Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
November 6, 2017 - Major League Soccer (MLS)

BASEBALL

Atlantic League: The independent Atlantic League announced its 2018 season schedule that will again feature eight teams aligned in four-team Liberty and Freedom divisions. The league recently held a dispersal draft for its Bridgeport (CT) Bluefish team that lost the use of its stadium after the 2017 season to a proposed redevelopment plan. The league is trying to replace Bridgeport with a team in High Point (NC), if a new ballpark can be built there. For the 2018 season, the Atlantic League will operate a travel-only team called the Road Warriors, which will replace Bridgeport in the Liberty Division. The league\'s seven other teams from 2017 will all return in 2018. The league last used a Road Warriors travel team in the 2011 season to remain at eight teams when the Newark Bears folded after the 2010 season.

American Association: The independent American Association announced its 2018 season schedule that will feature 12 teams aligned in six-team North and South divisions. The Salina (KS) Stockade will not return, but the league added an expansion team called the Chicago Dogs to remain at 12 teams for the 2018 season. The league realigned teams from a North, Central and South three-divisional alignment in 2017 to just two divisions in 2018. A 2016 independent Pecos League team called the Salina Stockade was a last-minute addition as an American Association travel team when the Laredo Lemurs dropped out just prior to the start of the 2017 season. The Salina Stockade was operated by and remained a member of the Pecos League, but played as 2017 American Association team by taking over Laredo\'s schedule. The Stockade played a limited number of Laredo\'s home games in Salina and the rest of the home games were played at the opponent\'s home field.

Hudson River League: The fall-schedule Hudson River League, which is a three-week professional instructional league operated by the Pecos League, recently started its second season with only two teams called the Coastal Kingfish and Salina Stockade. Two other previously listed 2017 teams called the Hollywood Stars and Wichita Falls Spudders are not on the 2017 schedule. The league is referred to as a fall-season East Coast version of the Pecos Spring League. The league operated out of Lyndhurst (NJ) in 2016 with only two teams called the Coastal Kingfish and Lyndhurst Black Sox. The league is playing its 2017 season based out of a complex in Houston instead of New Jersey.

BASKETBALL

National Basketball Association Gatorade League (G-League): The NBA G-League, which was formerly called the NBA Development League (D-League), started its 2017-18 season this week with 26 teams aligned in 13-team Eastern and Western conferences, which each have two four-team divisions and a five-team division. The league had 22 teams last season and added four new teams that are owned by NBA teams. These include the Agua Caliente Clippers (Los Angeles Clippers) of Ontario (CA), the Oshkosh-based Wisconsin Herd (Milwaukee Bucks), the Memphis Hustle (Memphis Grizzlies) based in Southhaven (MS), and the Erie (PA) BayHawks (Atlanta Hawks). The new Erie BayHawks replace the league\'s previous team by the same name that was purchased by the Orlando Magic in the off-season and moved to become the Lakeland (FL) Magic for the 2017-18 season. The Atlanta Hawks plan to move its Erie-based affiliate closer to home in College Park (GA) for the 2019-20 season after a new arena is built for the team. The league\'s Los Angeles D-Fenders, an affiliate of the Los Angeles Lakers, were renamed the South Bay Lakers and the Des Moines-based Iowa Energy became the Iowa Wolves after the NBA\'s Minnesota Timberwolves purchased the team in the off-season. After playing home games at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for its first season in 2016-17, the league\'s Long Island Nets moved to the renovated Nassau Coliseum on Long Island for the 2017-18 season. The G-League season runs from early November 2017 through March 2018. Only four NBA teams do not have an affiliated team in the G-League.

North American Premier Basketball: The proposed new professional NAPB announced a new team will be based in Mesquite (NV) when the inaugural 2018 season starts in January. Mesquite is about 80 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The NAPB currently has seven other teams and markets: the Albany (NY) Patroons, Rochester (NY) RazorSharks, Seattle Knights, Yakima (WA) Sun Kings, Ohio Cardinals (Akron), Kentucky Thoroughbreds (KY), Kansas City and Vancouver (British Columbia).

National Basketball League of Canada: The NBL-Canada\'s new St. John\'s Edge (Newfoundland) will play in the league\'s Central Division just for the 2017-18 season to keep both divisions balanced at five teams apiece. The four other Central Division teams are based in the province of Ontario.

American Professional Basketball League: The APBL started its 2017-18 season this week with 13 teams. The league had nine teams last season, but the Rockville Victors and New York Fearless did not return. The league added six teams that included five new teams called the Eastern Shore Generals, Empire State Basketball Club, New Jersey Thunder (return), New York Badges, Philadelphia Stunnaz and Unbreakable Talent NYC, along with the returning New Jersey Thunder team that sat out last season.

FOOTBALL

Midwest Professional Indoor Football: As the MPIF prepares for a third season in 2018, the league has announced the addition of new teams called the Illinois Saints, Rockford Rams, Saginaw Wolves, Westford Apaches (Illinois) and Indianapolis Enforcers. Also, a 2016 team called the Windy City Ravens will return to the MPIF in 2018.

The Spring League: The Spring League, which is an instructional league that serves as a developmental platform and showcase for professional football talent, is planning a second season in April 2018 and has started holding tryouts in seven markets across the United States.

HOCKEY

Federal Hockey League: The FHL started its 2017-18 season last weekend with six teams. The league had seven teams last season, but the Berlin (NH) River Drivers and Danbury (CT) Titans did not return. The FHL added an expansion team called the Carolina Thunderbirds (Winston-Salem, NC) for 2017-18. After only one season, the FHL\'s St. Clair (MI) Fighting Saints relocated to become the North Shore Knights (Kingsville, Ontario) for 2017-18. The North Shore Knights will play eight of its home games as neutral site games in Gravenhurst (Ontario), South River (Ontario) and Temiscaming (Quebec).

United States Premier Hockey League: The USPHL started its first season as an independent in 2017-18 as the organization is no longer affiliated with USA Hockey. The USPHL created the new 11-team Tier-II National Collegiate Development Conference that includes several teams from last season\'s Tier-III Premier League. The USPHL\'s Tier-III Premier League is operating with 44 teams in 6 regional divisions and its lower-level Tier-III Elite League is operating with 25 teams in 5 regional divisions for 2017-18.

National Hockey League: The owner of the NHL\'s Carolina Hurricanes is unsure a potential buyer for the franchise will be able to close the deal. The New York Islanders are committed to building a new arena at Belmont Park and are waiting for a decision by the property\'s development agency on an arena proposal submitted in late September. The NHL\'s Vegas Golden Knights are facing trademark challenges to the team\'s nickname by the U.S. Army, which has its Golden Knights parachute team, and the College of Saint Rose Golden Knights in upstate New York. The Vegas Golden Knights had registered trademarks on the Silver Knights and Desert Knights names, but those have expired. If a challenge to the Golden Knights name is successful, the team is reported to have registered a web site with the Vegas Sand Knights name that could be used or it could just switch to the Vegas Knights.

SOCCER

North American Soccer League: The provisional Division-II NASL lost out in an attempt to have the court issue a preliminary injunction against the U.S. Soccer Federation\'s (USSF) removal of Division-II status for the league starting next season. The NASL could appeal the decision to a higher court, but that could take time and being dropped to Division-III status would hurt its ability to attract new teams. One of the USSF requirements for Division-II status is to have 12 teams across three time zones and the eight-team NASL was not projected to meet those requirements for 2018. There is already speculation the NASL\'s North Carolina FC (Cary) is considering a move to the provisional Division-II United Soccer League (USL) and a recently announced NASL expansion team called the San Diego 1904 FC could also switch to the USL. After struggling financially through its first season in the league, the NASL\'s San Francisco Deltas team has yet to commit to a return in 2018.

Major League Soccer: With the Columbus Crew of the MLS considering a move to Austin, the city of San Antonio is concerned the addition of Austin to the league could hurt its chances of obtaining an MLS expansion team. Officials in San Antonio claim the MLS has misled the city about its chances of obtaining an MLS expansion franchise. San Antonio was one of the cities that applied for an MLS expansion franchise earlier this year, but Austin was not. Apparently, when the Columbus Crew was purchased in 2013, the MLS granted the new owner the right to move the team to Texas and now the owner is considering that right to move the team. The MLS expansion effort in Detroit has decided against trying to build a soccer-specific stadium and is now partnering with the ownership of the National Football League\'s Detroit Lions so the MLS can use the Lion\'s Ford Field as home for an MLS team. The MLS wants new expansion teams to have soccer-specific stadiums.

United Soccer League: Major League Soccer\'s Seattle Sounders FC and the Tacoma Rainiers of baseball\'s Triple-A Pacific Coast League announced that the Sounders\' USL team called the Seattle Sounders FC 2 will move to the Rainiers\' Cheney Stadium for the 2018 and 2019 seasons. The USL team will play at Cheney Stadium until the 2020 season when a new 5,000-seat stadium in Tacoma is expected to be completed. With the move to Tacoma, the Seattle Sounders FC 2 team is expected to be rebranded. Now that Charlotte is currently out of the running for an MLS expansion franchise, the city and the county might consider a scaled-back renovation of Memorial Stadium for the USL\'s Charlotte Independence.

Major Arena Soccer League: The professional MASL recently started its 2017-18 season with 16 teams aligned in four-team Eastern, Central, Southwest and Pacific divisions. 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 (Hidalgo, TX), which reorganized after playing two MASL seasons (2014-16) as the Brownsville Barracudas. The MASL season runs from late October 2017 to early March 2018.

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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