Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
June 6, 2016 - United Soccer League (USL)

BASEBALL

United Shore Professional Baseball League: The new developmental USPBL started its inaugural season this week with three teams called the Birmingham Bloomfield Beavers, Eastside Diamond Hoppers and Utica Unicorns. Each team is playing a 50-game schedule with all games played at a new ballpark in Utica (MI). The league organizer wants to expand by building new stadiums and having two home teams per stadium. The long-range goal is to have 20 teams in 10 Midwest stadiums over the next decade.

Empire Pro Baseball League: The new independent Empire League, which was organized from the remnants of last season\'s North Country Baseball League (NCBL), started its inaugural 2016 season this week with four teams called the New Hampshire Wild (Rindge), Old Orchard Beach (ME) Surge, Sullivan (NY) Explorers and Watertown (NY) Bucks. The Old Orchard Beach Surge and Watertown Bucks were part of the 2015 NCBL. The NCBL had a travel team called the Road City Warriors that became the Rome (NY) City Explorers in the Empire League, but eventually moved to become the Sullivan Explorers. The New Hampshire Wild was originally announced as the Albany (NY) Wild.

Pacific Association of Pro Baseball: The independent Pacific Association started its 2016 season this week and it features the same four California-based teams as last season: the Pittsburg Diamonds, San Rafael Pacifics, Sonoma Stompers and Vallejo Admirals. The 2016 season runs from May 31 to August 28. The Pacific Association started play in the 2013 season.

BASKETBALL

Midwest Basketball League: The new MBL has undergone a change of teams early in its inaugural 2016 season. The Chicago Clovers team is no longer part of the MBL West division, but it has been replaced by a previous partial-schedule team, or branding team, called the Lincoln (NE) Lions. The Lions will now play a full MBL schedule.

Universal Basketball Association: The UBA is looking to expand next season with the addition of possible new Ohio teams in Columbus and Dayton. The league has had previous teams called the Columbus Claws, Ohio Hidden Gems (Columbus), Dayton Knights, Gem City Slam (Dayton) and Ohio Flash (Dayton) in these markets.

United Professional Basketball Association: The proposed new UPBA plans to start play in the spring of 2017 with 8 to 12 teams in the Midwest and eastern United States. The league recently announced the Kansas City (MO) Soul as its first team. The Kansas City Soul was previously listed as a team in the Central Division of the proposed new Elite International Basketball Association.

North of the Border Basketball League: The advanced division of the men\'s NBBL started its summer season last month with 16 teams aligned in 8-team Eastern and Western conferences. All games are played on the campus of McMaster University in Hamilton (Ontario). The NBBL also has a six-team recreational division.

Liga Nacional de Baloncesto Profesional-Femenil: Mexico\'s LNBP-Femenil, which is the women\'s basketball league affiliated with the country\'s top men\'s basketball league known as the LNBP, completed its third regular season last month with nine teams. Each team played a 16-game season from late February to late May.

National Basketball League of Canada: The NBL-Canada confirmed the league is working with potential investors for a team in the Kitchener-Waterloo (Ontario) market. A decision would have to be made by the end of this month for the team to start play in the 2016-17 season, otherwise, it would start next season. A team called the Cape Breton Highlanders, based in Sydney (Nova Scotia), was unable to finance its start for the 2015-16 season and is expected to be added for the 2016-17 season.

FOOTBALL

American Indoor Football: The ownership of the AIF\'s Savannah Steam has filed for bankruptcy to consolidate various outstanding debts. After this announcement, the Steam\'s season ended with a loss in its first playoff game.

Athletic Indoor Football League: The proposed professional AIFL never got off the ground as planned for an inaugural season that was to start in April 2016 with teams based in Texas and Louisiana. Eventually, the league wanted to have 28 teams in two 14-team northern and southern divisions with Interstate 70 as the dividing line for the divisions. The league was trying to develop one of the northern teams in Anchorage (AK). Some of the AIFL teams that had posted 2016 schedules included the Austin Cobras, East Texas Rattlers, East Texas Punch, Euless Vipers and West Texas Renegades.

HOCKEY

National Hockey League: The NHL will hold a league meeting later this month to discuss the topic of expansion, which could happen as early as the 2017-18 season. The league has received expansion applications from groups in Las Vegas and Quebec City. Both cities have built new NHL-style arenas for a possible expansion team.

American Hockey League: The AHL\'s new Tucson franchise, which previously operated as the Springfield (MA) Falcons, plans to announce the new team name on June 18, 2016. The Falcons name will not be available, but the Indians name could be an option. The Springfield Indians team was the AHL predecessor to the Falcons before moving to Worcester for the 1994-95 season.

Southern Professional Hockey League: The SPHL announced its 2016-17 season schedule that will feature ten teams. The league had nine teams last season, but the Lafayette-based Louisiana IceGators will sit out the 2016-17 season due to arena renovations. The SPHL added two new teams called the Evansville Thunderbolts and Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs for the 2016-17 season.

North American 3 Hockey League: The Tier-III junior-level NA3HL, which is affiliated with the Tier-II North American Hockey League, recently announced the sale and relocation of two teams. The ownership of the NAHL\'s Minnesota Magicians and the NA3HL\'s Chicago Bulldogs has purchased the Sugar Land Imperials and will move the team to College Station (TX) as the College Station Spirit for the 2016-17 season. The ownership of the NAHL\'s Brookings (SD) Blizzard and the NA3HL\'s Alexandria (MN) Blizzard has obtained the rights to the NA3HL\'s Minnesota Flying Aces team. The team will be moved from Little Falls to Wilmar (MN), about 90 miles west of Minneapolis/St. Paul, and renamed for the 2016-17 season. The NA3HL was previously called the Central States Hockey League until becoming affiliated with the Tier-II NAHL prior to the 2010-11 season.

Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League: USA Hockey\'s Tier-III RMJHL, which recently completed its inaugural 2015-16 season with six Colorado-based teams, recently added a new team called the Steamboat Springs (CO) Wranglers for the 2016-17 season. The league\'s Breckenridge Bucks team announced it was leaving the RMJHL after one season and moving to the Western States Hockey League that operates as a junior league under the Amateur Athletic Union. The Bucks will become the eighth team in the WSHL\'s Mountain Division.

SOCCER

United Soccer League: The Division-III USL had some recent activity in the area of future expansion teams. The league has had discussions with a group trying to bring a USL team to San Diego. The ownership of the El Paso Chihuahuas baseball team in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League expressed interest in building a new soccer stadium for a USL team. This ownership group had previously talked of trying to bring a Major League Soccer franchise to the city. The group trying to bring a USL team to Nashville has approached the Nashville FC team in the amateur-level National Premier Soccer League about purchasing the Nashville FC team name and logo. As part of the deal, the current Nashville FC ownership would receive an ownership stake in the USL team.

OTHER

National Pro Fastpitch: The women\'s NPF started its 2016 season this week with six teams. The league\'s five returning teams called the Akron Racers, Chicago Bandits, Dallas Charge, Pennsylvania Rebellion (Washington, PA) and USSSA Florida Pride returned with the Pride moving from Kissimmee to Viera. The NPF added a sixth team called the Scrap Yard Dawgs based in the Houston suburb of The Woodlands. The 2016 season runs from late May to mid-August.

PRO Rugby: The five teams in the new PRO Rugby league started the inaugural 2016 season without team nicknames. The league is holding a fan-driven competition to name each team and recently posted a shortlist of three names per-team for voting. The choices are Aviators, Presidents and Flight for the Ohio (Columbus) team; Steamers, Express and Pioneers for the Sacramento team; Peak, Vipers and Stampede for the Denver team; Destroyers, Admirals and Breakers for the San Diego team; and Rush, Miners and Fury for the San Francisco team. PRO Rugby plays under the rules of 15-a-side rugby union.

Dan Krieger is the creator of the Leagues, Teams & Nicknames 2014-15: "The Leagueology Almanac" , which tracks the changes in league alignments, franchise movements and team nicknames in today\'s sports world. The publication is currently available at www.amazon.com.

• Discuss this story on the United Soccer League message board