The WNBA on Thursday plans to announce a new expansion team in the San Francisco Bay Area, a person with direct knowledge of the addition told USA TODAY Sports.
The person requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly until the announcement is made. The news comes just days before the most anticipated WNBA finals in league history are set to tip off between Las Vegas and New York on Sunday.
The team will begin play in the 2025 season, giving the cities and ownership groups more than 18 months to prepare. The WNBA is also talking to other potential ownership groups about expansion in other cities.
Speculation about an expansion announcement started swirling Tuesday, when the WNBA posted a cryptic message on social media implying there might be news soon. It teased expansion with another social media post Wednesday morning.
The league is trying to capitalize on the growing wave of interest in women’s sports. The NWSL is expanding at a rapid clip; NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman told The Washington Post in May that by 2026, the league will expand to 16 teams, doubling in size since it began in 2012.
Meanwhile, TV viewership for both the NCAA women’s tournament and WNBA has soared the past few seasons, with millions tuning in to watch a new generation of talent. Ahead of the 2023 World Cup this summer, players praised the uptick of investment in women’s sports.
In February 2022, Engelbert announced a capital raise of $75 million, then the largest-ever in women’s sports. The money was slated to be used for marking and elevating the league’s brand.
WNBA hasn’t expanded since 2008
It will be the first time in 15 years that the WNBA, now in its 27th season, has expanded. It last added Atlanta in 2008.
Only four franchises remain from the inaugural eight-team league that launched in 1997 with financial backing from the NBA: The New York Liberty, Los Angeles Sparks, Phoenix Mercury and Las Vegas Aces (originally known as the Utah Starzz, and previously under different ownership). A handful of other expansion teams have started and folded, including one previously based in Portland, the Portland Fire (2000-02).
The Bay Area did not previously have a WNBA team but used to be home to the San Jose Lasers, an American Basketball League franchise that was part of the other women’s pro league that ran just two seasons, from 1996-1998.
The Warriors ownership group has been pushing for a WNBA team for years. The Athletic reported on Sept. 26 that a deal was close to done and, when finalized, would headquarter the team in Oakland — at the Warriors’ practice facility — and play its games at the Chase Center. Golden State owner Joe Lacob helped establish the ABL in 1995, and owned the Lasers. The Bay Area is home to women’s college basketball powerhouse Stanford, which won the 2021 NCAA title. In April, the NWSL announced that Bay Area FC would start play in 2024.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: WNBA to add San Francisco Bay Area as expansion team in 2025