Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
January 16, 2017 - Major League Soccer (MLS)

BASEBALL

Southwest League of Professional Baseball: The group trying to bring a new independent SWL team called the Waco BlueCats to the Bellmead area of Waco is still trying to work out details on the city's portion of funding for a proposed new stadium. The plan is to have a new baseball stadium ready for the league's inaugural season planned for a 2018 start. The SWL says it will have six teams in mid-sized Texas markets. Royce City, near Dallas, was announced as the second member city in October 2016.

Western Major Baseball League: The Swift Current (Saskatchewan) Indians from Canada's summer-collegiate WMBL have changed their name to the Swift Current 57's. The name was chosen to honor the 57 seasons the team played as the Indians.

Great West League: The new Yuba City (CA) expansion team in the summer-collegiate GWL will be called the Yuba City Bears when it starts play in the 2017 season.

Prospect League: The summer-collegiate Prospect League announced it will play the 2017 season with ten teams, as the DuPage Drones (Lisle, IL) and Hannibal (MO) Cavemen have suspended operations for the 2017 season.

Texas Collegiate League: The summer-collegiate TCL has added a new team in Texarkana (TX) for the 2017 season.

BASKETBALL

Midwest Professional Basketball Association: The MPBA, which has operated a winter/spring schedule from January through March the past two seasons (2015 & 2016), has decided to move from a winter start to a summer season in 2017. A summer schedule will be closer to when foreign leagues sign players for their seasons. The MPBA plans to operate both winter/spring and summer leagues in 2018.

BIG3 League: The new BIG3 professional 3-on-3 basketball league has been announced for a start in June 2017 with eight touring teams consisting of former National Basketball Association players. The league will host eight regular season events at different locations. A professional 3-on-3 league called the 3BA tried to get off the ground in 2011 selling individual franchises. At that time, the first 3BA teams were announced as the Spokane Slam, Vegas Voltage and Dallas Ambush.

Champions Basketball League: The proposed Champions League, which plans to be a professional men's summer basketball league with teams stocked with former National Basketball Association players, now lists the names of the teams for its 16 markets. These include the New York Gotham Ballers, Boston Rebellion, Philadelphia Glory, Miami Beach Kings, Orlando Juice, Washington (DC) Challengers, Atlanta Speed, Detroit PowerDrive, Cleveland Jammers, Chicago Ringers, Minnesota Storm, Houston Hustle, Dallas Dunkers, Phoenix Power, Los Angeles Rush and San Francisco Cyber Ballers.

FOOTBALL

Can-Am Indoor Football League: The proposed new CAIFL announced a team called the Boston Blaze has been added for the league's inaugural 2017 season. The Blaze will play a limited schedule in 2017 and will be a full-schedule team in 2018.

Supreme Indoor Football: The proposed SIF announced a new team called the Greenville (SC) Dragons has been added as a travel-only team for the league's inaugural 2017 season. The team plans to find a home venue for the 2018 season. The SIF also lists among its eight teams the Atlanta-based Georgia MOB, which had been listed as a member of the proposed new league called Elite Indoor Football.

Elite Indoor Football: The proposed new EIF has added a team called the Atlanta Furious for its inaugural 2017 season. The Furious replaces the Atlanta-based Georgia MOB that had been listed as an EIF team. The league currently lists a total of five member teams.

National Football League: The NFL's San Diego Chargers announced the team will move to Los Angeles for the 2017 season and become the Los Angeles Chargers. The team will share the new stadium being built by the owner of the Los Angeles Rams when it opens for the 2019 season. Until then, the Chargers will play home games at the StubHub soccer stadium that is home to Major League Soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy. The Chargers started as the Los Angeles Chargers in the inaugural 1960 season of the American Football League, but moved to become the San Diego Chargers the next season. The owner of the Chargers is not opposed to changing the name of the Los Angeles Chargers in the future.

Pacific Pro Football League: The proposed new Pac Pro developmental football league plans to start next summer with four teams controlled by the league and based in Southern California. The Pac Pro will be for college-age and former high school athletes looking to get paid to play professional football as an alternative to playing on a college team.

HOCKEY

National Ringette League: The Canadian women's NRL is in the second half of its 2016-17 season that features 16 teams. A new team called the Manitoba Intact was added this season as a fifth team in the Western Conference. The Eastern Conference has a Red Division with five Ontario-based teams and one New Brunswick team, while a White Division has one team in Ontario and four Quebec-based teams. The season runs from early October 2016 to late February 2017. Ringette is a team sport similar to ice hockey in equipment and playing surface. Players use straight sticks to control and pass a rubber ring. The game is centered more around skating and passing rather than puck handling and involves catching or "stabbing" the ring. It is played primarily by women in the United States, Canada, Sweden, Finland and France.

SOCCER

Major League Soccer: The MLS announced its 2017 season schedule and alignment that will feature 22 teams aligned in an 11-team Eastern Conference and an 11-team Western Conference. The league expanded from 20 to 22 teams with the addition of the Atlanta United FC to the Eastern Conference and the Minnesota United FC to the Western Conference. Each team will play a 34-game schedule from early March to late October 2017. With the National Football League's San Diego Chargers announcing a move to Los Angeles this year, plans are expected to move forward to try to convert the site of the San Diego Chargers' football stadium into a new 30,000-seat stadium that would be shared by an MLS team and the San Diego State University football program. A proposed bill to fund an MLS stadium in St. Louis has been put on hold after the new Missouri governor opposed a request for state tax credits to be used for the stadium. The owner of the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the Division-II United Soccer League presented plans to the city of St. Petersburg for converting the team's current home into a privately funded 18,000-seat stadium for a potential MLS team. One local official suggested the team change its name to the St. Petersburg Rowdies, but ownership is not interested.

United Women's Soccer: The pro-am UWS has added a fifth team called the Michigan Legends FC, based in the suburban Detroit area of Brighton, to its new 2017 Midwest Conference. Four other new Midwest Conference teams were announced last month. The UWS operated with a six-team East Conference and a five-team West Conference for its inaugural 2016 season.

North American Soccer League: The NASL announced it will operate with eight teams in 2017: the Indy Eleven (Indianapolis), FC Edmonton, Miami FC, Puerto Rico FC, North Carolina FC (was Carolina RailHawks), Jacksonville Armada, New York Cosmos and the expansion San Francisco Deltas. The Jacksonville Armada and New York Cosmos were in financial trouble, but the Armada is in the process of being sold back to the league and a search will begin for new ownership, while the Cosmos recently came under new ownership. Of the 12 teams from last season, the Minnesota United FC moved up to Major League Soccer, the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Ottawa Fury FC moved to the United Soccer League, and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and OKC Rayos (Oklahoma City) will not return. Recently discussed NASL expansion in California and other markets and will not happen in 2017

United Soccer League: The USL announced its 2017 team alignment that will feature 30 teams in 15-team Eastern and Western conferences. The league had 29 teams last season, but the FC Montreal and Wilmington Hammerheads did not return. The league added the Ottawa Fury FC and Tampa Bay Rowdies from the North American Soccer League, along with the expansion Reno 1868 FC. The Arizona United FC was renamed the Phoenix Rising FC for 2017. Tampa Bay and Ottawa were added to Eastern Conference to replace the loss of FC Montreal and Wilmington. St. Louis was moved from the Western to the Eastern Conference and Reno was added to the Western Conference.

Women's Premier Soccer League: The elite-level WPSL announced six new teams that are expected to join for the 2017 season. These teams include the Charleston (SC) Fleet, Little Rock Rangers, Temecula (CA) FC, Shreveport Rafters, Virginia Legacy-W76 (Williamsburg) and a Silicon Valley (CA) team that will play between Palo Alto and San Jose. Eight other new teams are going through the approval process.

National Women's Soccer League: The owner of the professional NWSL's Western New York Flash (Rochester, NY) officially announced the team has been sold and will relocate to Cary (NC) to become the North Carolina Courage for the 2017 season. The owner of the men's Cary-based North Carolina FC, which is the recently renamed Carolina RailHawks team in the North American Soccer League, has purchased the Western New York Flash. A former Cary-based women's team called the Carolina Courage played in all three seasons (2001-03) of the former professional league called the Women's United Soccer Association. The Flash started as the Buffalo Flash playing two seasons (2009-10) in the former W-League. The team became the Western New York Flash for the last season of the pro league called Women's Professional Soccer in 2011, played in the Women's Premier Soccer League-Elite in 2012 and joined the NWSL for the NWSL's inaugural season in 2013.

OTHER

Major Rugby Championship: The Griffins Rugby (Allen, TX) has dropped out of the new MRC competition that is expected to start play later this month. The four remaining MRC teams include the Glendale Raptors (Denver), Rugby Utah (Salt Lake City), Austin Hans and NOLA (New Orleans).

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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