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A primer on the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup

The FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup tips off Saturday in Tenerife, Spain, with top-ranked Team USA seeking its tenth world championship.

Kelsey Plum is one of six first-timers on Team USA’s 2018 World Cup squad looking to make her mark at the international level.
NBAE/Getty Images

With the WNBA season in the rearview mirror, the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup — also known as the reason the 2018 season was shortened by three weeks — is now upon us! Here’s what to look for as you watch this year’s World Cup.

Team USA looks to continue its dynasty

As has become the norm, the United States is ranked No. 1 in the world, having won the last Olympic gold medal in the 2016 Rio Games and the World Cup title in 2014. The team’s sole blemish in international tournaments (that is, non-first place finish) since a third-place finish at the 2006 World Cup was at the 2015 Pan American Games, where a team made up entirely of collegiate players took silver to Canada’s gold.

The United States has also won nine of the 17 world championships played, with Russia (then the Soviet Union) winning six times and Australia and Brazil winning once each. But it’s been USA all the way since 2010.

The 2014 World Cup team saw tournament MVP Maya Moore average 15 points per game to lead the United States to victory over Spain in the Finals. But with Moore not playing in this year’s tournament, and half of the United States’ roster making their first World Cup appearances, the door is wide open for another young star to make her mark.

Team USA’s head coach is University of South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley, who will be assisted by Dan Hughes (Seattle Storm), Cheryl Reeve (Minnesota Lynx) and Jennifer Rizzotti (George Washington University).

Fun fact: The United States is 361 points away from becoming the first team to hit 10,000 points in World Cup play.

Familiar faces

With no college players on the roster, Team USA is loaded with WNBA talent from top to bottom. The following WNBA teams are represented on the United States roster:

Seattle Storm: Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd

Phoenix Mercury: Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner

Connecticut Sun: Layshia Clarendon, Morgan Tuck

Las Vegas Aces: A’ja Wilson, Kelsey Plum

Los Angeles Sparks: Nneka Ogwumike

New York Liberty: Tina Charles

Washington Mystics: Elena Delle Donne

But even more players on other countries’ rosters have WNBA or NCAA ties, led by Australia and Canada, whose teams have a combined eleven players who play professionally or collegiately in the United States. Find full rosters on the tournament website.

International summary

If there’s a “group of death” in this World Cup, it’s Group A, which contains both No. 3 France and No. 5 Canada. It’s also the only group where all four teams are ranked in the top 20. Tournament host, No. 2 Spain, headlines Group C, while No. 4 Australia is in Group B.

Team Canada boasts the New York Liberty’s Kia Nurse and Michigan State’s Shay Colley, both of whom had big games against the United States in recent tune-up games. Meanwhile, the Dallas Wings’ Liz Cambage highlights Team Australia’s roster, which is similarly packed with WNBA and NCAA players, including the Mercury’s Stephanie Talbot and Stanford’s Alanna Smith.

More players (USA and international) to watch, via FIBA:

Rule differences

FIBA operates under slightly different rules than the WNBA or NCAA. Here are a few of the minor differences, with the full list here:

  • Just as in the WNBA and NCAA women’s basketball, games consist of four 10-minute periods and five-minute overtime periods.
  • Games employ a 24-second shot clock, as in the WNBA.
  • Players are ejected after 5 personal fouls (as in NCAA) instead of the 6 personal fouls allowed in U.S. professional basketball.


Team USA’s Group D games will take place on the following dates:

  • Saturday, Sept. 22 at 1 p.m. ET (No. 17 Senegal)
  • Sunday, Sept. 23 at 1 p.m. ET (No. 10 China)
  • Tuesday, Sept. 25 at 1 p.m. ET (No. 26 Latvia)

The full schedule for all teams can be found here (or in PDF form here).

Here’s what the rest of the tournament will look like:

  • Wednesday, Sept. 26: Second-place teams from each group face third-place teams in different groups in qualifying games to determine who joins first-place teams in the quarterfinals
  • Friday, Sept. 28: Quarterfinals
  • Saturday, Sept. 29: Semifinals
  • Sunday, Sept. 30: Finals, which determine 1st place, 3rd place, 5th place and 7th place winners

How to watch

All games will be streamed on ($9.99/month). Games will also be broadcast on ESPN+ ($4.99/month; 7-day free trial), with a select few later-stage games — presumably the ones Team USA could appear in — slated to air on ESPNU. The third-place game will be on ESPN3, with the Final following on ESPN.