SYDNEY – The players at this year’s World Cup had some concerns about the competition, including the compressed schedule and tournament timing, and the women took their grievances to the top.
The Secretary General of the International Basketball Federation, Andreas Zacklis, spoke with several players during the recent tournament. Offer a quick fix to the rest of the concerns, but changing the date would take more work.
The next World Cup in 2026 will again feature 16 teams instead of this year’s 12 – and players will have more time to recover between the final rounds.
“We are not going to play three days in a row and that will not happen again,” Zackles said. “It’s not something we want to repeat. It’s too heavy for the players.”
In this year’s tournament, the quarter-finals, semi-finals and medal matches were played over three consecutive days. In general, the teams that made it to the gold medal match would have played eight matches in 10 days. The 2018 World Cup saw an intermission between the quarter-finals and the medal round.
While the schedule change is a welcome positive step for players, there is still the issue of timing. The WNBA tried to work with FIBA by shortening his season. However, the playoffs in the league continued until the start of the World Cup, forcing about a dozen players to travel a few thousand miles, get off the plane and start playing for their national teams.
Many European leagues kick off soon after the World Cup ends, so it’s hard to move them to a later start date.
Zagklis said FIBA will work with stakeholders to provide the best possible solution for players – although noting that the change is likely to come from the WNBA or other professional associations.
Martin Dempsey, president of NBA, said there is a sense of urgency for the FIBA to address the scheduling problem, especially as the NBA prepares for expansion over the next few years.
“It’s time to have this conversation before it happens, not after,” Dempsey said. “So we really need to figure out how to keep all of these institutions viable through the ‘W’ and the NBA and FIBA because we don’t want to risk creating a very weak World Cup.
“We have to have a really serious and ongoing conversation about how to keep things in sync so they don’t conflict.”
Five United States players competed in the WNBA Finals, which ended three days before the start of the World Cup. Chelsea Gray, Kelsey Bloom, and Player of the Tournament Aja Wilson missed their first two games for the United States.
Before announcing the schedule change, the players indicated their positions.
“I don’t know if the FIBA has shown an interest in anyone,” Bloom said.
Rest would be a good thing,” Wilson said. Spending some time in between will definitely help.
The location of the 2026 World Cup has yet to be announced, and getting to Australia is probably the hardest place of all because of its location.
Serbia coach Marina Maljkovic noticed how tired many players were. He trained in Turkey in the winter and she said players in all leagues needed a break.
“You see a lot of players who lack freshness. You can see that, any team that goes from a club season to the NBA, from the NBA to the national team,” Malikovic said. “This year, it’s very complicated… Speaking to the players, they have really struggled this season because of the tight schedule everywhere. I think there will be smart people who will sit around the table and see what we can do about it.”
Aside from the logistical issues, the World Cup was a huge success in Australia. The total attendance of 145,519 was the highest in the competition’s history. There were nearly 16,000 fans in the gold medal match between the United States and China, which was the largest since the 1953 championship match played in Chile in a stadium that held 35,000 spectators.
“By all accounts, we’ve seen a tremendous effort by the hosts,” Zackless said. “Record merchandise sales, record attendance, and a great gaming atmosphere, so it’s hard to challenge the conclusion that we were able to experience the best World Cup ever.”