Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report
by Dan Krieger
April 27, 2015 - Major League Soccer (MLS)
Atlantic League: The independent Atlantic League started its 2015 season this past week with the same eight teams aligned into four-team Liberty and Freedom divisions. The league's proposed Virginia Beach Neptunes expansion team announced the naming rights for its new ballpark. The team hopes to raise enough financing to start ballpark construction this summer and begin play for the 2016 season.
Southern League: The ten-team Double-A Southern League started its 2015 season earlier this month with one team change. The Huntsville (AL) Stars were sold and relocated to become the Biloxi (MI) Shuckers. Biloxi was switched to the South Division with the league's Montgomery (AL) Biscuits moving to the North Division. A new stadium in Biloxi is not expected to be ready until at least early June 2015, so the team is playing at least 15 of its early-season home games in Huntsville. The Shuckers already played a three-game home series in Jacksonville against the Jacksonville Suns and will also play a five-game home stand in Pearl (MS) against the Mississippi Braves. The two other Double-A leagues, the 12-team Eastern League and 8-team Texas League also started play with the same teams and alignments as last season.
Florida State League: The 12-team high Class-A FSL started its 2015 season earlier this month with one team changing its name. Last season's Daytona Cubs changed to the Cincinnati Reds as its Major League affiliate, but rather than use the Reds as its name the team was renamed the Daytona Tortugas (Spanish for turtles) for the 2015 season. The league's Brevard County Manatees, based in the Melbourne/Viera area, will be renamed the Brevard County Space Explorers for a three-game home series next month as part of a promotion by the nearby Kennedy Space Center. The two other high Class-A leagues, the ten-team California League and the eight-team Carolina League also started play with the same teams and alignments as last season.
Great West League: The new Portland (OR) team in the proposed summer-collegiate GWL announced the team will be called the Portland Pickles. The league plans to start play in 2016 with teams based in California and Oregon.
American Basketball Association: The ABA announced a new expansion team called the Carolina Cougars, based in Columbia (SC), will be added to the Mid-Atlantic Division for the 2015-16 season. The league had a team by the same named based out of Rocky Mount (NC) for part of the 2011-12 season. The league announced a team called the Columbia Rottweilers for the 2006-07 season, but it never materialized. The ABA also announced two former Premier Basketball League teams, the Buffalo 716ers and Jamestown (NY) Hurricane (previously the Erie Hurricane), have joined for next season. Another new ABA team called the Everett Evolution will be formed for the 2015-16 season through the merger of three current Washington-based ABA teams called the Tacoma Rise, Lakewood Panthers and Washington Rampage.
Central Basketball Developmental League: The CBDL has removed the Northeast Division, which included the DC Stars (Washington), Maryland Magic (Baltimore), New Jersey Knights (Montclair) and Virginia Vengeance, for the 2015 season and will continue with a Southeast Division of teams. The league is looking to add teams in Ohio, Georgia, Detroit, Pittsburgh, New York, New Jersey and Mississippi for the 2016 season.
Lique Basketball Quebec: The elite-level LBQ started its fourth season earlier this month and has grown from eight to nine teams. Gone from last season are the Sun Youth Hornets (Montreal), but the league added teams called the Capitale-Nationale (Quebec City) and Elite Bourassa (Montreal-Nord) for a 2015 season that ends in early June.
North of the Border Basketball League: The Southern Ontario-based NBBL, which consists of professional, university and elite-level college players, will start its third summertime Elite Division season next month. New teams called the Forest City Panthers and Hamilton Hitmen have joined for 2015. The league's Hamilton's Finest was renamed the Nine-O-Five, while the Loyola Hawks and Marauders have merged to form one Marauders team. The NBBL also has a men's Recreational Division and plans to add an Advanced Division, along with a Women's NBBL for the 2015 season.
North American Indoor Football: The new NAIF is trying to form various leagues like the men's National Pro-Indoor Football (NPIF), the Ladies Indoor Football League (LIFL), a Youth Football League and an NAIF Developmental League. A few NPIF teams have played some games this spring, but the main push is to start a full schedule in 2016. The NPIF currently lists 13 member teams: the Kentucky Knights, Reading Raptors, Steel City Stampede (Bethlehem), Northeast Falcons (Jersey Shore), Augusta Gladiators, Georgia Firebirds (Tifton), Windy City Ravens, Iowa Elite, Pineywood Bucks (Henderson, TX), Texas Stealth (N. Richland Hills), East Texas Timber Rattlers, Dallas Roughriders and New Mexico Stars (Rio Rancho). The North Texas Crunch has already ceased operations, while a team called the Texas Bulldogs (Frisco) obtained a release by the league. The women's LIFL is under development and currently lists four member teams called the Chicago Assault, Milwaukee Ice, Minneapolis Slam and Omaha Heartbreakers.
Texas Indoor Gridiron League: The developmental TIGL announced it will grow to 12 Texas-based teams for its Summer/Fall 2015 season and will move its home to the NYTEX Sports Centre in North Richland Hills. The TIGL completed an inaugural Winter/Spring 2015 season with eight teams playing games out of the Arlington Indoor Center in Grande Prairie.
Independent Women's Football League: The women's full-tackle IWFL started its 2015 spring season earlier this month and has 29 teams in 8 regional divisions, along with 7 affiliate teams. New full-schedule teams include the Colorado Springs Voodoo, Rocky Mountain Thunder Katz (Colorado Springs), Austin Yellow Jackets and New Orleans Krewe. Teams called Thee Toledo Reign, Nebraska Stampede (Omaha) and Nevada Storm (Sparks) joined the IWFL from the 2014 Women's Football Alliance.
North American Football League: The proposed springtime professional NAFL, which planned to have eight teams playing a six-game schedule from May 16 to June 21, 2015, announced it will wait until the spring of 2016 to start league play. The league's eight teams included the Virginia Crusaders (Richmond), Connecticut Colonials (originally Hartford Merchantmen), Columbus (OH) Flight, Kentucky Thoroughbreds (Louisville), North Carolina Redwolves (Raleigh-Durham), Orlando Sentinels, Birmingham Freedom and Memphis Kings.
Major League Football: The proposed new men's professional spring football league called the MLF, which plans to start play in 2016, announced a tentative plan to place a franchise in Eugene (OR).
Federal Hockey League: The owner of the FHL's Steel City Warriors team, based out of the Rostraver Ice Garden in Belle Vernon (PA), announced the team will not return for a second season in 2015-16, but could try to return to the league at a new home for the 2016-17 season. The Warriors were formed to take over the schedule for the league's SouthWest Pennsylvania Magic expansion team, which never got off the ground in Belle Vernon after playing one road game in October of the 2014-15 schedule.
United States Premier Hockey League "" Empire Division: The junior-level Tier-III USPHL Empire Division announced it has replaced its Brooklyn-based New York Aviators team, which has switched to the junior-level North American 3 Eastern Hockey League for the 2015-16 season, with a team called the New York Dragons that will be based in Rye (NY).
Major League Soccer: The MLS commissioner stated that within six months the league will announce expansion plans beyond the 24 teams that are either already operating or approved by the league. MLS will not be announcing specific expansion markets at that time, but more of a framework for future expansion. Several additional markets like Austin, El Paso, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Sacramento, St. Louis and San Antonio have expressed interest in an MLS expansion franchise.
Evergreen Premier League of Washington: The men's outdoor elite amateur EPL started its second season this weekend and again features eight teams based in the state of Washington. After playing in the inaugural 2014 season, the WestSound FC merged with the FC Crush and was renamed the Kitsap Alliance FC, but then pulled out of the EPL. A new team called the Olympic Force (Bremerton, WA), which played a 2014-15 indoor season as part of the Premier Arena Soccer League, was added in the off-season to take the place of WestSound FC. The seven other EPL teams from last season returned for 2015.
Dan Krieger is the creator of the Leagues, Teams & Nicknames 2013-14: "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.
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