Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
September 18, 2017 - Major League Soccer (MLS)

By Dan Krieger

September 17, 2017 [Volume 11, Number 38]

BASEBALL

Appalachian League: Major League Baseball\'s Houston Astros are pulling its Greeneville (TN) Astros affiliate out of the advanced Rookie short-season Appalachian League for the 2018 season. Local officials say they will work to bring another team to the city. The Houston Astros made the move to reduce the number of its minor league affiliates. The Greeneville Astros joined the league when the Martinsville (VA) Astros moved to Greeneville in eastern Tennessee for the 2004 season. The team played at a 2,400-seat ballpark on the campus of Tusculum College. The league had ten teams in two five-team divisions for 2017, so it would like to find a replacement for Greeneville to keep an even number of teams.

Carolina League: After threatening to move to another area or sell the team to an out-of-town group, the owner of the Potomac Nationals (Woodbridge, VA) in the high Class-A Carolina League is looking at potential new ballpark sites in the area and the team could end up staying in Prince William County.

Frontier League: After considering a move next season to a summer-collegiate league like the Northwoods League or the Prospect League, the owner of the Frontier League\'s Normal (IL) CornBelters announced the team will remain in the Frontier League for the 2018 season. The CornBelters joined the Frontier League as an expansion team for the 2010 season.

Midwest League: The Beloit (WI) Snappers of the low Class-A Midwest League continue to try to build support for a new downtown ballpark that will be needed to keep the team in the area.

New York-Penn League: The Batavia (NY) Muckdogs of the short-season Class-A NYPL are expected to return for at least one more season in 2018. The Muckdogs have been up for sale since 2010 and are considered a candidate for relocation. A proposed sale and relocation of the team to Waldorf (MD) last year fell through due to territorial issues with teams in Major League Baseball, the Eastern League and the Carolina League.

Texas League: Officials in Amarillo are close to approving the design of the city\'s new stadium that will become home to the Double-A Texas League\'s San Antonio Missions team for the 2019 season.

United Shore Professional Baseball League: The four-team USPBL, which recently completed its second season with teams playing all games at Jimmy John\'s Field in Utica (MI), is expected to return with four teams in 2018. The league then plans to expand with two teams based out of a new ballpark to be built in a yet-to-be-named city in the Midwest.

BASKETBALL

National Basketball Association Gatorade League (G-League): The city council in Shreveport voted down a proposal for a new arena that officials had hoped would become home to the G-League affiliate of the NBA\'s New Orleans Pelicans. The Pelicans plan to launch its own G-League team for the 2018-19 season and have also been considering Pensacola (FL) as a possible home for the team.

East Coast Basketball League: The ECBL announced a new team called the Rowan County (NC) Bulls will be added to the league\'s Northern Conference for the 2018 season. The team will be based out of China Grove, about 35 miles northeast of Charlotte. The ECBL plays a winter-spring season and recently completed its 2017 season with 15 full-schedule teams aligned into an eight-team Southern Conference and a seven-team Northern Conference. Each conference also had a travel-only team.

Elite Basketball League: The men\'s semi-pro EBL started its fall/winter 2017-18 season earlier this month with 13 teams based in Arkansas. The EBL has been around since 2014 playing both a fall/winter and spring season. The league also operates a Women\'s Elite Basketball League in the fall and it has four teams for the 2017 fall season. All league games are played at Shorter College in North Little Rock.

FOOTBALL

Champions Indoor Football: The CIF officially announced the Wichita Falls (TX) Nighthawks will be part of the league for the 2018 season. The team had been part of the Indoor Football League for the past three seasons (2015-17). The CIF offers teams in closer proximity to Wichita Falls with three other Texas-based teams, a team in New Mexico and two teams in Kansas.

Indoor Football League: The IFL announced the Bloomington (IL) Flex and the Muskegon-based West Michigan Ironmen teams have left the Champions Indoor Football (CIF) and will join the IFL for the 2018 season. The Flex returns to the IFL, while Muskegon had a previous team in the IFL. A team called the Bloomington Extreme played three seasons (2006-08) in the United Indoor Football (UIF) and became a member of the IFL when the UIF and Intense Football League merged for the 2009 season. The Extreme became the Bloomington Edge for the 2012 IFL season, then played two seasons (2013-14) in the Champions Professional Indoor Football League and one season (2015) in the Xtreme League of Indoor Football before moving to the CIF for the 2016 season. A team called the Muskegon Thunder joined the IFL from the Continental Indoor Football League for the 2009 season, but the team moved to Grand Rapids as the West Michigan ThunderHawks the following season. The West Michigan Ironmen started as a team in the 2016 season of American Indoor Football before moving to the CIF for the 2017 season.

National Arena League: The Richmond (VA) Roughriders team, which announced in late July the team would be joining the NAL for the 2018 season, will now be part of the American Arena League (AAL) for the 2018 season. For its first season in 2017, the Richmond Roughriders were the champions of the league known as Arena Pro Football, which merged with the Can-Am Indoor Football League after the season to form the new AAL. As of now, the AAL has a five-team Southern Division and a five-team Northern Division that will include the Roughriders. The NAL is down to seven teams with six returning teams from 2017, plus the expansion Jersey Flight (Trenton).

HOCKEY

North American 3 Hockey League: The Tier-III junior level NA3HL, which is affiliated with the Tier-II NAHL, started its 2017-18 season this week with 49 teams aligned in 8 regional divisions. The league underwent some last minute changes as two Montana-based Frontier Division teams called the Billings Bulls and Butte Cobras announced last week they would go dormant for the 2017-18 season. The Cobras had just entered the league after last season\'s Glacier Nationals (Havre, MT) were sold and relocated to Butte. Also, the NA3HL\'s Cincinnati Thunder is now called the Dayton Falcons. The Cincinnati Thunder started playing home games in Centreville (OH), near Dayton, last season when its home arena at the Cincinnati Gardens closed down. Since the team is based out of Centreville for the 2017-18 season, it decided to rebrand as the Dayton Falcons.

National Hockey League: The group negotiating a plan to renovate Seattle\'s KeyArena for possible NHL and National Basketball Association teams projects the arena could be ready by the start of the 2020-21 season. The NHL has expressed interest in adding another Western Conference city like Seattle to even out the conferences after adding Las Vegas as its 31st team. The addition of a new NBA team in Seattle would need to come from relocation, since the league is not considering expansion at this time. The NHL\'s New York Islanders are trying to move out of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The NHL has indicated the Islanders\' former home at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island is not an option. The Nassau Coliseum was recently renovated with a reduced seating capacity of around 13,000 for hockey.

SOCCER

Major Arena Soccer League: The MASL voted to grant a license to the new ownership of the Kansas City Comets, so the team can start signing players for the upcoming 2017-18 season. The Comets lost its franchise in July 2017 and all players became free agents when it was uncertain whether the team could find new partners for the upcoming season. The league got involved to find new owners for the team. The Comets are based in Independence (MO) and have been part of the MASL since the league\'s first season in 2014-15. The team was known as the Missouri Comets for two seasons (2014-16) before changing to the Kansas City Comets name for last season.

Major League Soccer : The effort to bring an MLS expansion franchise to Detroit is moving forward as the potential ownership group is negotiating with the city on a downtown stadium site. The MLS commissioner mentioned Detroit, Sacramento, Nashville and Cincinnati as the top four markets for MLS expansion teams. The league plans to add four more teams over the next few years and two of the next expansion markets could be announced by the end of this year. Although the St. Louis expansion effort appeared to be dead after a stadium financing plan was voted down, the potential ownership group is still committed to an MLS expansion team and is working on financing the gap in stadium funding.

OTHER

Women\'s Premier League: The Women\'s Premier League rugby, which is sponsored by USA Rugby, started its 2017 season earlier this month with a five-team Red Conference that includes the Atlanta Harlequins, Beantown RFC (Boston), D.C. Furies (Washington), New York Rugby and Twin Cities Amazons (Minneapolis-St. Paul), and a five-team Blue Conference that features the Berkeley (CA) All-Blues, Chicago North Shore, Glendale (CO) Merlins, Oregon Sports Union (Portland) and San Diego Surfers. Each team plays an eight-game schedule within its conference from early September to early November.

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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