The WNBA recently released its 2020 schedule, and this coming year’s teams will play 36 games (instead of 34) while also participating in the first-ever Commissioner’s Cup.
Every team will take its first ten conference games—two matchups apiece against each of the five other teams in their conference—and use those standings to seed a midseason tournament upon the league’s return from the Olympics break. A trophy and cash prize go to the winners.
Each team will also return to the hardwood this season with several games circled on their respective calendars, and some fresh rivalries will develop in the coming weeks as players move about in free agency.
Here are just a few of the exciting matchups you don’t want to miss in the season to come. (All times are EST.)
FRIDAY, MAY 15, 10:00 PM: DALLAS WINGS AT SEATTLE STORM
The third and final game on opening night features the return of Seattle’s Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird, re-forming the roster that won the 2018 championship. They’ll face off against Dallas and 2019 Rookie of the Year runner-up Arike Ogunbowale, plus whomever the Wings select second in this year’s draft.
This could also potentially mark the first game back for Skylar Diggins-Smith, who also missed all of last season, though her future in Dallas is very uncertain.
SUNDAY, MAY 17, 6:00 PM, SEATTLE STORM AT PHOENIX MERCURY
Although Diana Taurasi’s back injury didn’t cost her all of 2019—just, most of it—she never quite looked right. Having her and Sue Bird matching up at full-strength will make for a fun contest. Additionally, it’ll be the first professional game with Brittney Griner and Breanna Stewart sharing a court since Stewart’s injury while playing for the EuroLeague’s Dynamo Kursk against UMMC and Griner.
The teams encore two nights later in Seattle at 10:00 PM, so this could turn into a fun, mini-playoff series atmosphere between two playoff hopefuls.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 20, 7:00 PM: WASHINGTON MYSTICS AT INDIANA FEVER
Washington assistant Marianne Stanley left D.C. during the offseason as a champion to coach the young Indiana Fever. Indy’s All-Stars Erica Wheeler and Candice Dupree, along with young centerpiece Teaira McCowan, will look to secure a W against their coach’s old squad, led by MVP Elena Delle Donne and Natasha Cloud.
This is a dichotomy game between the league’s best team and a franchise trying to get back to the top after some down years and a bit of promise in 2020.
SUNDAY, MAY 31, 3:00 PM: MINNESOTA LYNX AT NEW YORK LIBERTY
Another case of migrating coaches, both Minnesota and New York swapped personnel in this instance: Ex-Liberty coach Katie Smith signed as an assistant on Cheryl Reeve’s staff after Walt Hopkins filled her head coaching vacancy in Brooklyn. Long-time Lynx assistant Shelley Patterson is expected to join Hopkins with the Liberty.
Smith had some rough luck during her head coaching tenure, with lean rosters, arena migration and front office overhaul but she joins one of the league’s best coaching staffs and what could be a pathway back to another lead gig. Keep a close eye on the chess-level matchup strategies in this one between two teams in transitional periods.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 3, 8:00 PM: PHOENIX MERCURY AT DALLAS WINGS
During the fourth quarter of a tight game last year, Phoenix’s Brittney Griner and Dallas’ Kristine Anigwe got into it after fighting for box-out position. Swings (and subsequent suspensions) ensued. While punches should never be thrown on the court, expect some chippiness in the rematch.
SUNDAY, JUNE 7, 3:00 PM, ESPN: LOS ANGELES SPARKS AT MINNESOTA LYNX
These two franchises boast the most postseason wins in WNBA history. There are a few on-court matchups to especially pay attention to, headlined by the back-to-the-basket matchup between Nneka Ogwumike and Sylvia Fowles.
Ahead of last season, LA traded guard Odyssey Sims to Minnesota, who went on to lead the Lynx in scoring at 14.5 points per game. She struggled, however, in her three games against her former team, shooting 3-of-12, 3-of-8 and 4-of-15 while averaging fewer than 10 points a game (all Sparks victories).
And, of course, there’s always this:
SUNDAY, JUNE 7, 6:00 PM: WASHINGTON MYSTICS AT CHICAGO SKY
Delle Donne played the first four years of her seven-year career in Chicago, so every return packs a little something extra. She’s averaged 18.6 points through 10 games against the Sky, well below her career average of 20.3. The teams also play each other three times between June 7 and June 17, so familiarity will breed some contempt for two franchises that love to let it fly from outside.
SATURDAY, JUNE 13, 7:00 PM: ATLANTA DREAM AT CONNECTICUT SUN
Speaking of familiarity, there’s plenty of it between these two rosters. Three players apiece have spent time in the other locker room: Atlanta’s Alex Bentley, Elizabeth Williams and Renee Montgomery are all former Suns while Connecticut’s Bria Holmes, Jasmine Thomas and Layshia Clarendon all once suited up as Dreamers.
TUESDAY, JUNE 16, 10:00 PM, espn2: LAS VEGAS ACES AT LOS ANGELES SPARKS
Some of the biggest on-court drama last season came after Aces’ center Liz Cambage got tangled up with Sparks’ rookie Kalani Brown. The tense on-court exchange continued in the days to come across social media. Cambage has a tendency to wear her emotions on her sleeve, so expect some gamesmanship from LA coach Derek Fisher as he tries to get into her head.
don’t lie, first I asked the refs, then your teammates then you to tie your hair back after I had been tangled in it and whipped in the face 5 times https://t.co/uOwvq2ri6C
— Elizabeth Cambage (@ecambage) June 28, 2019
Nonetheless, Las Vegas returns as a true on-paper contender with enough talent to reach the Finals in 2020. That L.A. is also loaded up front and in the hunt makes this matchup all the more intriguing.
SATURDAY, JUNE 27, 4:00 PM, ESPN2: LAS VEGAS ACES AT CHICAGO SKY
.@madkenney had some fun with this yesterday ???????????? But I wanted to ask again
Who are the rivals of the Chicago Sky? #SKYSHOWPOLL
— The Sky Show CHI (@TheSkyShowCHI) January 16, 2020
A rivalry was born after the Hamby Heave ousted Chicago last September during the playoffs. Two teams with very different play styles but tons of talent, it’s Chicago’s fast-break creativity and athleticism vs. Vegas’ low-post size and skill. With loud personalities on each roster, this promises to be an exciting rematch.
SATURDAY, JUNE 27, 9:00 PM: NEW YORK LIBERTY AT SEATTLE STORM
There are actually two big games on June 27. If New York selects Sabrina Ionescu with the first overall pick, as presumed, expect large fanfare for the University of Oregon guard’s return to the Pacific Northwest.
Duck fans show up in force: According to numbers put out by the NCAA in 2018-19, they ranked eighth in attendance, with 7,148 fans per game, but had the largest average attendance increase in the sport from the year before.
With Seattle’s star duo also presumably in full swing by this point, expect KeyArena to be rocking on this Saturday night.
SUNDAY, JUNE 28, 3:00 PM, ESPN2: CONNECTICUT SUN AT WASHINGTON MYSTICS
We’re about six weeks into the season before we get a Finals rematch. Last season’s WNBA Finals went the distance, with Playoff Emma and the Mystics finally pulling away during the winner-take-all Game 5. Jonquel Jones, Alyssa Thomas and Courtney Williams will once again lead the 2020 Sun, who will attempt to topple D.C. and return to the Finals.
FRIDAY, JULY 3, 7:00 PM: WASHINGTON MYSTICS AT ATLANTA DREAM
Though it’s easy to forget after a forgettable 2019, the Atlanta Dream held the league’s second-best record (23-11) in 2018. That year, they fell in five games to the Mystics during the semifinals. If they manage to retain a now-healthy Angel McCoughtry, a rebound into contention is not out of the question.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 21, 7:30 PM: LOS ANGELES SPARKS AT CONNECTICUT SUN
Connecticut eliminated Los Angeles in last year’s semis with a 3-0 sweep, culminating with tensions that have not yet been smoothed over in LA.
The Sparks still have not replaced GM Penny Toler, who gave an obscenity-laced tirade during an ill-advised attempt to motivate the team after Game 2. Coach Fisher and Candace Parker also have some on-court work to do to mend their relationship, after the future Hall-of-Famer was all-but-benched during their final second half of the season.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 5:00 PM: NEW YORK LIBERTY AT INDIANA FEVER
All 12 teams are in action on the last day of the season (including a 3:00 ABC matchup between the Sun and Mystics), and I predict these two will be fighting to make the playoffs. Last season started with a Teaira McCowan game-winner to help Indy top New York. For my sake, as a Liberty fan, let’s hope 2020 doesn’t end the same way.
Myles Ehrlich is a TBW staff writer from Brooklyn, NY. He has been writing since childhood when it passed the time better than rolling scenery and folk CDs on family road trips. He legitimized his passion at New York University and The Writer’s Foundry MFA. His work has been published with Castings, MASH Stories, and flashfictionmagazine.com. When not writing, Myles is usually playing, watching or reading about sports. His east coast WNBA fandom resides with the New York Liberty; his west coast with the Las Vegas Aces.