Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
September 25, 2017 - National Lacrosse League (NLL)

BASEBALL

Southern League: The zoning commission of Madison (AL) in the Huntsville area has approved a zoning change for the Town Madison development to allow construction of a multi-use facility that could become home to a Double-A Southern League team. The group trying to purchase and relocate the league\'s Mobile BayBears is said to be considering the Madison development and the cities of Baton Rouge (LA) and Savannah (GA) as possible new homes for the team. Huntsville had the Huntsville Stars in the Southern League since 1985 until the team moved to become the Biloxi Shuckers for the 2015 season. The Mobile BayBears joined the Southern League when the Port City Roosters (Wilmington, NC) moved to Mobile for the 1997 season. Next in the process is a vote by the Madison city council on the zoning change that could happen next week.

Atlantic League: The vote for a funding plan on a new ballpark in High Point (NC) that could become home to an Atlantic League team has been put on hold. The commissioners in Guilford County voted to put off a decision to participate in funding the project and want a working group formed with High Point officials to develop a funding plan. Meanwhile, the Atlantic League\'s Bridgeport (CT) Bluefish team, which is losing its home field and wants to move to the proposed High Point ballpark, played its final game in Bridgeport last weekend. It is uncertain where the Bluefish will play in 2018.

Major League Baseball: The group trying to bring an MLB team back to Montreal has released designs for a proposed new downtown stadium. MLB has expressed interest in expanding from 30 to 32 teams, but not until the Oakland A\'s and Tampa Bay Rays resolve their stadium situations. The MLB commissioner recently mentioned Portland (OR) as a possible expansion city in the Western time zone.

Expedition League: The proposed new summer-collegiate Expedition League announced a franchise in Casper (WY) has been granted for the inaugural 2018 season. Casper was most recently home to an affiliated team in the advanced Rookie-level Pioneer League called the Casper Ghosts that moved to become the Grand Junction (CO) Rockies for the 2012 season. Liga Mexicana de Beisbol: The Rojos del Aguila de Veracruz team in the Triple-A level LMB, or Mexican Baseball League, is planning a move to Nuevo Laredo (Tamaulipas) for the 2018 season and is working on a deal to split the team\'s home schedule with Laredo (TX), which has the vacant Uni-Trade Stadium that was last used by the defunct Laredo Lemurs team in the 2016 season of the independent American Association. The relocated Veracruz team could also revive the Tecolotes (Owls) nickname that was used by previous LMB teams. The Los Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos (Owls of the Two Laredos) played in both cities until moving to Tijuana for the 2004 season. The LMB\'s Aquascalientes Rieleros relocated to become the Nuevo Laredo Tecolotes for the 2008 season, but that team dropped out after the 2010 season due to financial issues and that franchise eventually resurfaced as the Delfines de Ciudad del Carmen in 2012. The Veracruz team is going to play in Nuevo Laredo next season regardless of Laredo\'s decision on use of Uni-Trade Stadium.

BASKETBALL

American Basketball Association: The ABA announced a team called Team Trouble, based in Stockton (CA), has been added for the upcoming 2017-18 season. The ABA had the Stockton-based Big Valley Shockwave that played some games in the 2006-07 season and the Stockton-based Port City Pirates that play a few games in the 2012-13 season.

National Basketball League of Canada: The NBL-Canada announced the city council in St. John\'s (Newfoundland & Labrador) has approved a lease at the Mile One Centre for a team that will start play in the 2017-18 season. This will keep the league at ten teams with six Atlantic Division teams based in the Maritime provinces and four Central Division teams based in Ontario. The league had two five-team divisions last season, but the Central Division\'s Orangeville (Ontario) A\'s folded after the 2016-17 season. In addition to St. John\'s, the Atlantic Division will include the returning Island Storm (Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island), Cape Breton Highlanders (Sydney, Nova Scotia), Halifax (Nova Scotia) Hurricanes and St. John (New Brunswick) Riptide, along with the new Moncton (New Brunswick) Magic. The Magic replaced the Moncton Miracles team, which had been operated by the league for the past three seasons. The returning Central Division teams include the K-W (Kitchener-Waterloo) Titans, Windsor Express, Niagara River Lions and London Lightning.

FOOTBALL

National Arena League: The NAL has lost another team as the High Country Grizzlies (Boone, NC) have left the league to join the American Arena League for the 2018 season. The Grizzlies were a new team in 2017 and competed in the NAL\'s inaugural season. The NAL is now down to only six teams: the returning Columbus (GA) Lions, Georgia Firebirds (Albany), Jacksonville Sharks, Lehigh Valley Steelhawks (Allentown, PA) and Monterrey Steel (Mexico), along with the expansion Jersey Flight (Trenton). The NAL operated with eight teams in 2017, but the Corpus Christi Rage and the Wolfpack/Georgia Doom travel teams were previously dropped by the league.

HOCKEY

National College Prospects Hockey League: After the United Hockey Union (UHU) division of the Amateur Athletic Union downgraded the NCPHL in July 2017 and no longer considered it a junior hockey league, the NCPHL has now folded. The league struggled through its inaugural 2016-17 season with early-season team movements and partial schedules played. Two teams from the 2016-17 NCPHL called the Ottawa Sharpshooters and the Lake Erie Eagles (Erie, PA), and two previously announced 2017-18 NCPHL teams called the Maniwaki (Quebec) Mustangs and the Eastern Ontario Hockey Academy Wolves (Ottawa) have been accepted by another UHU league called the Canadian Premier Junior Hockey League for the 2017-18 season.

SOCCER

Major Arena Soccer League: The MASL announced its conference and divisional alignment that will feature 16 teams aligned into four-team Central and Eastern divisions in the Eastern Conference and four-team Pacific and Southwest divisions in the Western Conference. The league had 17 teams last season, but lost the Chicago Mustangs from the Central Division and the Dallas Sidekicks and Baja Atletico (Tijuana) from the Southwest Division. The MASL added two returning teams to the Southwest Division with the Monterrey (Mexico) Flash, which last played in the 2014-15 season, and the Rio Grande Valley Barracudas (Hildago, TX), which reorganized after playing two MASL seasons (2014-16) as the Brownsville Barracudas. The proposed return of the Rochester (NY) Lancers team, which last played in the 2014-15 MASL, was unable to happen for the 2017-18 season. The MASL lists Toronto as a 2018-19 expansion team and the league is reported to be considering other new teams in Boise and Bakersfield. North American Soccer League: The provisional Division-II NASL filed a suit against the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) for denying the NASL Division-II status for the 2018 season. The USSF said the NASL was not making enough progress on expansion to meet the Division-II requirements. With the USSF\'s recent decision, the NASL would be forced to play at the Division-III level and that would make it difficult for the league to attract expansion teams necessary to move up to Division-II status.

United Soccer League Division-III League: The USL is considering Wichita (KS) as a possible site for a team in the proposed new USL D3 league that will start in 2019. The city has a team called FC Wichita that currently plays in the elite-level National Premier Soccer League.

Canadian Premier League: A group in Saskatoon (Saskatchewan) has presented the city with a proposal for a downtown soccer stadium that could be used for a team in the proposed CPL, which plans to start play in 2018 or 2019. A Saskatoon CPL team would start play in 2019 and play at a temporary location for two seasons until the new stadium is ready in 2021.

OTHER

Major League Rugby: The proposed new professional MLR, which plans to start play in the spring of 2018, announced the addition of a team in San Diego for its inaugural season. A rugby team called the San Diego Breakers played in the only season of the former PRO Rugby league in 2016. It also looks like previously announced MLR teams called the Dallas Griffins and Minneapolis Tornadoes might not be ready for the 2018 season leaving the league with eight teams for now.

National Lacrosse League: The indoor NLL announced it will return to Philadelphia with a new team starting with the 2018-19 season. A former team called the Philadelphia Wings played in 28 seasons (1987-2014) of the current NLL, which evolved from the Eagle Pro Box Lacrosse League (1987-88) and the Major Indoor Lacrosse League (1989-97). The Wings moved to the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville (CT) and the team was renamed the New England Black Wolves for the 2015 season. It is uncertain if the new Philadelphia team will be called the Wings. The NLL recently announced a new team in San Diego will also join for the 2018-19 season. The NLL announced its 2017-18 schedule that will run from early December 2017 through April 2018. The league will again feature the same nine teams aligned in a five-team Eastern Division and a four-team Western Division.

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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