Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
July 26, 2016 - United Soccer League (USL)

BASEBALL

Carolina League: The city of Fayetteville (NC) announced it will move forward on a memorandum of understanding with Major League Baseball's Houston Astros to build a new downtown ballpark for a possible team in the high Class-A Carolina League. The league's Myrtle Beach Pelicans team was renamed the Myrtle Beach Mermen for one game this week. The Myrtle Beach Mermen is the name of a fictional team in an HBO series called Eastbound and Down.

California League: The San Bernardino-based Inland Empire 66ers of the high Class-A California League are trying to get improvements to its home stadium as part of a new lease agreement, but the city might not have the necessary funding. The team's stadium lease and affiliation agreement with Major League Baseball's Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim both expire at the end of this year and there is concern the team might leave the city.

Eastern League: The Double-A Eastern League announced the Hartford Yard Goats will play its entire inaugural 2016 season on the road due to construction delays and related disputes pertaining to its new stadium in Hartford. The team will play remaining "home games" at other Eastern League stadiums in New Hampshire (Manchester), Trenton (NJ), Binghamton (NY) and Bowie (MD). The Eastern League's Bowie Baysox (pronounced boo-hee) became the (David) Bowie Baysox (pronounced bo-hee) for one game as a tribute to legendary singer David Bowie.

Pacific Coast League: The Round Rock Express of the Triple-A PCL was renamed the Round Rock FireAnts for one game this week as part of a "What Could Have Been Night" promotion. FireAnts was one of the nickname choices when the Round Rock team joined the Double-A Texas League in 2000 with the relocation of the Jackson (MS) Generals to the Austin area. The Round Rock Express moved up to the Triple-A level for the 2005 season with the purchase of the PCL's Edmonton Trappers team.

BASKETBALL

National Basketball Association Development League (D-League): The NBA D-League announced it will hold an expansion draft in late August to stock three expansion teams called the Long Island Nets, Windy City Bulls (Chicago) and Greensboro (NC) Swarm that will all start play in 2016-17 season.

Midwest Professional Basketball Association: The MPBA announced a new team called the Jacksonville (IL) Generals will be part of the league's third season that will start in January 2017. The league had seven teams in its 2016 season with four based in Illinois, one in Ohio and two in St. Louis.

National Basketball League of America: The new semi-pro NBLA currently lists five Midwest-based teams that will start play in a 2016 season from September through November. As of now, teams include the Kansas City (KS) Steel, Omaha Chargers, Dakota Magic (Mitchell, SD), Sioux City (IA) Hornets and the Omaha Nation Bison (Macy, NE), formerly called the Siouxland Bison. The Kansas City Steel, Sioux City Hornets and Omaha Nation Bison were also mentioned as teams in the American Basketball Association.

American Basketball Association: Previously announced ABA expansion teams in Salina (KS) and Orlando now have team names - the Salina Saints and the Orlando Waves. The Salina Saints replace a previously proposed ABA team called the Salina Thunder.

Universal Basketball Association: The ownership of the UBA's Winston-Salem Savage Truth team has formed a team in Taiwan called the Kaohsiung Truth that will play in the 2016-17 season of Southeast Asia's ASEAN Basketball League.

FOOTBALL

American Indoor Football: The league known as the AIF announced it has ceased operations and the league owner has endorsed the new Arena Developmental League, which will start play in 2017. The AIF evolved from the 2005 Atlantic Indoor Football League, which became the American Indoor Football League in 2006 and morphed into the American Indoor Football Association for the next four seasons (2007-10). The AIFA was dormant in 2011 and returned as the AIF for the 2012 season.

Arena Developmental League: The new ADL announced the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks (Allentown, PA) and Columbus (GA) Lions, which were part of the now-defunct American Indoor Football (AIF) in 2016, have officially joined the ADL for its inaugural 2017 season. The High Country Grizzlies (Boone, NC), a recently announced 2017 AIF expansion team, has also moved to the ADL with the AIF's folding.

HOCKEY

National Hockey League: The NHL's New York Islanders were not happy with their first season at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and several reports stated that the Islanders' ownership was in talks with the ownership of Major League Baseball's New York Mets about building a new arena for the Islanders next to the Mets' home at Citi Field. The Barclays Center seats only 15,700 for hockey with 1,500 of those seats having an obstructed view. Only two NHL teams ranked below the Islanders in attendance last season.

ECHL: The group trying to bring an ECHL team to Portland (ME) by the 2017-18 season is said to be adding a new investor, but it is not certain whether the group will pursue an expansion franchise or try to purchase and relocate an existing franchise. The ECHL will operate with 27 teams in 2016-17 and wants to grow to as many teams as the National Hockey League, which will have 31 teams in 2017-18 with addition of a team in Las Vegas. The ECHL announced the addition of an expansion team called the Worcester (MA) Railers FC for 2017-18. The former Evansville IceMen team is sitting out the 2016-17 season and plans to return in 2017-18 as the Owensboro (KY) IceMen. The city of Prescott Valley (AZ), which was last home to the Arizona Sundogs in the 2013-14 Central Hockey League, has expressed interest in obtaining either an ECHL or an American Hockey League team in the future.

Federal Hockey League: The FHL announced the schedule for its seventh season in 2016-17 that will feature six teams. The league had six teams last season, but the Dayton Demolition and Brewster (NY) Bulldogs will not return. The league added an expansion team called the St. Clair Shores (MI) Fighting Saints and the Watertown (NY) Wolves returned after sitting out last season due to arena renovations.

SOCCER

United Soccer League: A decision is expected next month as to whether the USL will move up from Division-III status to Division-II. Currently, Major League Soccer (MLS) is considered as a Division-I league with the North American Soccer League (NASL) as the only current Division-II league. The Division-II status has certain market size and stadium seating capacity requirements that some current USL teams might not meet. The USL is operating with 29 teams aligned in Eastern and Western conferences. The league could grow to 32 teams by the 2018 season and possibly add a Central Conference.

Premier Arena Soccer League: The amateur-level PASL, which is the official developmental league for the Major Arena Soccer League (MASL), announced the Muskegon (MI) Risers will be part of the 2016-17 season. The Risers have played an independent outdoor schedule since 2015 and played a couple of indoor exhibition games against the MASL's Detroit Waza Flo.

OTHER

National Rugby Football League: The proposed new NRFL has been holding various regional player combines over the past year, but has yet to announce any teams or schedule for league play. The NRFL is a professional rugby union fifteens league that plans to play an April to July schedule and wants to use National Football League stadiums during the NFL off-season. An exhibition game with an NRFL-sponsored team called the Rough Riders versus England's Leicester Tigers team was scheduled for the summer of 2015, but was postponed when the USA Rugby governing body in the United States refused to sanction the match. The NRFL had hoped to hold some exhibitions in 2016 with league play starting in 2017.

Dan Krieger is the creator of the Leagues, Teams & Nicknames 2014-15: "The Leagueology Almanac" , which tracks the changes in league alignments, franchise movements and team nicknames in today's sports world. The publication is currently available at www.amazon.com.

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