The players of the next FIBA Women’s World Cup will have more rest in the calendar
SYDNEY — Players at this year’s World Cup had some concerns about the competition, including the compact schedule and schedule of the tournament, and the women have taken their complaints to the top.
FIBA Secretary General Andreas Zagklis spoke to many players during the recently played tournament. He offered a quick fix for the other issues, but changing the date will take more work.
The next World Cup in 2026 will once again feature 16 teams instead of the 12 in this year’s tournament – and players will have more time to recover between final rounds.
“We won’t play three days in a row, it won’t happen again,” Zagklis said. “It’s not something we want to see repeated. It’s too heavy for the players.”
At this year’s tournament, the quarter-finals, semi-finals and medal matches took place over three consecutive days. Overall, the teams that reached the gold medal game would have played eight games in 10 days. The 2018 World Cup saw a hiatus between the quarterfinals and the medal round.
While the schedule change is a welcome positive step for players, there is still the issue of timing. The WNBA attempted to work with FIBA by shortening its season. Yet the league playoffs continued until the start of the World Cup, requiring a dozen players to travel a few thousand miles, get off a plane, and start playing for their national teams.
Many European leagues announce shortly after the end of the World Cup, so it is difficult to move it to a later start date.
Zagklis said FIBA will work with stakeholders to provide the best possible solution for players – while indicating that change will likely have to come from the WNBA or other professional leagues.
USA Basketball President Martin Dempsey said it was urgent for FIBA to resolve the scheduling issue, especially with the WNBA expanding over the next few years.
“The time to have this conversation is before it happens, not after,” Dempsey said. “So we really have to figure out with the ‘W’, the NBA and FIBA how to keep all of these businesses viable, because we don’t want to run the risk of creating a very diluted World Cup.
“We need to have a very serious ongoing conversation about how to synchronize things so they don’t collide.”
Five of the American players appeared in the WNBA Finals which ended three days before the start of the World Cup. Chelsea Gray, Kelsey Plum and Tournament MVP A’ja Wilson missed the first two games for USA
Before the announcement of the schedule change, the players made their positions clear.
“I don’t know if FIBA cared about anyone,” Plum said.
“Rest would be good,” Wilson said. “Having time in between would definitely help.”
The venue for the 2026 World Cup has yet to be announced and getting to Australia may have been the toughest place for everyone due to its location.
Serbia coach Marina Maljković noticed how tired many players were. She coaches in Turkey in the winter and said players from all leagues need a break.
“You see a lot of players who lack freshness. You can see that, any team going from the club season to the WNBA, from the WNBA to the national team,” Maljković said. “This year it’s very, very complicated. … Talking to the players, they’ve really suffered this season because of the tight schedule everywhere. I guess there will be smart people sitting around the table and will see what we can do about it.”
Logistical issues aside, the World Cup was a huge success in Australia. The total attendance of 145,519 people was the highest in the history of the competition. There were nearly 16,000 fans in the gold medal game between the United States and China, which was the biggest since the 1953 league game played in Chile in a stadium that had 35,000 fans.
“By all metrics, we’ve seen tremendous effort from the hosts,” Zagklis said. “Record merchandise sales, record attendance, fantastic atmosphere in the games, so it’s hard to argue with the conclusion that we got to experience the best World Cup ever.”