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Liberty, WNBA will also play in Central Florida

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2020 WNBA Draft Photo by NBA Photos/NBAE via Getty Images

Like their NBA colleagues, WNBA players will head to Central Florida next month to play an abbreviated 22-game season, then move on to crowning a champion for the 2020 season, commissioner Kathy Engelbert announced Monday.

The league is finalizing an agreement with IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, 100 miles southwest of the ESPN Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World, where the NBA is playing. IMG will host all the games, including a postseason in October.

Unlike the NBA, the WNBA put the agreement to a vote of all the players. ESPN reports 77 percent of the union members voted for the arrangement. Another round of approval from the players’ union would be required before the season actually begins.

The Liberty also owned by Joe and Clara Wu Tsai, had been expected to move into their new home at Barclays Center this season after playing two years at the 90-year-old Westchester County Center in White Plains. Now, that and the home debut of overall No. 1 pick Sabrina Ionescu will have to wait till the summer of 2021.

The 12 teams will play 22 games instead of the 36 originally scheduled. Despite the shortened season, the WNBA’s players will be paid as if they played the entire season.

“It’s not just about the money, it’s symbolic in a lot of ways,” Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike, president of the union’s executive committee, said of the salary commitment. “It’s a symbolism that carries on from our CBA. We asked our league and others to bet on women, and our league has shown they are doing that. It’s huge on an individual level for players, but also on the grand scheme.”

Training camps will be held in July at IMG, according to the league, although an exact starting date wasn’t given. All players and staff who come on-site will be tested on arrival and throughout the season.

However, there will be differences between the NBA and WNBA setups, according to Mechelle Voepel of ESPN.

Players’ lodging would include multiroom villas, which have kitchens, and hotel rooms. Players with children would be allowed to bring them in, along with a caretaker. Also, all players with at least five years’ experience can bring in a “plus-one” — such as a spouse or significant other — to stay on-site for the season, but they will need to pay for that person’s lodging, testing and meals. Once the playoffs reach the semifinals, all players would be allowed to bring in a plus-one.

Like the NBA, of course, the games will be played without fans.