In October, Athletes Unlimited announced plans to launch a new professional women’s basketball league early next year. On Monday, Athletes Unlimited unveiled its dates for the first season, which will be played in Las Vegas in early 2022.
Most WNBA players have competed overseas in the winter months since the league launched in 1997. The AU league is not expected to compete with the high salaries of the top overseas leagues in European and Asian countries. But Cloud said the AU league is still a good alternative, especially for American players who would prefer to spend the winter in the United States.
“I think the WNBA and Athletes Unlimited will mesh perfectly together,” Cloud said in October. “We can stay here, it will be really competitive basketball, and we do not have to be away from our families for several months.”
Here’s everything we know so far about Athletes Unlimited Basketball.
When and where will the new league compete?
All games will be at the same location in one city. The league’s first season will be played Jan. 26-Feb. 26, 2022, at the Athletes Unlimited Arena at the Sport Center of Las Vegas, which is about two miles away from the Las Vega Strip.
Which players will compete in the new league?
The Athletes Unlimited basketball league will have 44 players all competing in the same city. On Monday, the league announced it will hold open tryouts on Dec. 11-12 in the Atlanta metro area, and also announced 10 new player acquisitions.
The most recent commitments to the league include current WNBA players Courtney Williams, Odyssey Sims and Tianna Hawkins, who played for the Atlanta Dream this past season, Jantel Lavender of the Indiana Fever, and the Seattle Storm‘s Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, who missed this past season on pregnancy leave.
Essence Carson, a 13-season WNBA veteran who won a WNBA title with Lavender in Los Angeles in 2016, also has joined the league. The other signings are former James Madison player Kirby Burkholder, Tyce Knox (Texas A&M), Jessica Kuster (Rice) and Laurin Mincy (Maryland), all of whom have played professionally overseas.
When the league was announced in October, Cloud and former WNBA players Sydney Colson and Ty Young were unveiled as the first three players to sign with the AU league.
What is the format of the league?
The basketball league will have the same model as Athletes Unlimited uses in its other professional softball, volleyball and lacrosse leagues for women, and the format focuses more on measuring individual players’ success.
There are no owners, general managers or specific teams. Instead, the players start on four different teams that wear uniforms of different colors and have assigned captains. Players compile points based on their teams’ results and their individual statistics. At the end of each week, the top four players in the points standings become captains and repick their teams.
“Athletes Unlimited provides American players an additional opportunity to play in the United States,” Lavender said. “I am also looking forward to the unique Athletes Unlimited format: every week a new team, playing with — as well as against — some of the best players in our sport. I hope it’s something that can be an option for women’s basketball players for many years to come.”
At the end of the season, there is an overall points winner.
How will we be able to watch the games?
Athletes Unlimited Basketball is expected to announce its broadcast schedule in December.