Stewart and Collier plan to start a new women’s league to play in WNBA offseason

NEW YORK (AP) — WNBA stars Breanna Stewart and Napheesa Collier are starting a new women’s basketball league to give top players another option to play in the U.S. in the offseason once the league’s prioritization rules go into effect next year.

The new league, which is called Unrivaled, will run from January through March and have 30 of the top women’s players playing on six teams. Instead of the traditional 5-on-5 game, the teams will play 3-on-3 and 1-on-1 at a custom-built soundstage in Miami.

The league was first reported by ESPN.

The hope is to raise enough funding to pay players roughly what they make in the WNBA season to help offset the money they’d be losing out on by not playing overseas in the offseason. The maximum base salary for WNBA players is just over $230,000. Players like Stewart have earned more than a million dollars playing overseas in the past.

The prioritization rules were part of the collective bargaining agreement that was ratified in 2020 and requires players to return from their international teams by the start of WNBA training camps or else not be able to play in the league’s season. Overseas seasons often run through the middle of May, conflicting with the WNBA calendar.

Unrivaled would join Athletes Unlimited as a domestic offseason option for women’s basketball players. AU has 44 players in its league and is set to begin its third season next year.

Both Stewart and Collier have played overseas in their careers. Collier stopped after giving birth to her first child last year. Stewart’s wife, Marta Xargay, is expecting their second child in the fall.

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