Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
April 24, 2017 - Major League Soccer (MLS)

BASEBALL

Pacific Coast League: The Albuquerque (NM) Isotopes of the Triple-A PCL announced the team will be renamed the Albuquerque Green Chile Cheeseburgers as part of a one-game promotion in June 2017.

Carolina League: The high Class-A Carolina League started its 2017 season earlier this month and grew to ten teams after the contraction of two high Class-A teams from the California League and the addition of two new Carolina League teams. The new Down East Wood Ducks (Kinston, NC) and the Buies Creek (NC) Astros were added to the Southern Division, while the Salem (VA) Red Sox were moved to the Northern Division. The Astros are temporarily playing at Buies Creek\'s Campbell University until construction of a new ballpark in downtown Fayetteville (NC) is completed for the 2019 season.

California League: The high Class-A California League started its 2017 season earlier this month with two less teams than last season leaving eight teams aligned into four-team North and South divisions. The league\'s Bakersfield Blaze from the North division and the High Desert Mavericks (Adelanto) from the South division were shut down after the 2016 season and replaced by two new Class-A teams in the Carolina League. The independent Pecos League moved into the vacated markets and added new teams called the Bakersfield Train Robbers and High Desert Yardbirds for its 2017 season.

Florida State League: The high Class-A FSL started its 2017 season earlier this month and again has its 12 teams aligned into six-team North and South divisions. The only change was in the North division where the Brevard County Manatees moved from Space Coast Stadium in Viera to Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee to become the Florida Fire Frogs for the 2017 season. Other potential nicknames for the Fire Frogs were Dragonflies, Mud Kickers, Rodeo Clowns, Sorcerers and Toucans.

Atlantic League: The independent Atlantic League started its 2017 season this week with the same eight teams as last season. Teams are aligned in a four-team Liberty Division and a four-team Freedom Division.

American Association: As part of an April Fool\'s Day joke in which the St. Paul (MN) Saints of the independent American Association announced they would take 50 different team names during the 2017 season, the team asked fans which of the 50 team names they would like the team to use. The winner was the St. Paul Duck, Duck Gray Ducks, so the team will take that nickname for a game in August 2017 and its opponent for the night, the Cleburne (TX) Railroaders, will become the Cleburne Duck Duck Goose.

BASKETBALL

National Basketball Association Development League (D-League): As announced earlier this year, the NBA D-League will become the NBA Gatorade League, or G-League, starting next season as part of a sponsorship deal with Gatorade. The NBA\'s Orlando Magic recently announced its new NBA G-League affiliate to be located in Lakeland (FL) will be called the Lakeland Magic when the team starts play in the 2017-18 season. The Orlando Magic purchased the D-League\'s Erie (PA) BayHawks in December 2016 and announced plans to move the team closer to Orlando. The NBA\'s Atlanta Hawks will operate a new Erie BayHawks team as its G-League affiliate for the next two seasons, after which it will move the team to a new arena to be built in the College Park area of Atlanta. The NBA\'s New Orleans Pelicans are trying to launch a G-League team for the 2018-19 season with 11 markets in the states of Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Louisiana being given initial consideration. These initial markets include Mobile (AL), Pensacola (FL), Gulfport (MS), Jackson (MS) and the Louisiana markets of Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Monroe and St. Tammany Parish.

Big3 League: The new BIG3 professional 3-on-3 basketball league, which will feature eight touring teams consisting of former National Basketball Association players, announced the venues and teams for its inaugural eight-week 2017 season that will start in June. All eight teams will participate in Sunday events from June 25 to August 13 at eight different locations to include Brooklyn, Charlotte, Tulsa, Philadelphia, Nashville, Dallas, Lexington (KY) and Los Angeles. A playoff round will be held in Seattle on August 20 with the championship scheduled for Las Vegas on August 26. The Big 3 will feature teams called the 3 Headed Monsters, 3\'s Company, Ball Hogs, Ghost Ballers, Killer 3s, Power, Trilogy and Tri-State.

American Basketball Association: The ABA announced a new team called the Binghamton (NY) Bulldogs will be added to the Northeast Division for the 2017-18 season.

FOOTBALL

Interactive Football League: The ownership of the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles, a 2017 expansion team in the Indoor Football League (IFL), informed the league it plans to leave after the 2018. The team\'s ownership is reported to be creating a new indoor league called the Interactive Football League that will start in 2018 and will feature fans calling all plays for participating teams. The Interactive Football League plans to have eight teams playing all games out of one facility with locations in Dallas, Atlanta and Las Vegas said to be under consideration. The Salt Lake Screaming Eagles have been allowing fans to call plays for this season\'s IFL games.

Rivals Professional Football League: The developmental RPFL has started its 2017 season that will feature two separate four-team Michigan and Florida divisions. The Florida division, which includes the Miami Blaze, South Beach Silverbacks, Florida Red Wolves and Atlantic Sharks, has started its six-week schedule that will run from late March through April with all games played at a stadium in Hialeah (FL). The Michigan teams called the Detroit Cougars, Michigan Bearcats, Oakland County Racers and Pontiac Generals will start their 2017 season in June. The top team from each division will meet in a championship game. The RPFL has played a short season with a few participating teams since the 2014 season.

HOCKEY

National Hockey League: The NHL\'s New York Islanders, who moved its home from the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn after the 2014-15 season, are going forward with plans to build a new arena for the team near the Belmont Park racetrack. The Islanders are not happy with the hockey venue in Brooklyn and a return to the renovated Nassau Coliseum with its reduce seating capacity is not an option. A request for proposals on the new arena is expected to be issued soon.

North American Hockey League: The Tier-II junior-level NAHL announced it has reactivated the Kenai River Brown Bears (Alaska) for the 2017-18 season. In February 2017, the team announced it would be inactive for the 2017-18 season due to financial issues, but a fan-based group raised enough funds to restart the team. The NAHL has one other Alaska-based team called the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and there is talk of looking at Anchorage for a possible NAHL team, since the Anchorage-based Alaska Aces of the minor professional ECHL decided to shut down operations for next season.

SOCCER

Major League Soccer: The MLS announced it will be evaluating its plans for expansion into Miami, where suitable financing for an MLS-style stadium has not been obtained since it was first announced as an expansion market in 2014. The league had hoped Miami would start play in 2018 along with the expansion Los Angeles FC and grow the league to 24 teams. Los Angeles will be the only new team next season with Miami looking at 2019 at the earliest. The MLS has other expansion markets looking to join and one of those markets could move ahead of Miami, if Miami\'s stadium plan does not move forward.

United Soccer League: A group in Las Vegas is trying to bring a USL expansion team to the city for the 2018 season. The team would play at Cashman Field, which is home to the Las Vegas 51s Triple-A baseball team in the Pacific Coast League. For now, the USL team would share the field with the PCL team, which is currently looking to build a new baseball stadium in another part the Las Vegas area. The ownership of the USL\'s Rochester Rhinos has lost considerable money since purchasing the team in January 2016 and stated the current situation is not a sustainable business model. If finances do not improve this summer, the team could eventually be sold or relocated.

National Women\'s Soccer League: The professional NWSL started its fifth season last week and again has ten teams aligned in one table for the 2017 season. The only change was the Western New York Flash being sold and moving from Rochester to Cary (NC) to become the North Carolina Courage for the 2017 season. 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. NWSL teams play a 24-game schedule that runs through September.

OTHER

Major League Lacrosse: The outdoor, or field lacrosse, MLL started its 2017 season this weekend with the same nine teams as last season and aligned in one table for the standings. Teams include the Atlanta Blaze (Kennesaw, GA), Boston Cannons, Charlotte Hounds, Chesapeake Bayhawks (Annapolis, MD), Denver Outlaws, Florida Launch (Boca Raton), New York Lizards, Ohio Machine (Columbus) and Rochester Rattlers. The MLL is in its 17th season that will run through the first week of August.

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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