Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report
by Dan Krieger
February 8, 2016 - United Soccer League Championship (USL)
American Association: The Milwaukee suburb of Franklin voted to move forward on planning for a new Ballpark Commons development that is proposing a 4,500-seat stadium for a possible American Association team. The plan is to have the stadium ready the 2017 American Association season. In November 2015, voters in Cleburne (TX), just south of Fort Worth, approved the Cleburne Station, which will be a retail/dining complex with a minor league baseball stadium for a proposed team called the Cleburne Railroaders. A July 2015 economic impact study for the project recommended an American Association team for the new stadium.
Empire Pro League: The proposed new four-team Empire League now lists a team called the New Hampshire Wild that replaces a previously announced team called the Albany Wild, which was also listed as the New York Wild. The Empire League evolved from the remnants of last season's North County Baseball League (NCBL) that last only one season.
U.S. Baseball League: The new ownership group that is renovating Price Cutter Park in Ozark (MO) is currently operating under the U.S. Baseball League name. The ownership plans to organize a new four-team summer-collegiate league under a different name for this summer with all games played at the renovated and renamed ballpark in June and July. Ownership plans to expand with the addition of an independent professional baseball league in the future. Gulf Coast League: Major League Baseball's Detroit Tigers plan to operate a second team out of its Lakeland complex for the 2016 season of the Florida-based pure-rookie GCL. This move was due to the shutdown of the Venezuelan Summer League for the 2016 season, so the Tigers will bring some of those prospects to the GCL. Other MLB teams are also considering a second GCL team or adding a team in the Dominican Summer League. The New York Yankees have operated two GCL teams out of its Tampa complex for the past three seasons (2013-15).
Southwest League of Professional Baseball: The proposed new Southwest League plans to start play in 2018 with up to six Texas-based teams. The league plans to expand into the surrounding states of Colorado, Oklahoma and Louisiana. Teams will play a 112-game season and the league plans to announce participating cities in the coming months.
Elite International Basketball Association: The new professional global EIBA plans to start its inaugural season in June 2016 with teams aligned into a USA Division and an International Division. The league currently lists 14 USA Division teams (Arkadelphia Bulldogs, Hickory Elite, Illinois Prime, Indiana Monarchs, Kansas City Soul, Las Vegas Desert Storm, Las Vegas Vipers, Los Angeles Jaguars, New England Conquerors, Oklahoma City Outlaws, Shreveport Bucks, Southeast Royals, Texas Riders and West Virginia Coalminerz) and 8 International Division teams (Belgium, Ireland, Philippines, New Zealand, Ukraine, Netherlands and two in Germany). The league plans to have 16 USA teams and 16 international teams with the schedule running from June through September to take advantage of the off-season for international professional leagues.
Women's Blue Chip Basketball League: A new team called the Conyers (GA) Rockets plans to start play in the 2016 season of the semi-pro WBCBL.
Arena Football League: After taking control of the Portland (OR) Thunder franchise last month, the AFL announced it will operate a Portland-based team for the 2016 and the team will receive a new name under league ownership. The AFL will continue to try to find new ownership for the franchise. The league will also shrink from 12 to 8 teams for the 2016 season. The league's Philadelphia Soul announced it will play a 2016 home game in nearby Trenton (NJ) since its home arena will not be unavailable.
Supreme Indoor Football: The new league known as the SIF, which is also a member of the Indoor Football Alliance, recently held a player draft for its inaugural 2016 season. The five participating teams include the ASI Panthers (Reading, PA) and Buffalo Lightning from last season's American Indoor Football; the Cape Fear Heroes (Fayetteville, NC) from last season's X-League Indoor Football; the Kentucky Knights (Owensboro), a once-proposed team in North American Indoor Football; and a team listed simply as Western Pennsylvania.
Midwest Professional Indoor Football: The proposed new semi-pro MPIF has posted an eight-game 2016 schedule featuring four teams each playing four games in the month of April. Teams include the Windy City Ravens (Elgin, IL), Stateline Sting (Loves Park/Rockford, IL), Illinois Outlaws and Michigan City (IN) Lions. All 2016 games are scheduled to be played in either Elgin or Loves Parks. The Windy City Ravens played a couple of games in 2015 as part of North American Indoor Football.
National Hockey League: The NHL Commissioner recently stated that the expansion process is moving forward, but the league is not ready to make a recommendation on the acceptance of applications from groups in Las Vegas and Quebec City. The league will decide whether to add both cities, one city or neither city. If expansion is approved, it would not happen until the 2017-18 season at the earliest. At this point in the process, the NHL will not accept any new expansion applications, so the prospect of an expansion bid from Seattle appears to be dead at this time.
ECHL: The ECHL Board of Governors met this week to discuss potential issues for next season. The head of the ECHL's Brampton (Ontario) Beast stated the team would not be able to play next season if it does not get some financial help from the city. The Beast requested a one-month extension on this week's deadline to commit to next season and the league granted the team until March 10 to get its finances in order for 2016-17. The league also was to decide on a proposed move of the Evansville IceMen to Owensboro (KY) and the acceptance of a new Worcester (MA) expansion team.
Greater Metro Junior Hockey League: The Sturgeon Falls Lumberjacks (Ontario) team in the Canadian junior-level GMHL stated it has ended its 2015-16 early due to a lack of qualified players. The league's Shelburne Sharks (Ontario) team was also having problems and has not played a game since mid-January.
Western States Hockey League: The junior-level WSHL, which is affiliated with the Amateur Athletic Union, is looking to place a team in Dodge City (KS). A potential team owner is negotiating with the city and has suggested the Dodge City Marshals as a possible team name. The 29-team league has a current Midwest Division with teams in Dallas, El Paso, Wichita, Springfield (MO), Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
SOCCER Major League Soccer: The MLS has expressed interest in the St. Louis market and will start considering possible stadium sites. The league is interested in a downtown stadium location that was supposed to be used for the now-relocated St. Louis Rams of the National Football League. In addition to financing a new soccer stadium, the St. Louis market would need a solid ownership group for an expansion franchise.
United Soccer League: The new San Antonio USL team announced it will be called San Antonio FC when it starts play in the 2016 season. The team's ownership reached an agreement in December 2015 to operate a USL team at Toyota Field, which had been home to the San Antonio Scorpions of the North American Soccer League for the past four seasons (2012-15). The San Antonio FC ownership also has long-range plans of expanding the soccer stadium and pursuing a franchise in Major League Soccer. After playing two games in Lancaster last season, the USL's Harrisburg City Islanders announced they will play 5 of the team's 15 home games in Lancaster during the 2016 season. The games will he held at the stadium that is home to the Lancaster Barnstormers baseball team of the independent Atlantic League.
United Soccer Leagues "" Premier Development League: The Oklahoma City Energy FC of the United Soccer League announced its new 2016 developmental PDL team will be called the Oklahoma City Energy FC U23 (under 23 years). The PDL announced its 2016 schedule will feature 67 teams in four conferences with the season running from mid-May to mid-July.
Indoor Professional League: The owner of the Baltimore Blast in the Major Arena Soccer League has again announced plans to form a new indoor soccer league that is expected to be known as the Indoor Professional League (IPL). The Blast and the MASL's St. Louis Ambush will be members along with other teams in the Northeast and at least one in Florida. The same owner talked about leaving the MASL and forming the IPL after the 2014-15 indoor season.
North American Soccer League: The group trying to bring a Division-II NASL expansion team to San Francisco announced the future team's name will be the San Francisco Deltas. The NASL has yet to officially approve the San Francisco expansion team.
Northwest Premier League: The new women's elite-amateur NWPL, which will have all teams based in Washington State, has added a seventh team called the Twin City Union. The team will represent the cities of Centralia and Chehalis in Lewis County.
PRO Rugby : The PRO Rugby Organization, which plans to start a professional 15-a-side rugby union league in North America, announced a third team will be located in San Diego when the league starts play in April 2016. The league previously announced teams for Sacramento and San Francisco and there was speculation that Denver, Philadelphia and New York were also under consideration. Apparently, San Diego will replace New York for the first season and Philadelphia might be the only eastern team for now. At least one team in the Mountain West is expected to be added for 2016 with Denver and Salt Lake City said to be under consideration.
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.
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