Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
September 11, 2017 - Frontier League (FL)

BASEBALL

Empire Pro League: The Empire Pro League recently completed its second season with four teams and announced plans to expand to six teams for the 2018 season. The league has been considering groups from Quebec, Georgia, New York and New Jersey for its two new teams. It looks as though the league will create two three-team divisions next season. For 2018, the league lists current teams called the Sullivan (NY) Explorers and Plattsburgh (NY) Redbirds in a West Division with one of the future expansion teams. Current teams called the Old Orchard (ME) Surge and the Puerto Rico Islanders travel team are listed in an East Division with one of the future expansion teams.

Atlantic League: The owner of the Atlantic League\'s Bridgeport (CT) Bluefish team, whose home stadium is expected to be redeveloped for a different use, plans to move the team to High Point (NC), if a proposed downtown baseball stadium is built in that city. Previously, High Point had been planning a new stadium for a new Atlantic League team, but now that Bridgeport might lose its home, High Point could get a relocated team. High Point has started raising funds for the stadium costs, but the project still has to go through a vetting process with a public hearing scheduled for September 21. If everything goes as planned, a new stadium could be ready by the 2019 season.

Frontier League: The owner of the Normal (IL) CornBelters of the independent Frontier League is considering a move of the team to a summer-collegiate league for the 2018 season with the Northwoods League and the Prospect League being discussed as possibilities. Frontier League teams have until September 15 (with a 30-day extension) to confirm participation in the 2018 season. The CornBelters joined the Frontier League as an expansion team for the 2010 season. The CornBelters\' owner stated there has been some interest in the Bloomington-Normal area for an affiliated team, but that could not happen for the 2018 season. There could be territorial issues with an affiliated team due to the proximity of the Peoria Chiefs team in the low Class-A Midwest League. The area has had the Bloomington Bobcats team in the Midwest Collegiate League since the 2016 season.

Expedition League: The Gering/Scottsbluff (NE) team that will be part of the proposed new summer-collegiate Expedition League in 2018 announced it will use Western Nebraska in its name with Crushers, Tumbleweeds, Tornadoes or Pioneers as choices for a nickname.

BASKETBALL

National Basketball Association Gatorade League (G-League): A recent study was completed for a potential new arena in Rochester (MN) that the city hopes would become home to an NBA G-League team and a possible franchise in the Tier-I junior-level United States Hockey League. In early 2016, Rochester put in a bid to become the home for the NBA\'s Minnesota Timberwolves affiliate in the G-League, then known as the D-League, but the Timberwolves purchased the G-League\'s Des Moines-based Iowa Energy team after the 2016-17 season and will operate the team in Des Moines as the Iowa Wolves starting with the 2017-18 season. At the time of the purchase of the Iowa team, the Timberwolves said they had been considering Rochester (MN), Fargo (ND) and Sioux Falls (SD) as possible homes for its G-League team.

American Basketball Association: The Colorado Cougars are expected to return to the ABA for the 2017-18 season after a two-year absence from the league. The Cougars last played a partial schedule in the league\'s At Large Division for the 2013-14 season with home games played in Loveland. The Cougars will be added to the Great Plains Division.

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, now lists four additional new 2018 teams called the Alpha Pack Florida, Georgia Panthers, Central Florida Hurricanes and Memphis Wildcats.

HOCKEY

United States Hockey League: The Bloomington (IL) Thunder of the Tier-I junior-level USHL has rebranded and will be called the Central Illinois Flying Aces for the upcoming 2017-18 season. The Bloomington Thunder joined the USHL as an expansion team for the 2014-15 season and the name came from a minor professional team called the Bloomington Thunder that had played in the Southern Professional Hockey League the previous season.

SOCCER

North American Soccer League: The United States Soccer Federation (USSF) announced it will not accept the NASL\'s application to retain Division-II status for the 2018 season. Both the NASL and the United Soccer League were granted provisional Division-II status for the 2017 season, but the NASL operated in 2017 with only 8 teams, 4 below the 12 teams required for Division-II leagues. Although the NASL planned to add two new teams in San Diego and Orange County (CA) for 2018, the league\'s Puerto Rico FC and a 2017 expansion team called the San Francisco Deltas were struggling, while the FC Edmonton could leave to join the new professional Canadian Premier League. It is uncertain if the NASL will continue to operate at the Division-III level, which is already expanding with the National Independent Soccer Association starting in 2018 and the USL\'s new Division-III League starting in 2019. Some NASL teams like the Indy Eleven, North Carolina FC and New York Cosmos could stay in Division-II with a move to the USL.

United Soccer League: The ownership of the El Paso Chihuahuas baseball team in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League is involved in trying to bring a team in the Division-II USL to the baseball stadium. Some current USL teams play in minor league baseball stadiums and the USL\'s 2018 expansion team in Las Vegas and the 2019 expansion team in Birmingham (AL) will play at minor league baseball stadiums.

World Futsal League: The North American Futsal Federation (NAFF) in conjunction with the league known as Major League Futsal, which has most teams based in the United States, Canada and Mexico, are planning the start of the WFL in February 2018. The WFL will allow international teams and players to participate in a World Qualifier system leading to the NAFF World Futsal League Championships in August 2018. The idea for the league was a result of various international pro futsal organizations seeking admittance into the MLF. Some of the countries already committed to the WFL include the United States, Costa Rica, Mexico, France, Africa, Australia, Chile, Brazil, Colombia, Canada and Peru.

OTHER

League 1: The English third-tier rugby league known as League 1 is rumored to be trying to add a team in New York City. The league added it first North American team called the Toronto Wolfpack for the 2017 season and some associated with the Wolfpack are reported to be behind the effort for a New York club.

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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