Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
June 9, 2014 - United Soccer League (USL)

BASEBALL

Eastern League: The ownership of the New Britain (CT) Rock Cats in the Double-A Eastern League has been talking with the city of Hartford (CT) where a proposed 10,000-seat stadium could become the new home for the Rock Cats by the 2016 season. The Rock Cats' ownership was also reported to have been considering Springfield (MA) for possible relocation. The city of New Britain is only 12 miles from Hartford, so replacing the Rock Cats with another affiliated team in New Britain would be unlikely.

Southern League: The new Biloxi (MS) team in the Double-A Southern League that will start play in 2016 after the relocation of the Huntsville Stars announced the six finalists from a name-the-team contest. Potential names include the Biloxi Beacon, Biloxi Black Jacks, Biloxi Mullets, Biloxi Schooners, Biloxi Shrimpers and Biloxi Shuckers.

Freedom Professional Baseball League: The FPBL is still trying to work out a lease for Kino Stadium in Tucson so it can have a Tucson-based team as part of its upcoming 2014 season. Other independent baseball leagues like United League Baseball and the Pecos League have expressed interest in the Tucson stadium for a future team. The stadium was used by the Tucson Padres of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League for the past three seasons (2011-13), but the team relocated to become the El Paso Chihuahuas.

BASKETBALL

American Basketball League: The ABL moved to a spring-summer schedule for its second season that started this weekend with a Tropics Conference featuring four Florida-based teams called the Fort Lauderdale Sharks, Palm Beach Hurricane (last season's West Palm Beach Piranhas), Vero Beach Stampede (originally the Treasure Coast Stampede) and Orlando Lightning. The ABL played its inaugural 2013 season from January to April with a six-team Florida-based Tropics Conference and a six-team Texas-based Lone Star Conference. Only the Fort Lauderdale Sharks and the renamed the Palm Beach Hurricane returned from last season. The ABL plays under international FIBA rules and tries to develop players for various international basketball leagues.

American Basketball Association: The ABA announced it will return to Rochester (NY) for the 2014-15 season with a team called the Rochester Ravens. The ABA had the Rochester RazorSharks for two seasons (2005-07) until the team moved to the Premier Basketball League.

Americas Basketball Federation: The Americas Basketball International, which is a men's basketball league that has been trying to get off the ground over the past few years with some league-operated teams based in the United States playing international competition from Central and South America, has been renamed the Americas Basketball Federation. The league is once again holding tryouts this month for a proposed 2014 schedule of games. The ABF has a new women's counterpart called the Americas Women Basketball Federation that is trying to start play this summer. The AWBF was trying to enter into an affiliation with Mexico's new women's pro team called the Liga Nacional de Baloncesto Profesional-Femenil.

Lique Basketball Quebec: The LBQ elite league is nearing the end of its 2014 season that started in early April. Four of the six teams returned for the league's third season and the league grew to eight teams with the addition of four new teams called the ABM Stars (Saint-Hyacinthe), Basketball 3Rivieres (Trois-Rivieres), Selects St-Lambert and the Sun Youth Hornets (Montreal).

FOOTBALL

Stars Football League: It looks like the SFL, which was billed as a professional springtime football league, has cancelled a previously announced 2014 schedule and ceased operations. The league tried to develop a nationwide group of teams, but played its three seasons (2011-13) with only three to four teams mostly based in Florida. The SFL had posted a proposed 2014 season schedule with the four teams from last season-the Miami Ironmen, Fort Lauderdale Barracudas, Pompano Beach Swampdogs and Daytona Beach Racers-along with new teams called the Orlando Piranhas and Palm Beach Admirals.

National Football League: With all of the various proposed developmental football leagues trying to form in the past few years with hopes of becoming an NFL feeder league, the NFL is reported to be interested in starting its own developmental league that could be used for training players, coaches and officials. There has been no timetable established by the NFL, which last operated the springtime developmental NFL-Europe in 2007.

HOCKEY

ECHL: The Double-A level ECHL minor hockey league announced its 2014-15 schedule that will feature 21 teams. The league started the 2013-14 season with 22 teams, but the San Francisco Bulls folded during the season and the Las Vegas Wranglers will be forced to sit out the 2014-15 season due to the lack of a home arena. The league added the Indianapolis Fuel as an expansion team for 2014-15.

North American 3 Hockey League: The Tier-III junior-level NA3HL, which is affiliated with USA Hockey's Tier-II North American Hockey League, announced the schedule and alignment for the 31 teams that will be part of the 2014-15 season. The league lost one of its 21 teams from last season, but added 11 new teams for 2014-15. The majority of the new teams include the seven teams from Montana and Wyoming that comprised last season's America West Hockey League and were placed in a new NA3HL Frontier Division. Other new teams include the Nashville Jr. Predators, Texas Junior Brahmas (North Richland Hills), Point Mallard (AL) Ducks and the Southern Tier Xpress (Jamestown, NY).

United States Hockey League: The Midwest-based Tier-I USHL, which is USA Hockey's top junior hockey league, has several groups interested in acquiring a franchise and the league has been considering eastern expansion. Markets like Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia that would have junior teams affiliated with their current National Hockey League teams have been mentioned for possible expansion.

Major League Roller Hockey: The MLRH realized that its MLRH PRO Tour with monthly games played at a designated city cannot be sold as a league, so it is creating a new summertime MLRH Super League with teams representing cities and playing half of their games at a home arena. The new league hopes to debut with at least eight teams playing an eight-game demo season. The league will feature a mix of minor professional ice hockey players and roller hockey players from the MLRH PRO Tour. Three of the Super League teams announced so far include the Ohio River Monsters (Cincinnati), Pittsburgh Steel and DC Filibusters (Washington, DC). The MLRH got its start as a tour-based operation in 1997 and evolved into various types of professional, semi-pro and amateur leagues before concentrating on its MLRH PRO Tour over the past few years.

SOCCER

United Soccer Leagues - PRO League: The new St. Louis-based USL PRO expansion team announced it will be called the St. Louis FC when it starts play in the 2015 season. The rights to the league's Orlando City SC Lions franchise will be transferred to Louisville for the 2015 season as the Orlando City SC organization moves up to Major League Soccer as that league's 21st team. The Louisville City FC is then expected to serve as the USL PRO affiliate of the Orlando MLS team. The Orlando City SC started play in the 2011 season of the USL PRO after the purchase and relocation of the Austin Aztex club.

League 1-Ontario: The new semi-pro soccer league called League 1 Ontario, which is sanctioned by the Canadian Soccer Association and considered a Division-III league in Canada behind Major League Soccer and the North American Soccer League, started its inaugural 2014 season last week with ten Ontario-based teams called ANB Futbol, Durham United FC, Internacional de Toronto, Kingston Cataraqui Clippers, Master's Futbol Saints, Sigma FC, Toronto FC Academy, Vaughan Azzurri SC, Windsor Stars and Woodbridge Strikers.

OTHER

Continental Indoor Lacrosse League: The semi-pro CILL is holding tryouts for its fourth season and lists the seven teams returning from last season, plus teams called the Cleveland Demons and Lansing Hot Rods. Last season, the league listed an inactive team called the Lansing Lancers. The CILL operated as the Midwest Indoor Lacrosse Association for its first two seasons in 2011 and 2012.

Dan Krieger is the creator of the "The Leagueology Almanac 2012-13", 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.

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