New York Liberty center Han Xu vies for position against...

New York Liberty center Han Xu vies for position against Las Vegas Aces forward Theresa Plaisance and guard Kierstan Bell during an WNBA basketball game at Barclays Center on Thursday, July 14, 2022. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

NEW YORK — The WNBA is changing its Commissioner's Cup format, playing half as many games and contesting them all during a two-week period in early June.

Teams now will play only five games — once against every other team in the conference — which is down from the 10 in the first three years. The old format had teams playing one home game and one road game against each other that counted toward the Commissioner's Cup. Now, some teams will play three games at home while others will play two. They will alternate each season who has the extra home game.

“The newly designed, concentrated structure for this in-season tournament adds an increased sense of urgency and excitement as we place a particular spotlight on Eastern and Western Conference Commissioner’s Cup play in a two-week window near the tip-off of our regular season.” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said.

Games will be played between June 1-13. The championship game will be played on June 25 at the home of the team with the best record in Cup play. New York beat Las Vegas on its homecourt to win last season's Commissioner's Cup title.

In the old format, games were spread out over the first half of the season, making it more difficult to know which games were Commissioner’s Cup contests. The games still count toward a team’s overall won-loss record in the 40-game league schedule.

“The games will all be concentrated in a two-week period, which is a nice way for fans to follow it,” Engelbert said.

Teams will again compete for a $500,000 prize pool, with a charitable component for each game.

“We’ll give same amount if not a little more,” Engelbert said of the prize money. “They'll be the same pool of charitable donations.”

The NBA just finished its first in-season tournament, with the Los Angeles Lakers taking home the title. Lakers players on standard contracts each made $500,000 and the losing Indiana Pacers received $200,000 apiece. Players on two-way deals take home half those amounts.

The New York Liberty players each received around $30,000 for winning the WNBA's in-season tournament. Players on the losing Aces got about $10,000.

NBA franchises also had different courts at their arenas designed for the in-season tournament games. Engelbert didn't expect that to happen any time soon in the WNBA.

“This is all about the competition on the court,” she said. “It's a pretty expensive endeavor. We would like it to look a little different and will work with our broadcast partners to look different.”

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