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Sparks to open new 36-game WNBA schedule on May 16 against defending champions

Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike, left, and guard Chelsea Gray celebrate after a 92-69 victory over the Seattle Storm during the second round of the WNBA playoffs last season at Staples Center.
Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike, left, and guard Chelsea Gray celebrate after a 92-69 victory over the Seattle Storm during the second round of the WNBA playoffs last season at Staples Center.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles Sparks will open the WNBA’s new 36-game schedule on May 16 against the defending champion Mystics in Washington during a nationally televised game on ESPN.

The Sparks’ home opener is set for May 31 at Staples Center against the Connecticut Sun.

As part of the national broadcasts on ESPN networks, the Sparks will play four more times during the season. Additional broadcasts on CBS Sports Network, NBA TV, Twitter and local stations will be announced at a later date.

Along with the addition of two regular-season games, to 36, and an increase in nationally televised games, the WNBA announced a Commissioner’s Cup game with prize money. Starting in 2021, the prize money for the Commissioner’s Cup and other in-season tournaments will be a minimum of $750,000.

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The WNBA and its players’ union announced an eight-year collective bargaining agreement that increases player salaries and provides landmark benefits.

Qualifying will run for 10 games, two each against conference rivals, through July 10. The championship game, tentatively set for Aug. 14, will not count toward the regular-season standings.

“We are incredibly excited to introduce a first-of-its-kind in-season tournament for our league and present more regular-season games on ABC, increasing the WNBA’s national television exposure,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement. “The Commissioner’s Cup offers fans another competition through which to support their favorite teams and adds a new dimension to the season for our players and teams. And the 2020 schedule gives fans even more opportunities to see the best players in the world compete at the highest level and highlights the ABC/ESPN family’s continued commitment to the WNBA and women’s sports.”

The WNBA will take a break from July 11 to Aug. 15 so players can participate in the Tokyo Summer Olympics. The Sparks’ Chelsea Gray and Nneka Ogwumike are currently taking part in Team USA’s pre-Olympic training program.

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“We aren’t just adding games. We’re kind of finding ways to garner new fans,” said Ogwumike, the players union president. “The new schedule and Commissioner’s Cup will reflect the progress and innovation we’ve been discussing.”

SPARKS 2020 SCHEDULE

(all times Pacific)

May

16 at Washington*, 1 p.m.; 17 at New York, 3 p.m.; 24 at Connecticut, 4 p.m.; 27 at Indiana, 4 p.m.; 29 at Chicago, 5 p.m.; 31 vs. Connecticut, 6 p.m.

June

2 vs. Las Vegas, 7:30 p.m.; 5 vs. Dallas, 4:30 p.m.; 7 at Minnesota*, noon; 11 vs. Minnesota, 7:30 p.m.; 13 at Phoenix, 7 p.m.; 14 vs. Seattle, 6 p.m. 16 vs. Las Vegas*, 7 p.m.; 20 at Seattle, 6 p.m.; 23 vs. Phoenix*, 7 p.m.; 28 vs. New York, 6 p.m.; 30 vs. Chicago, 12:30 p.m.

July

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1 vs. Indiana, 7:30 p.m.; 3 at Dallas, 5 p.m.; 5 vs. Phoenix, 6 p.m.; 8 vs. Seattle, 7:30 p.m.; 10 at Las Vegas, 7:30 p.m.

August

16 at Phoenix, 3 p.m.; 19 at Minnesota, 5 p.m.; 21 at Connecticut, 4:30 p.m.; 23 at Washington, noon; 25 at Chicago, 5 p.m.; 28 at Atlanta, 4 p.m.

September

1 vs. New York, 7:30 p.m.; 3 vs. Washington, 7:30 p.m.; 6 vs. Atlanta, 6 p.m.; 8 vs. Indiana, 7:30 p.m.; 10 at Dallas, 5 p.m.; 13 vs. Dallas, 4 p.m.; 15 vs. Atlanta, 7:30 p.m.; 20 at Seattle, noon

*-nationally televised game


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