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Fans rally together behind a missed call by the referee, Saturday, Feb. 25 at The Pit.

Opinion: Albuquerque should be a target for WNBA expansion

The Women’s National Basketball Association season is in full swing and nearing the league’s All-Star game on July 15. While the league celebrates their top talent, it is a good time to recognize what the gauntlet athletes have to endure to reach that point.

With only 144 roster spots across the 12 team league, talented players are waived before they get a chance to develop. Just 15 players from the three round draft made the roster for the team.

In the cutthroat league, prospects have to help their teams win from the jump. With limited spots, teams will opt for players with no weaknesses, which leaves players like Brea Beal without a team.

In the Lynx’s two preseason games, Beal failed to score in 26 minutes of play but displayed her defensive ability. Given more time to develop a jump shot with a high level of play, she could be an impactful player but won't be given that opportunity on the team this season.

Stories like this are found all over the league. Beal made Sports Illustrated’s “Superteam of Waived Players” showcasing the talent being left behind. A solution to the problem is clear: expansion.

The talent in women’s basketball is at an all time high and finding spots for talented players only helps the game. With the WNBA historically struggling with attendance and turning a profit, the key for growing the game professionally isn’t to place a team in a large media market. The league should be looking for cities that already have an established appreciation for women’s basketball, like Albuquerque.

The University of New Mexico women’s basketball team averaged 4,725 fans per game in the 2022-2023 season, which leads the conference by an average of 2,091. A total of 80,328 fans went to games at The Pit this season. Those numbers would put Albuquerque as the ninth most attended team in the WNBA’s 2022 season – beating a third of the league.

Albuquerque has historically supported their professional teams. Last summer, Isotopes averaged 7,062 fans to lead the PCL in attendance. NM United brought in similar numbers, averaging 10,724 fans in 16 games last season to lead the United Soccer League Championship in the highest average number of fans at matches.

Both teams are beloved in Albuquerque and play in just a tier below the highest level of play in America for their respective sports.

If the city were to receive a WNBA team, it would be their lone professional team to play at the highest level and there is no reason to think fans wouldn’t be there and be among the highest in attendance.

The team would already have the perfect venue at The Pit. UNM and the team could come to a deal to share the venue while it is unused in summer. The Chigaco Sky also shares a stadium with DePaul University’s men and women’s basketball teams at Wintrust Area. With a capacity of 15,411, The Pit would be bigger than other stadiums in the league, such as the Atlanta Dream's Gateway Center Arena which holds 3,500.

In May, ESPN reported on WNBA expansion being a couple years out and stated the front runners are Oakland/San Francisco, Toronto, Denver, Austin, Nashville, Charlotte and Portland. All of those cities are bigger than Albuquerque and may have a higher potential upside, but Albuquerque is an untapped market that has proven it is an underrated sports city.

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With border states, Texas and Arizona, having WNBA teams, rivalries are already ripe for breaking through. Expansion to New Mexico would help the league with attendance and give the league 12 more roster spots to give talented players a new home. Meanwhile, the city and state would get a team that plays at the highest level of the sport – something that it deserves.

Thomas Bulger is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at or on Twitter @thomasbulger10

Thomas Bulger

 Thomas Bulger is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at or on Twitter @thomasbulger10 

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