Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
July 31, 2017 - International League (IL)

BASEBALL

International League: Last week, officials of the Pawtucket Red Sox, or the PawSox, of the Triple-A International League met with officials in Worcester (MA), which is being considered as a possible new home for the team. The team\'s current lease in Pawtucket expires after the 2020 season. Some other cities are also expected to try to negotiate with the PawSox.

Pacific Coast League: As part of a Taco Truck Throwdown, the Fresno Grizzlies of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League were renamed the Fresno Tacos for a game this weekend. The San Antonio Missions of the Double-A Texas League have begun looking at potential downtown stadium sites for its move up to the Triple-A level when the PCL\'s Colorado SkySox relocate to San Antonio for the 2019 season.

Eastern League: The Hartford Yard Goats of the Double-A Eastern League were renamed the Hartford Praying Mantis for one game this week as part of a "What If" promotion. Praying Mantis was one of the five nickname finalists for the team when it was planning its move from New Britain (CT) to Hartford for the 2016 season.

American Association: The new independent American Association team to be based in Rosemont (IL) will be called the Chicago Dogs when it starts play in 2018. A new 6,300-seat ballpark is being built for the Dogs.

Pecos League: The organizer of the independent Pecos League confirmed four of six Pacific Division teams in the California markets of Bakersfield (Train Robbers), California City (Whiptails), Monterey (Amerjacks) and Adelanto (High Desert Yardbirds) will return for a second season in 2018.

Thoroughbred League: The six-team developmental Thoroughbred League, which has played all league games at a complex outside of Lexington (KY), has apparently shortened its inaugural season and moved into the season-ending playoffs this week. The league is reported to have suffered from low attendance and several cancelled games during the season. The league website reports on plans for a proposed 2017 fall developmental league that would be played from mid-September to mid-October.

BASKETBALL

National Basketball League of Canada: The NBL-Canada announced the Orangeville (Ontario) A\'s team has resigned from the league. The team started as a 2013-14 expansion team called the Brampton (Ontario) A\'s that moved to become the Orangeville A\'s for the 2015-16 season. The NBL-Canada had ten teams last season and Orangeville was one of five Ontario-based teams in the Central Division.

American Basketball Association: The ABA announced two more new teams called the Arizona Beast (Phoenix) and the Tacoma (WA) Tigers that will start play in 2018. The ABA had previous short-lived teams in the Phoenix area called the Phoenix Eclipse (2001-02), Phoenix Fury (2008-09), and Arizona Scorpions (2011-12), along with a couple of teams called the Phoenix Rhinos (2005) and the Phoenix Phantoms (2007-08) that never started play. The ABA has had previous Tacoma-based teams called the Tacoma Navigators and Tacoma Rise. The ABA reported another new team called the Illinois Bulldogs (Chicago) has been added and will start play in November 2017. The ABA had three Chicago-based teams called the Chicago Fury, Chicago Knights, and Chicago Steam during the 2016-17 season and has had various other Chicago-based teams in the past, some of which were the Chicago Skyliners, Chicago Soldiers, Chicago Rockstars/Aurora Force, Cicero Cometas USA, Chicago Stars and Chicago Court Kingz.

FOOTBALL

Indoor Football League: The IFL announced five of the ten teams from the 2017 season have committed to the league for the 2018 season. The five returning teams are the Arizona Rattlers (Phoenix), Nebraska Danger (Grand Island), Cedar Rapids (IA) Titans, Iowa Barnstormers (Des Moines) and the Green Bay Blizzard. Of the other five teams, the Spokane (WA) Empire has suspended operations; the owner of the Colorado Crush and Salt Lake Screaming Eagles previously announced plans to move the teams to a new fan-interactive league; and the Wichita Falls (TX) Nighthawks and Sioux Falls (SD) Storm were reported to be interested in joining the league known as Champions Indoor Football.

Elite Indoor Football: The EIF, which was a loosely organized 2017 indoor football league featuring the Atlanta Furious and the Southern Steam (Statesboro, GA) as its main teams, announced a new team called the Alpha Pack Florida will be added as a travel team for the 2018 season.

Midwest Professional Indoor Football: The MPIF, which operated with six teams in its second season in 2017, recently announced the Midway Marauders (Chicago) and Derby City Roughriders (Louisville) have committed to return for next season. The league also announced a new team called the Saginaw (MI) Wolves has joined the league.

United States Indoor Football: The new developmental semi-pro USIF has finished its very short inaugural 2017 season with four teams called the Coastal Outlaws (Savannah), Richmond Hill (GA) Tiger Sharks, Myrtle Beach (SC) Masters and Hinesville (GA) Hurricanes. On each of two Saturdays earlier this month, the league hosted two games at the Savannah Civic Center involving all four teams. A third pair of games was scheduled for this weekend, but those games were cancelled and the league is supposed to hold a playoff game next month. In October 2016, the USIF announced a partnership with the 2017 league known as Arena Pro Football.

HOCKEY

Federal Hockey League: The FHL officially announced the St. Clair Shore Fighting Saints have been relocated to Kingsville (Ontario) where the team will be known as the North Shore Knights for the 2017-18 season. The North Shore Knights will play 15 of its 24 home games in Kingsville with the other 9 home games played in Gravenhurst (Ontario), South River (Ontario) or Temiscaming (Quebec). The Fighting Saints were an FHL expansion team last season and played one regular season game in Kingsville late in the 2016-17 season. Kingsville is also home to the Kingsville Kings of Canada\'s independent junior hockey league called the Greater Metro Hockey League.

United States Hockey League: The Tier-I junior-level USHL, which is the highest level of junior hockey under USA Hockey, announced its 2017-18 season schedule will again feature the same 17 teams aligned in a nine-team Eastern Conference and an eight-team Western Conference. Each team will play a 60-game schedule from early October to early April. Most teams are located in the North Central region of the United States.

North American Hockey League: The Aston (PA) Rebels of the Tier-II junior-level NAHL have moved their home rink from suburban Philadelphia to the campus of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, so the team has been renamed the Philadelphia Rebels for the upcoming 2017-18 season.

National Collegiate Prospects Hockey League: The United Hockey Union division of the Amateur Athletic Union has downgraded the NCPHL and no longer considers the league a junior hockey league. The NCPHL was considered a Tier-III junior league under the UHU, but it struggled through its inaugural 2016-17 season with early-season team movements, cancelled games and partial schedules played by some teams. The NCPHL is now listed as a 20-and-under prep hockey league.

SOCCER

United Soccer League: The provisional Division-II USL officially announced the new Fresno Football Club (Fresno FC) will join the league as a 2018 expansion team. The USL previously announced a new Nashville team will join in 2018 and a Las Vegas team is also expected to join next season. The USL is reported to be considering a move from the current two-conference (East and West) alignment to a three-conference (East, Central and West) alignment in 2018 or 2019. A group with ties to the Burlingame (CA) Dragons of the United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League (PDL) is organizing the San Francisco FC for possible entry into the USL for the 2019 season. The PDL\'s Albuquerque Sol is still trying to build a new soccer stadium for a move up to the USL.

Canadian Premier League: The proposed new lower-level professional CPL plans to start play in July 2018, but that could be pushed back to 2019 if the league does not feel it is ready. The league wants to start with a minimum of six teams with Hamilton (Ontario) and Winnipeg (Manitoba) confirmed as the first two members. The league is looking at either Saskatoon or Regina for a Saskatchewan-based team. The CPL is also considering Calgary (Alberta), Edmonton (Alberta), Ottawa (Ontario), Kitchener-Waterloo (Ontario), Halifax (Nova Scotia) and British Columbia among others for possible teams. The Toronto FC of Major League Soccer would like its reserve team be part of the CPL, but the league is not interested in having MLS reserve teams as part of the league.

OTHER

Major League Rugby: The professional MLR plans to start play in the spring of 2018 and it currently has nine teams as potential members. These include the Austin Huns, Dallas Griffins, Glendale (CO) Raptors, Houston Strikers, Kansas City Blues, Minneapolis Tornadoes, New Orleans Gold, Rugby Utah and the Seattle Saracens. Many of the pro teams have evolved from local rugby organizations that had teams playing at the national Division-I level of play. The Glendale Raptors club announced it will rename all of its affiliated non-MLR men\'s and women\'s teams the Glendale Merlins to distinguish them from the professional team.

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.

• Discuss this story on the International League message board