Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
May 8, 2017 - Major League Soccer (MLS)

BASEBALL

American Association: The independent AA announced the Laredo Lemurs team will not be part of the 2017 season and is no longer a member of the league. A team called the Salina (KS) Stockade, which was part of the Pecos League in 2016, will take over Laredo's schedule but will play a limited number of home games that were scheduled for Laredo with the rest of the home games being played at the opponent's home field. After a dispute over control of the Laredo Lemurs was settled in court, the city would not approve the owners' plan for operating the city-owned Uni-Trade Stadium in 2017. The Laredo Lemurs joined the league in 2012 after the sale and relocation of the Shreveport-Bossier Captains.

Frontier League: The city of Joplin (MO) is reported to be in discussions with the Frontier League about possibly bringing a team to the city's Joe Becker Stadium. The city had a team called the Joplin Blasters that played the past two seasons (2015-16) in the independent American Association before suspending operations after last season. The Frontier League would not just add one new team, so another new team would have to be added or it would replace an existing team.

Major League Baseball: The MLB commissioner recently discussed expansion to 32 teams after stadium situations are settled in Tampa Bay and Oakland and mentioned the possibility of an expansion team being placed in Las Vegas. Montreal, Charlotte, Portland and Mexico City have also been mentioned as possible expansion markets. With Oakland losing the National Football League's Raiders to Las Vegas and the National Basketball Association's Golden State Warriors moving to a new arena in San Francisco, the Oakland A's have committed to staying in the city and have four potential new stadium sites under consideration.

Texas League: Officials in Wichita have approved a proposed sales tax bond district that could include a new stadium for a possible team in the Double-A Texas League. The city had the Wichita Wranglers in the league, but the team moved to Springdale (AR) to become the Northwest Arkansas Naturals in 2007.

Pacific Association: The independent four-team Pacific Association will start its fifth season in 2017 with the same four teams (Pittsburg Diamonds, San Rafael Pacifics, Sonoma Stompers and Vallejo Admirals) based in Northern California. A new commissioner recently announced the league will add a fifth team called the Napa Silverados in 2018, along with a yet-to-be-announced sixth team. The league wants to eventually grow to eight teams in and around the Bay Area.

BASKETBALL

National Basketball Association Gatorade League (G-League): The NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves officially announced the purchase of the G-League's Des Moines-based Iowa Energy that will serve as the Timberwolves affiliate. The Timberwolves had been considering some Minnesota markets for its G-League team, but there has been no mention of relocating the Iowa Energy.

BIG3 League: The new BIG3 professional 3-on-3 basketball league, which will feature eight touring teams consisting of former National Basketball Association players, recently held an initial player draft for its teams called the Three-Headed Monsters, 3's Company, Ball Hogs, Ghost Ballers, Killer 3s, Power, Trilogy and Tri-State. All eight teams will participate in Sunday events from June 25 to August 13, 2017 at eight different locations throughout the United States.

American Basketball Association: The ABA announced another expansion team called the Oakland Outlawz will start play in the 2017-18 season. The league had the Oakland-based California Golden Tigers team that played some games in the 2016-17 season.

National Basketball Association: Two firms have submitted bids to renovate Seattle's KeyArena to bring it up to NBA and National Hockey League standards. The city has been trying to acquire an NBA team since the Seattle Supersonics moved to Oklahoma City for the 2008-09 season and the NHL has expressed interest in expansion to Seattle. Another group has been trying to build a new arena near downtown for an NBA team and possibly an NHL team.

FOOTBALL

National Arena League: Although it has not been officially reported by the NAL, a Macon-based team called the Georgia Doom filled in for the league's Atlanta-based Wolfpack travel team in a league game last weekend against the NAL's Georgia Firebirds (Albany). The NAL's Dayton Wolfpack team was not able to start the 2017 season as planned, so the Atlanta-based Wolfpack travel team was created to play the team's 2017 road schedule. The team is still listed as the Dayton Wolfpack in the league standings. A new pro indoor team called the Atlanta Doom has been organizing for a start in 2018 and recently announced it is now the Georgia Doom and will play games at the Macon Coliseum in 2018.

Indoor Football League: A proposed new indoor football team called the Idaho Horsemen, which is based in Nampa just east of Boise, is trying to organize and wants to play in either the IFL or the Champions Indoor Football.

National Football League: The NFL's Oakland Raiders have closed on the purchase of a site that will become home to the team's new stadium in Las Vegas. The NFL approved the Raiders' move to Las Vegas in March. The new stadium will not be ready until 2020 and the team is expected to remain in Oakland until the stadium is completed.

HOCKEY

Southern Professional Hockey League: One week after announcing the addition of an expansion team in Birmingham (AL) for the 2017-18 season, the minor SPHL announced the Columbus (GA) Cottonmouths team will suspend operations for the 2017-18 season. The league is reported to be in the final stages of securing new ownership for the Columbus franchise so it can return for the 2018-19 season. The Cottonmouths were an original member of the SPHL when the league started play for the 2004-05 season.

ECHL: The ownership of the National Basketball Association's Orlando Magic has purchased the ECHL's Orlando Solar Bears franchise. This will keep the team from folding and allow it to return for the 2017-18 season. The Orlando Solar Bears have been part of the ECHL since the 2012-13 season. The new ownership once owned a previous team called the Orlando Solar Bears that played six seasons (1995-2001) in the now-defunct International Hockey League. The IHL disbanded after the 2000-01 season when six teams moved to the American Hockey League, but the Orlando Solar Bears were not part of the move to the AHL and the team folded.

SOCCER

North American Soccer League: The NASL continues to own and operate the Jacksonville Armada franchise because it has been unable to find a new local owner. The league took control of the franchise when its owner walked away from the team in January 2017. The NASL needs to keep Jacksonville as it tries to keep its Division-II status for next season. The NASL and United Soccer League were granted provisional Division-II status for the 2017 season, but maintaining that status for 2018 would require the eight-team NASL to grow to a minimum of 12 teams by next season.

United Soccer League: The USL announced an expansion team based in Fresno (CA) will join the league for the 2018 season. The city has a lower-level team called the Fresno Fuego in the Premier Development League. The Seattle Sounders FC of Major League Soccer and the Tacoma Rainiers baseball team in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League plan to create a new Tacoma-based USL team that will replace the USL's current Seattle Sounders 2 team and will play in a new 5,000-seat stadium next to the Rainiers current baseball stadium. The Sounders will run the soccer-related aspects of the team with the Rainiers managing the business side. The new stadium is projected to open in 2020.

Major League Soccer: Residents of St. Petersburg (FL) voted in favor of a referendum to allow renovations to move forward on Al Lang Stadium that would bring the facility up to MLS standards. The owner of the United Soccer League's Tampa Bay Rowdies is seeking an MLS expansion franchise and has pledged private funding for the stadium renovations.

Professional Indoor Soccer League: The founders of the North American Futsal Federation and the league called Major League Futsal USA are trying to form a new indoor soccer league known as the PISL. The MLF USA has over 20 current futsal teams and many of those are expected to field PISL teams.

OTHER

Major League Rugby: The MLR is a proposed new professional rugby league that plans to start play in the spring of 2018 with nine teams located in Glendale (CO), Kansas City, Dallas, Houston, Austin, New Orleans, Seattle, Minneapolis and Salt Lake City. Most of these markets will be tied to existing clubs called the Glendale Raptors, Kansas City Blues, Griffins Rugby of Dallas, Austin Huns, New Orleans RFC, Seattle Saracens and Rugby Utah. Minneapolis will be a new club with ties to the local rugby community and the Houston Strikers will be a new club in that market.

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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