Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
January 23, 2017 - ECHL (ECHL)

BASEBALL

Arizona Winter League: The independent instructional AWL has posted its 2017 schedule that will feature four teams called the Edmonton Capitals, Laredo Apaches, Team Canada and Yuma Wranglers playing a three-week season next month. The league had six teams last season, but the El Paso Tejanos and Pericos de Puebla did not return. All games are played at the Ray Kroc Sports Complex in Yuma (AZ). The AWL is a showcase for players trying to latch onto an independent team for the upcoming season.

California Winter League: The independent instructional CWL started its 2017 season this week with 12 teams that will play a three-week schedule of games at a complex in Palm Springs (CA). The CWL is a showcase for players trying to find positions with an independent team for the upcoming summer season.

Pacific Coast League: The Fresno Grizzlies of the Triple-A PCL recently unveiled their Fresno Tacos uniforms that will be worn on every Tuesday home game during the 2017 season when the team takes the Fresno Tacos nickname.

Eastern League: After threatening to move out of town if there was no progress on a new ballpark, the Richmond Flying Squirrels of the Double-A Eastern League have indicated there has been some movement on the situation. The team signed a memorandum of understanding with the city of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) to work toward construction of a new shared ballpark and an initial site has been proposed. The owner of the Flying Squirrels moved the Norwich-based Connecticut Defenders to Richmond for the 2010 season with the promise of a new ballpark for the team.

Coastal Plain League: The summer-collegiate Coastal Plain League is considering the addition of a new team in Greenville (NC) and wants to add up to five new teams by the 2018 season.

BASKETBALL

National Basketball Association: The NBA is reported to be considering future expansion by two teams, possibly for the 2019-20 season. Seattle, Mexico City and Louisville are considered at the top of the expansion list with Las Vegas and Vancouver (British Columbia) also mentioned as possibilities. Seattle, which lost the NBA\'s Seattle Supersonics to Oklahoma City after the 2007-08 season, is considered the frontrunner for a new NBA team. An investor has been trying to fund a new arena in Seattle over the past few years, while the city recently announced requests for proposals to renovate the KeyArena, which was the former home of the Supersonics. The NBA has played pre-season and regular-season games in Mexico City over the past several seasons and played two regular-season games in Mexico City last weekend. Louisville has a fairly new NBA-style arena that is a factor to consider for possible expansion.

National Basketball Association Development League (D-League): The city planning commission in Oshkosh (WI) has signed off on a proposal for a new 3,500-seat arena that could become home to a new D-League team affiliated with the NBA\'s Milwaukee Bucks. An arena site has been selected and the city council now needs to review the plans. The Wisconsin cities of Oshkosh, Racine and Sheboygan have been under consideration as choices to become the home for a future D-League team operated by the Bucks.

American Basketball Association: The ABA announced plans to create a new developmental professional basketball league called ABA Mexico that will start play in August. The ABA says it has four teams lined up and there has been interest from several other teams. The ABA would like to grow the league to 32 teams and it is also planning to create an ABA Mexico Wheelchair Basketball League.

FOOTBALL

National Football League: The NFL\'s Oakland Raiders have filed relocation papers with the league to move the franchise to Las Vegas where a new 65,000-seat stadium is to be built for the team. The Raiders will most likely remain in Oakland for the next three seasons, as the Las Vegas stadium is not expected to be completed until 2020. The NFL owners could vote on the move at a meeting scheduled for March 2017.

HOCKEY

ECHL: The ECHL has officially granted the Worcester (MA) Railers HC full membership into the league, so it can start play in the 2017-18 season. The ECHL is a level below the American Hockey League and two levels below the National Hockey League. The Railers have begun looking for an affiliation deal with an NHL team. The ECHL has 27 teams this season and would eventually like to have each team operate as an affiliate of a team in the NHL, which will grow to 31 teams next season. The ECHL\'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.

Kootenay International Junior Hockey League: Canada\'s Junior-B KIJHL has received expansion applications from the British Columbia cities of Williams Lake and Quesnel, so the league could grow to 22 teams next season. Except for a team in Spokane (WA), all KIJHL teams are based in British Columbia.

SOCCER

Major League Soccer: The MLS commissioner recently expressed confidence that Miami will become the league\'s 24th team. The league would like another team to join when the Los Angeles FC starts play next season. If Miami were to join in 2018, the team would most likely have to play in a temporary for two seasons.

North American Soccer League: The NASL announced it will operate its 2017 season with eight teams each playing a 16-game Spring Season and a 16-game Fall Season starting in late March. Although Major League Soccer is interested in the San Diego market, the NASL now has two groups interested in bringing an NASL team to San Diego. The ownership of the Albion SC, which operated the Albion Pros team in the lower-level National Premier Soccer League in 2016, claims to be finalizing plans to join the NASL for the 2018 season. Another group of investors consisting of some former English Premier League players is also trying to start a new NASL team for the San Diego market.

United Soccer Leagues "" Premier Development League: The TSS FC Rovers (Total Soccer Systems) of the Vancouver (British Columbia) area will be part of the 2017 PDL after taking over the league\'s Washington Crossfire (Redmond) franchise. The Crossfire joined the PDL for the 2010 season when the PDL\'s Seattle Wolves FC merged with the Crossfire Premier club to form the Washington Crossfire. Vancouver returns to the league since the Vancouver Whitecaps U-23 team dropped out after the 2014 season. An ownership group is bringing a new PDL team to Brazos Valley (Bryant-College Station, TX) for the 2017 season. The team will be affiliated with the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer. The Dynamo will provide the players and coaching staff, while the ownership group will run the day-to-day operations. The new team will hold a name-the-team contest.

National Premier Soccer League: The men\'s elite-level NPSL announced two more new teams called the Elm City Express (New Haven, CT) and West Chester United FC (West Chester, PA) have been added for the 2017 season.

United Soccer League: The USL\'s Orange County (CA) Blues team has completed its rebranding and is now the Orange County Soccer Club. The club will be the USL affiliate of the new Major League Soccer expansion team called Los Angeles FC that will start play in 2018. The city council in Albuquerque (NM) has approved a feasibility study for a 10,000-seat soccer stadium that could allow the local Albuquerque Sol of the Premier Development League move up to the USL. The USL could also move into the San Diego market as a potential ownership group wants to bring a USL team to San Diego for the 2018 season.

OTHER

National Pro Fastpitch: The women\'s NPF announced its 2017 season will feature five teams called the Akron Racers, Chicago Bandits, Scrap Yard Dawgs (Houston), Texas Charge (San Marcos) and the USSSA Florida Pride (Viera) playing a 50-game schedule from early June to mid-August. The league had six teams last season, but the Pennsylvania Rebellion (Washington) did not return after three seasons in the league. Last season\'s Dallas Charge moved from McKinney (TX) to San Marcos and became the Texas Charge for the 2017 season. The USSSA Florida Pride had been based in Kissimmee, but will move to Space Coast Stadium in Viera for 2017. A few NPF teams will be playing some home games at neutral sites in 2017. The Pride will play some games in Tallahassee and Miami; Akron will play a couple of games in Salisbury (MD); and Texas will play some games in Kansas City (MO) and Aurora (CO).

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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