Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
December 12, 2016 - Texas League (TL)

BASEBALL

Texas League: The city of Wichita, which is home to Wichita Wingnuts baseball team in the independent American Association, is moving forward with efforts to generate bonds to fund a new baseball stadium for a possible affiliated team in the Double-A Texas League. The city hopes a new stadium would lure the Texas League's San Antonio Missions team, if and when San Antonio builds a new stadium for a Triple-A team. Wichita lost its previous Texas League team called the Wichita Wranglers when it moved to Springdale (AR) after the 2007 season to become the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. The Wingnuts started play the following season in the 2008 American Association.

BASKETBALL

Premier Basketball League: The PBL announced a new team called the Pennsylvania Dream, based in DuBois about 100 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, has been added for the upcoming 2017 season and the proposed 2017 standings now includes nine teams. The PBL's Lake Michigan Admirals team is now missing and a team called the Cincinnati Tigers that participated in the 2017 player draft is not listed. The owner of the new PBL team started a team called the DuBois Dream that participated this summer in The Basketball Tournament national charity event.

National Basketball Association: The investor trying to build a new arena in Seattle for the return of an NBA franchise announced plans to try to privately finance the project. This would end a memorandum of understanding with the city and county in which the project would receive $200 million in funding if an NBA franchise was obtained first for the arena. With private financing, the investor could first pursue a National Hockey League franchise for the arena until an NBA franchise becomes available.

FOOTBALL

Arena Football League: Although the AFL has shrunk from 8 to 5 teams for the 2017 season, the league has stated it plans to grow to 12-plus teams over the next few years, but will do that with only financially sound ownership groups.

Elite Indoor Football: The proposed new EIF, which plans to have teams based in the South, recently announced a new Atlanta-based team called the Georgia MOB has been added to the league. Other currently listed EIF teams included the Florida Tribe (Tallahassee), Savannah Steam and Carolina Cowboys (Greenville/Spartanburg, SC).

National Arena League: The proposed new NAL, which started out as the Arena Developmental League, has announced its inaugural 2017 season schedule that will feature eight teams. The NAL will include the Columbus (GA) Lions, Lehigh Valley Steelhawks (Allentown, PA) and Georgia Firebirds (Albany) from last season's American Indoor Football; the Jacksonville Sharks from the Arena Football League; and new teams called the Corpus Christi Rage, High Country Grizzlies (Boone, NC), Dayton Wolfpack and Monterrey Steel (Mexico). The season will run from March 17 to June 19, 2017.

HOCKEY

National Women's Hockey League: As the four-team professional NWHL plays its second season, the league announced plans last month to cut players' salaries 38 percent so it could afford to make it through the 2016-17 season..

ECHL: The ECHL is playing the 2016-17 season with 27 teams, but league officials would like to grow the league to 30 teams by the 2018-19 season. The Worcester (MA) Railers HC will join next season as an expansion team. The league's Evansville (IN) IceMen team asked to sit out this season as it planned to move to Owensboro (KY), but an arena deal fell through in Owensboro. That franchise could eventually relocate and restart in the future. Reno (NV) and Portland (ME) have been mentioned as possible future ECHL markets.

United States Premier Hockey League: The junior-level USPHL, which operates several leagues at the Tier-III junior level, had its application to operate a Tier-II league next season denied by USA Hockey.

SOCCER

Major League Soccer: In the annual state of the league message from the MLS commissioner, the MLS needs to resolve the stadium issue for the proposed Miami franchise. Miami would be the league's 24th team, but the MLS wants the Miami issue resolved so it can move on to other proposed expansion markets that would grow to the league to a cap of 28 teams. Atlanta and Minnesota will join in 2017 to give the league 22 teams and Los Angeles FC will join in 2018 as the 23rd team. The MLS has had recent activity in the St. Louis market as a potential ownership group tries to obtain some state funding for a new soccer stadium. The owner of the North Carolina FC, formerly the Carolina RailHawks (Cary, NC), in the North American Soccer League recently announced plans to build a stadium in the Raleigh area for a future MLS team. The owner of the Tampa Bay Rowdies team, which moved from the NASL to the United Soccer League for the 2017 season, announced this week the intention to bring an MLS team to the St. Petersburg market. Groups in Sacramento, Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville, San Diego and San Antonio have also expressed interest in a future MLS expansion franchise.

North American Soccer League: The Carolina RailHawks (Cary, NC) of the Division-II NASL officially announced the team has been renamed the North Carolina FC. The team's owner also announced plans to build a 24,000-seat soccer stadium in nearby Raleigh for a future Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise, along with plans to add a professional women's team in the National Women's Soccer League. The future of the NASL and its status as a Tier-II league is uncertain. After the 2016 season, the NASL lost the Minnesota United to the MLS and the Ottawa Fury and Tampa Bay Rowdies to the United Soccer League (USL). NASL teams called the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Rayo OKC (Oklahoma City) and New York Cosmos were reported to be on the verge of folding and other NASL teams could move to the USL if that league receives Tier-II status over the NASL.

United Soccer League: The Major League Soccer expansion team called the Los Angeles FC (LAFC) has signed an affiliation agreement with the Orange County Blues (Irvine, CA) of the Tier-III USL. Although the LAFC will not start play in the MLS until the 2018 season, the affiliation will start in the 2017 USL season with some potential LAFC players assigned to the Blues. The Blues recently came under new ownership that plans to rebrand the club based on fan input. The owner of the Grand Rapids FC in the National Premier Soccer League has proposed a new 8,000-seat soccer stadium that could become home to an eventual Grand Rapids-based USL expansion team. A decision on the USL's application for Tier-II status under the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) has been temporarily delayed due to issues with the only current Tier-II soccer league, the North American Soccer League (NASL), and the possible re-sanctioning of the NASL by the USSF.

OTHER

League 1 Rugby: The English third-tier rugby league known as League 1, or Kingstone Press League 1, has added its first North American team called the Toronto Wolfpack for the 2017 season.

Major League Lacrosse: The outdoor MLL announced it will hold the 2017 MLL All-Star game in Sacramento, as the league looks to California for future expansion. Last season, the event was held in Fullerton (CA). The MLL started play in 2001 and had California-based teams called the Los Angeles Riptide and San Francisco Dragons as part of a Western Division for three seasons (2006-08).

Major Rugby Championship: The new MRC competition plans to start play in late January 2017 with five participating clubs called the Glendale Raptors (Denver), Rugby Utah (Salt Lake City), Austin Hans, Griffins Rugby (Allen, TX) and New Orleans. Glendale is using this competition to fill in scheduling gaps after the Pacific Rugby Premiership moved to a fall season starting in 2017, while the Austin Hans and Griffins Rugby are considering a move to becoming professional clubs.


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