contracts in 2023. They’ll begin their quest in the Pacific Northwest against the Storm on May 20, and won’t open in front of their home fans until May 27 when they host the Sparks.
The Aces defeated the Sun in four games to win their first title, and the first in Las Vegas professional sports history. While the Aces will stay largely the same under head coach Becky Hammon, the Sun already look different after head coach Curt Miller took the same position with the Sparks. Connecticut announced Stephanie White as its head coach earlier this month and has choices to make in free agency.
Those rematch games are June 6 and June 8 in Connecticut and July 1 in Las Vegas.
Sparks’ Curt Miller rematch vs. Sun
Fans will have to wait a full month of games before they see Miller’s Sparks take on his old team on June 18 at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles. The teams meet a total of three times with the final two back in Uncasville, Connecticut, during the final seven-game stretch of the season when seedings will be at stake.
The Sun host the Sparks on Aug. 27 and Sept. 5. Miller said during the WNBA Finals he was at the time the longest-tenured employee of the Sun organization after having spent seven seasons as head coach of the team. He was general manager for six of them and helped shape the Sun into one of the league’s best. Over the past five seasons, the Storm and Sun have the best overall records with each at 105-53 (.665).
Sky’s meetings with playoff foes Sun, Mercury
The Sun knocked out the 2021 champion Chicago Sky in the semifinals a year after the Sky had done the same to them as a top seed. The rivals will meet four times, split between each team’s home arena, and all in different months throughout the season.
The games are June 25 at Connecticut, July 12 in Chicago, Aug. 20 in Chicago and Sept. 10 in Connecticut. Their final meeting is the last day of the season and could determine playoff seeding. The Sky head into free agency with Kahleah Copper, the 2021 Finals MVP, as the only starter under contract. Candace Parker, Courtney Vandersloot, Emma Meesseman and Allie Quigley are all unrestricted free agents.
That group, excluding Meesseman, won the Sky the 2021 title over Diana Taurasi and the Phoenix Mercury. Chicago will get an early shot at Phoenix on the road during opening weekend (May 21). They meet again in Phoenix on July 20 and in Chicago on July 30.