Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report
by Dan Krieger
October 23, 2017 - Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL)
Carolina League: The Fatbacks or Woodpeckers are considered to be the top two choices as the name of the new Fayetteville (NC) high Class-A Carolina League team that will start play at a new downtown stadium for the 2019 season. The team is playing two seasons (2017 and 2018) as the Buies Creek Astros at nearby Campbell University until the new stadium is ready. Other potential team name choices were Jumpers, Wood Dogs and Fly Traps. An official team name announcement will be made in December. The Carolina League's Potomac Nationals (Woodbridge, VA), who had been threatening to move out of Prince William County if a new stadium was not built, have extended their lease through the 2020 season. The team's owner is again working with the county to finance and build a new stadium.
Major League Baseball: A potential ownership group for an MLB expansion franchise in Portland (OR) is trying to secure financing for an MLB-style baseball stadium. Portland has been mentioned by MLB as a potential expansion market when MLB expands to 32 teams sometime in the future.
Southwest League of Professional Baseball: The city of Joplin (MO) has had discussions with the proposed new independent SWL about the possibility of a Joplin-based team playing in the new league when it starts in 2019. The city last had the Joplin Blasters team that lasted only two seasons (2015-16) in the American Association. The SWL originally planned to start play with six Texas-based teams in 2018, but that was pushed back a year. So far, only two Texas-based teams called the Waco BlueCats and Royse City Griffins have been announced by the league.
Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League: The Lorain County (OH) Ironmen team in the GLSCL has been sold and will be relocated to become the Saginaw (MI) Sugar Beets for the 2018 season.
Great West League: The Klamath Falls (OR) Gems are moving from the Golden State Collegiate League to the summer-collegiate GWL for the 2018 season.
Expedition League: The proposed new summer-collegiate Expedition League announced some more names of teams that will be part of the league's inaugural 2018 season. The Minot (ND) team will be called the Souris Valley Sabre Dogs, the Pierre (SD) team will be the Pierre Trappers, and the Spearfish (SD) team will be called the Spearfish Sasquatch.
Women's National Basketball Association: The WNBA has approved the sale and relocation of the San Antonio Stars to Las Vegas for the 2018 season. As of now, it looks like the team will be called the Las Vegas Stars. The San Antonio Stars started as the Utah Starzz in the league's inaugural 1997 season and moved to become the San Antonio Silver Stars for the 2003 season. The Silver Stars dropped the Silver from its name and became the Stars for the 2014 season.
Florida Basketball Association: The FBA announced an expansion team called the Poinciana (FL) Pride will be added for the 2018 season. Poinciana is south of Orlando near Kissimmee. The FBA operated with six teams in a 2017 season that ran from February to mid-July.
Universal Basketball Association: The UBA announced the addition of a 2017-18 expansion team called the Southwest Atlanta Ambassadors to its Southern Conference.
Indoor Football League: The IFL's former Wichita Falls (TX) Nighthawks team announced it will sit out the 2018 season due to legal threats surrounding its proposed move from the IFL to Champions Indoor Football after the 2017 season. The Wichita Falls Nighthawks joined the IFL as a 2015 expansion team and played three seasons (2015-17) in the league. The Nighthawks wanted to move to the CIF because the league had several teams in closer proximity and that would have reduced travel costs.
National Arena League: Although there has been no official announcement, a new Worcester-based team called the Massachusetts Pirates is trying to become part of the NAL for the 2018 season. Worcester was home to the New England Surge for two seasons (2007-08) in the former Continental Indoor Football League and to the Massachusetts Marauders for one season (1994) in the original Arena Football League. The future of the NAL's Albany-based Georgia Firebirds is uncertain as the team has been unable to sign an arena lease deal for the 2018 season.
Arena Football League: A potential ownership group is trying to bring an AFL franchise to Albany (NY) for the 2018 season that would grow the league to six teams. The original AFL had a team called the Albany Firebirds that played 11 seasons (1990-2000) before moving to Indianapolis for the 2001 season. A team called the Albany Conquest was added to the AFL's minor league called arenafootball2 (af2) for the 2002 season. That team was renamed the Albany Firebirds for its last season in 2009.
Southern Professional Hockey League: The lower-level SPHL started its 2017-18 season this weekend with ten teams aligned into one table for the standings. The Columbus (GA) Cottonmouths did not return, but the league remained at ten teams with the addition of the Birmingham (AL) Bulls expansion team. The Fayetteville (NC) FireAntz were renamed the Fayetteville Marksmen for the 2017-18 season. The other returning teams include the Evansville Thunderbolts, Huntsville Havoc, Knoxville Ice Bears, Macon Mayhem, Mississippi RiverKings (Southhaven/Memphis area), Pensacola Ice Flyers, Peoria Rivermen and Roanoke (VA) Rail Yard Dawgs. The SPHL has been around since the 2004-05 season.
United States Hockey League: The Tier-I USHL, which plays at the highest level of junior hockey under USA Hockey, started its 2017-18 season last month with 17 teams aligned into an eight-team Western Conference and a nine-team Eastern Conference. All teams returned from last season and the only change was the Bloomington Thunder being renamed the Central Illinois Flying Aces. Arena plans for a proposed Kansas City-based USHL team to be called the BluHawks have been dropped from the new BluHawk development in Overland Park (KS).
North American 3 Hockey League: After playing only 11 games in the 2017-18 season, the Dayton Falcons of the Tier-III junior-level NA3HL have folded. Last season, the team played as the Cincinnati Thunder, but its home was actually in the Dayton area.
North American Soccer League: Although there is some uncertainty about the NASL's status as a provisional Division-II league for next season, the league's new 2018 San Diego-based expansion team announced it will be called 1904 FC. The name comes from the letters "SD" with "S" being the 19th letter of the alphabet and "D" being the 4th letter of the alphabet. Due to hurricane damage in Puerto Rico, the NASL's Puerto Rico FC is playing its remaining schedule for the 2017 fall season on the United States mainland. Last month, the owner of the NASL's FC Edmonton confirmed he has been attending meetings for the proposed new Canadian Premier League, but he has not yet committed to the new league. The owner stated that if the NASL loses its Division-II status, FC Edmonton would not move to the United Soccer League, which is the other current provisional Division-II league.
Major League Soccer: The owner of the MLS's Columbus Crew has threatened to move the team to Austin if a new downtown stadium is not built to replace the team's current stadium, which was built in 1999 as the first professional soccer-specific stadium. The Crew will remain in Columbus for the 2018 season, but it is uncertain if the team will stay after next season. It has been reported that the MLS has registered trademarks for the names "Austin FC" and "Austin Athletic". A potential Austin MLS team could play at the University of Texas in 2019 until a new stadium is built. The provisional Division-II United Soccer League also has plans to place a team in Austin in 2019, but that effort and a proposed stadium is unrelated to the MLS plans.
United Soccer League: A group of investors announced plans to try to bring a USL team to Dillon Stadium in Hartford (CT). The group is targeting the 2019 season and would like the team to become an affiliate of Major League Soccer's New England Revolution. A proposed North American Soccer League team called Hartford City FC was announced a couple of years ago with plans to redevelop Dillon Stadium, but the project died after an investigation into the ownership group and the proposed stadium financing.
Major Arena Soccer League 2: A recent report about a new indoor team called the Upstate Strikers (Anderson, SC) being a member of the MASL or its new lower-level MASL2 was incorrect. The team is not a member of the MASL or MASL2 and will play an independent schedule in 2017-18. Apparently, the MASL2 will not have an Eastern Division of teams for its first season that starts in December 2017. The MASL2 currently lists eight 2017-18 teams called the Colorado Blizzard (Denver), Ontario (CA) Fury II, Arizona Impact, Colorado Inferno, San Diego Sockers 2, Detroit Waza Flo, Chicago Mustangs and Las Vegas Knights. An official announcement of 2017-18 teams will be made in the near future.
Major Arena Soccer League: The Rochester (NY) Lancers tried to make a return to the MASL for the 2017-18 season, but were unable to obtain good playing dates at the Blue Cross Arena and will try again for the 2018-19 season. The Lancers were part of the MASL's 2014-15 season before being shut down. The league had extended deadlines for the Lancers and had hoped to add the team to the Eastern Division.
Major League Rugby: The Houston Strikers team in the proposed new MLR has changed its name to the Houston SaberCats. The team will play home games at Sugar Land's Constellation Field, which is home to the Sugar Land Skeeters baseball team in the independent Atlantic League. The MLR plans to start its inaugural season in April 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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