Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
October 31, 2016 - Major League Soccer (MLS)

BASEBALL

Florida State League: With the Brevard County Manatees of the high Class-A FSL moving from Space Coast Stadium in Viera to Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee for the 2017 season, the team has been renamed the Florida Fire Frogs. A name-the-team contest had six proposed nicknames (Dragonflies, Fire Dogs, Mud Kickers, Rodeo Clowns, Sorcerers and Toucans), plus write-in submissions. The Manatees had been based out of Space Coast Stadium since 1994. The FSL had a previous team called the Kissimmee Cobras that relocated after the 2000 season.

Desert League: The fall-season independent Desert League finished its inaugural 2016 season this weekend. One of the league's four teams called the Imperial County (CA) Ghost Riders was unable to play home games as planned at locations in Holtville and Calexico, so the team played home games in Yuma (AZ), which already was hosting two other Desert League teams called the Yuma Maple Leafs and Yuma Hammers. The fourth Desert League team was the Somerton (AZ) Caneros.

BASKETBALL

National Basketball League of Canada: The St. John (New Brunswick) Millrats of the NBL-Canada announced the team's new name will be the St. John Riptide starting with the upcoming 2016-17 season. The team started as the Manchester (NH) Millrats and played one season (2007-08) in the American Basketball Association and two seasons (2008-10) in the Premier Basketball League before becoming the St. John Mill Rats in the 2010-11 PBL. The team joined the NBL-Canada for the league's inaugural 2011-12 season. Other nickname choices like Loyalists, Celtics and Monkey Geese were also available for fan voting along with write-in votes.

American Basketball Association: The semi-pro ABA has added a new team called the Bartlesville (OK) Rim Rattlers to the new Great Plains Division for the 2016-17 season. The ABA also announced two new 2017 teams called the Henderson (NV) Hawks and the La Crosse (WI) Showtime.

Universal Basketball Association: The UBA announced the 2016-17 season will feature 28 teams aligned into 5 regional conferences. The Southern Conference has six Georgia-based teams; the nine Western Conference teams are based in Texas and Oklahoma; the five Northern Conference teams are based in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio; and the four teams in each of the Atlantic Conference and Eastern Conference are based in the Carolinas.

FOOTBALL

National Football League: The NFL is reported to be taking a preliminary look at the possibility of creating a development league in the future.

Arena Pro Football: The proposed new APF, which was originally called the National Arena Football League, has added a new team called the Myrtle Beach (SC) Sharks for its inaugural 2017 season. A team called the Myrtle Beach Freedom was part of the 2016 American Indoor Football. The APF announced a new Virginia-based franchise will be added. The APF also entered into an agreement with the league known as the United States Indoor Football, which will play all games at an arena in Savannah (GA), for it to serve as a developmental league for the APF.

Arena Developmental League: The proposed new ADL officially announced the addition of a new team called the Corpus Christi (TX) Rage for the league's inaugural 2017 season. The Rage has been added to the ADL's Southern Division of teams. Most recently, a team called the Corpus Christi Fury (2013-16) was part of the now-defunct AIF for the 2016 season. The city has had other pro indoor teams called the Corpus Christi Hammerheads (2004-12) and the Corpus Christi Sharks (2007-09).

Indoor Football League: The IFL announced its schedule and league alignment for the 2017 season that will again feature ten teams. The Billings (MT) Wolves and Tri-Cities Fever (Kennewick, WA) will not return from last season, but the league is adding the Arizona Rattlers (Phoenix) from the Arena Football League along with the expansion Salt Lake Screaming Eagles. The five-team United Conference will remain the same, while Arizona and Salt Lake replace Billings and Tri-Cities in the five-team Intense Conference. The Billings Wolves could not afford to comply with certain state regulations and suspended operations, but stated the team could return in 2018 under new ownership. The Tri-Cities Fever will be a dormant IFL member in 2017, but the owner could move the team to another market or sell it to a new owner who could try to keep the team in Tri-Cities or also move it to a new location.

Midwest Professional Indoor Football: The MPIF has added some additional teams and currently lists eight teams for its second season that will start in early 2017. Recently added new teams include the Midway Marauders (Chicago), Indianapolis Panthers, Cincinnati Flex and the Cleveland Pack. The Cincinnati Flex was originally associated with the proposed Indoor Football Association. The Cleveland Pack played a few games in the 2015 season of American Indoor Football when it took over the schedule of the Cleveland Saints, but the Pack was dormant in 2016.

HOCKEY

Federal Hockey League: The lower-level professional FHL started its 2016-17 season this week with seven teams. Of the six teams from last season, the Dayton Demolition and Brewster (NY) Bulldogs did not return. The Watertown (NY) Wolves returned after sitting out last season due to arena renovations and the league added two new teams called the Cornwall (Ontario) Nationals and St. Clair Shores (MI) Saints. The FHL currently lists two future markets - Winston-Salem (NC) with a team called the Carolina Thunderbirds and Dayton (OH) with an unnamed team.

Canadian Women's Hockey League: The elite-level non-professional CWHL started its 2016-17 season earlier this month with the same five teams as last season. The teams include the Boston Blades, Brampton Thunder (Ontario), Calgary Inferno, Les Canadiennes de Montréal and Toronto Furies.

National Women's Hockey League: The professional NWHL started its second season earlier this month with the same four teams as last season and includes the Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale (Northford) and New York Riveters. There had been talk of possible expansion into places like Toronto, Montreal or Minnesota, but nothing was worked for the 2016-17 season.

SOCCER

Major League Soccer: The status of the MLS expansion bid by the Sacramento Republic FC of the United Soccer League could be determined after a meeting of the MLS expansion committee next month. The city's planning committee appears ready to approve the site and plans for a proposed MLS-style soccer stadium. The city of St. Louis has a second potential MLS ownership group that recently unveiled plans for an MLS-style soccer stadium in midtown, near St. Louis University. The first St. Louis group interested in an MLS expansion franchise has been working toward a downtown stadium on the site of a previously proposed football stadium for the National Football League's St. Louis Rams, now the Los Angeles Rams. St. Louis recently announced it has a two-year option with the Missouri Department of Transportation to sell another downtown site that could also be considered for a soccer stadium.

North American Soccer League: The Tampa Bay Rowdies and Ottawa Fury FC of the Tier-II NASL announced the teams will move to the Tier-III United Soccer League for the 2017 season. Both teams will be placed in the USL's Eastern Conference. The Rowdies had been with the NASL since the league's inaugural 2010 season, while the Fury joined the NASL for the 2014 season.

Major Arena Soccer League: The MASL started its 2016-17 season this weekend with 17 teams aligned into four-team Pacific, Southwest and Eastern divisions and a five-team Central Division. The league had 20 teams last season, but five teams did not return and the league added two expansion teams. Of the five non-returning teams, the Brownsville Barracudas, Las Vegas Legends, Waza Flo (Detroit/Flint) and Saltillo (Mexico) Rancho Seco will retain their league memberships and sit out the season with hopes to return in the future. The Sacramento Surge ceased operations and the franchise will be relocated in the future. The two MASL expansion teams for 2016-17 are the El Paso Coyotes and Florida Tropics (Lakeland). A team called the Monterrey (Mexico) Flash, which sat out last season, has been granted another one-year extension on its membership as the team again will sit out the 2016-17 season.

Premier Arena Soccer League: The PASL, which is the developmental league for the Major Arena Soccer League, announced its 2016-17 South Central Division will include teams called the Austin Fuego FC, Houston Ocelots FC, Houston Hotshots and Austin FC.

OTHER

Arena Lacrosse League: The proposed ALL, which originally planned to start with teams based in the United States, announced this week it will start play in January 2017 with six Canadian teams based in the Ontario markets of Oshawa, Six Nations, Paris, Peterborough, St. Catharines and Toronto. Games will be played out of two arenas - the GM Centre in Oshawa and the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena on the Six Nations of Grand River Reserve in Hagersville. The ALL is hoping to fill the void from the demise of the Ontario-based Canadian Lacrosse League (CLAX), which decided this past summer to cease operations prior to a sixth season in 2017. The CLAX started play in 2012 and operated a winter season running from January through March. The ALL would like to become an affiliated minor league to the National Lacrosse League.

Dan Krieger is the creator of the Leagues, Teams & Nicknames 2015-16: "The Leagueology Almanac" , which tracks the changes in league alignments, franchise movements and team nicknames in today's sports world. The publication is available for sale at www.amazon.com.


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