WNBA announces schedule, season to start July 25

(Reuters) - The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) unveiled the schedule for its truncated 2020 season on Monday, with Seattle Storm and New York Liberty kicking off the action on July 25.

Players have already traveled to Bradenton, Florida, where the whole of the 22-game regular season will take place without fans in an effort to minimize the risk of COVID-19 spread.

The regular season will finish on Sept. 12, followed by the playoffs and finals.

The WNBA season was due to run from May 15-Sept. 20 but had to be postponed in April due to the novel coronavirus outbreak which hit the sporting calendar around the world.

The league said last week that seven players had tested positive for COVID-19 and were in isolation.

The opener between the Liberty and Storm should see the debut of the New York squad’s highly touted first overall draft pick Sabrina Ionescu, with matchups between the Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury, as well as the Indiana Fever and reigning WNBA champion Washington Mystics, to follow.

Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said the upcoming season provided an opportunity “to build on the momentum for women’s sports and the WNBA.

“We’re looking forward to using our collective platform to highlight the tremendous athletes in the WNBA as well as their advocacy for social change,” said Engelbert.

The WNBA, which had already announced it would dedicate the season to social justice, said that on the opening weekend “all aspects of the game and player outfitting will be designed to affirm Black Lives Matter and honor victims of police brutality and racial violence.”

A handful of players are skipping the season, with Connecticut Sun star Jonquel Jones opting out due to concern over the coronavirus, as new daily cases of COVID-19 in Florida shattered records.

Atlanta Dream guard Renee Montgomery said she would sit out the season to focus on social justice reform.

Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Ken Ferris