Tampa, Phoenix chosen as women’s Final Four sites

The NCAA women’s basketball Final Four is finally headed west again.

Phoenix will host the 2026 championship, the NCAA announced Wednesday. It will be the first time since 2012, when Denver was the host, that the women’s Final Four will be in the Mountain or Western time zone.

“Historically we have hosted every major sporting event. We’ve had the Super Bowl, the men’s Final Four, the national championship football game. We have a history of successfully hosting events,” Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne said.

Tampa was awarded the 2025 Final Four, marking the fourth time that the Florida city will be the host. Tampa last hosted in 2019.

“Tampa Bay and Phoenix will be great future hosts for what has become America’s marquee women’s sporting event,” said Nina King, chair of the Division I Women’s Basketball Committee. “The committee appreciates all of the cities that were involved in the bid process and know that when we crown a national champion in those cities that our student-athletes, coaches and fans will have enjoyed an amazing championship experience.”

Portland, Oregon, and Columbus, Ohio, were the other two finalists.

The next four Final Fours will be played in San Antonio, Minneapolis, Dallas and Cleveland. Dallas will also host the Division II and III titles in 2023.

The NCAA also announced the eight cities that will host regionals from 2023-26. The NCAA decided to move to a two-city regional format with eight teams at each site starting in 2023. Greenville, South Carolina, and Seattle will host regional play in 2023. Albany, New York, and Portland, Oregon, will host in 2024; Birmingham, Alabama, and Spokane, Washington, in 2025; and Fort Worth, Texas, and Sacramento, California, in 2026.

“This bid cycle was significant for Division I women’s basketball as we were able to identify two outstanding future host cities for the Women’s Final Four in 2025 and 2026 and named the eight regional host sites that will be part of our new two-site regional format that is in play beginning in 2023,” said Lynn Holzman, vice president of women’s basketball at the NCAA. “I am pleased that over the next six years we will play in several new markets, while providing enhanced hosting opportunities.”

This year’s Final Four was supposed to be in New Orleans but was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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More AP women’s basketball: https://apnews.com/Womenscollegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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