For years, players around the WNBA have been calling for the playoff format to be changed, as the single elimination format for the first two rounds, while exciting, has not exactly been a favorite of the players themselves. The 1-1-5-5 format, with best of five series for the semifinals and finals after two straight single elimination rounds, with the top-2 seeds earning double byes and the 3rd and 4th seeds earning single byes, will finally be changed for the 2022 season.
The league announced the changes on Thursday, as seeding will continue to be done regardless of conference affiliation, with the top 8 teams in the league earning playoff appearances, but no longer will top seeds earn byes. Instead, a traditional bracket style playoffs will be introduced, with the first round being a best of three series, followed by a best of five semifinals and a best of five Finals.
New #WNBA Playoff Format
— WNBA (@WNBA) November 18, 2021
Rather than reseeding after each round, teams will be locked into their bracket, with 1 v. 8 and 4 v. 5 on once side and 2 v. 7 and 3 v. 6 on the other. It’ll be interesting to see what the overall reaction from fans is, as there have been some calling for a change like this, while others have grown fond of the chaos of single elimination. Players, though, will likely be pleased by the changes to have a series format for each round and while single elimination is gone, fans should be excited about getting to see the best teams in action from the start of the playoffs rather than sitting out with byes.
The new format also seems to create a structure that could more easily support breaking seeding into conferences once expansion arrives, as there is plenty of interest and hope for expansion in the near future, and if the league jumps from 12 teams to 16, it would stand to reason that they might weight conference affiliation more in the future for seeding should the schedule no longer be balanced the way it is.