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Natasha Cloud calls for WNBA expansion amid roster cuts

(Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)

As WNBA training camp continues, so do roster cuts, which led to Washington Mystics star Natasha Cloud highlighting the need for expansion.

“We need more teams,” she wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “These players deserve to be on a roster. It really kills me.”

Evina Westbrook and Alisia Jenkins were waived from the Mystics’ roster on Sunday. Westbrook played six games for Washington last season, averaging 3.3 points per game. Jenkins, meanwhile, was signed to a training camp contract in February.

Of course, WNBA expansion has been a hot-button issue for the past few years as teams have continued to feel the squeeze of a 12-player roster. While the 12-team league is looking into – and is narrowing down possible locations for – expansion, there hasn’t been much movement since the end of the 2022 season.

Meanwhile, the NWSL has capitalized on the growth of women’s sports with a two-team expansion set for 2024 and another team to be added in 2025 or 2026. They’ve also added three teams in the last four years, with both Angel City FC and San Diego setting league records in the last year.

Chicago Sky head coach and general manager James Wade told the Chicago Sun-Times that he’s postponed roster cuts as long as he can.

“You want to procrastinate because you hate to see people go,” Wade said. “I wouldn’t see [putting off making my first cuts] going past tomorrow. I want to get down to 13 for Toronto. I don’t want to take 15 players [to the last preseason game].

“It’s not a birthright; it’s a privilege,” he continued. “You have to work hard to be one of the 144 best players. It doesn’t mean you’re not a great player because you didn’t make it in the WNBA. It just means you have work to do, and that’s OK. It’s tough to play in the WNBA. Some of your favorite college players can’t make it in the WNBA.”

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert has addressed expansion plans, including at the WNBA draft in April. But every time, the message remains the same: soon, but not yet.

Engelbert told Sports Business Journal in early May that the league began with a list of 100 potential cities for expansion that has since been narrowed down to 20, according to The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch. That number is up from the 12 cities she said remained on the shortlist last June.

“We are not in a rush,” Engelbert said in February.

And while she had said last year that she hoped to have two new franchises start as soon as 2024, that timeline has been pushed back to 2025 at the earliest, and talks have shifted to just one new team beginning play.

WNBA roster cuts can affect even some of the league’s best. The No. 4 overall pick in the 2022 draft, Emily Engslter, was cut by the Fever. She’s since been picked up by the Mystics, but the news was still a stark reminder of the state of the league.

“When you see a loved one get waived, that’s when it really hits you,” Indiana’s NaLyssa Smith said. “It shows how hard it is to make it in the league. [Players] have conversations about it. It’s very unfortunate for those who do get waived because they’re talented, and we’re so young.

“I’m definitely looking forward to expansion.”