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Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
February 15, 2016 - ECHL (ECHL)

BASEBALL

California League: After an unsatisfactory round of mediation with the city of Adelanto, the High Desert Mavericks of the high Class-A California League filed a lawsuit to force the city into arbitration to resolve a dispute over use of the city's baseball stadium. The city voted last month to terminate the Mavericks' stadium agreement and basically evict the team.

Empire Pro League: The city of Watertown (NY) wants to look into the stability of the new four-team independent Empire League and has yet to approve the use of the city's ballpark by the league's Watertown Bucks for the 2016 season. The Empire League lists the home field of its proposed New Hampshire Wild team at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, about 50 miles southwest of Manchester.

Midwest League: The Bowling Green (KY) Hot Rods of the low Class-A Midwest League will be renamed the Bowling Green Bootleggers for one game in July of the 2016 season. The name is a tribute to the Hot Rod and its involvement in the bootlegging industry.

Northwoods League: The new Rockford (IL) team in the summer-collegiate Northwoods League will be called the Rockford Rivets when it starts play in the 2016 season. Rockford was most recently home to an independent pro team called the Rockford Aviators in the 2015 Frontier League, but ownership of the ballpark in Rockford decided to switch to a summer-collegiate team for 2016.

Pecos League: The independent Pecos League has posted the schedule for its sixth season in 2016 that will include ten teams aligned into five-team Northern and Southern divisions. Of the eight teams from last season, the Las Cruces (NM) Vaqueros and Las Vegas (NM) Train Robbers will not return, but the league has added four new teams called the Topeka (KS) Train Robbers, Salina (KS) Stockade, Tucson Saguaros and Great Bend (KS) Boom, which was originally listed as the Great Benders. Other proposed teams in the off-season included the Wichita Falls (TX) Spudders, San Angelo (TX) Conchos and Woodward (OK) Westerners, but they never materialized. The league will also operate its fifth annual Houston-based Pecos Spring League next month for prospects looking to find a home with a summertime independent team.

BASKETBALL

Champions League: The new basketball league known as the Champions League plans to launch in 2016 with 16 teams each playing a 30-game schedule in July and August. The league plans to have teams stocked mainly with former National Basketball Association players, although the league is not affiliated with the NBA. An inaugural charity game has been scheduled for April 10, 2016 in St. Louis. The current league map list 16 markets, all which have current NBA teams. These include San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Detroit, Cleveland, Atlanta, Orlando, Miami, Washington (DC), Philadelphia, Boston and New York.

Circuito de Baloncesto de la Costa del Pacifico (CIBACOPA): Mexico's Pacific Coast Basketball League known as the CIBACOPA, which is the country's second professional basketball league next to the Liga Nacional de Baloncesto Profesional (LNBP), announced it will have 11 participating teams for the 2016 season that starts next month. The Mineros de Cananea (Sonora) have relocated to become the Vaqueros de Aqua Prieta (Sonora) for 2016. The other nine teams have returned and the league added the new Halcones de Ciudad Obregon as the 11th team. The CIBACOPA had a previous Vaqueros de Aqua Prieta team that played in the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Ciudad Obregon had a previous CIBACOPA team called the Trigueros that last played in the 2013 season.

FOOTBALL

American Indoor Football: The Texas Stealth (North Richland Hills) was announced as a new AIF team in December 2015, but the Stealth recently announced it has moved back to the league known as North American Indoor Football and will be part of the NAIF's first full season in 2016.

Arena Football League: The organization that owns the Washington Capitals of the National Hockey League, the Washington Wizards of the National Basketball Association and the Washington Mystics of the Women's National Basketball Association is negotiating with the AFL to bring a franchise to the Washington (DC) market for the 2017 season. A team called the Washington Commandos played in the inaugural 1987 season of the original AFL that operated through the 2008 season. The owner of the National Football League's Washington Redskins bought the rights to an AFL team in 1999, but a proposed team called the Washington Warriors failed to start play as planned for the 2003 season. The league is down from 12 to 8 teams for the 2016 and is looking to add additional markets for the 2017 season.

Major League Football: After holding its inaugural player draft late last month for eight teams, an investor failed to deliver a promised $20 million investment for the proposed springtime professional MLFB. The league is looking at other funding options and says it will start play in 2016.

HOCKEY

ECHL: The ECHL awarded an expansion franchise to Worcester (MA) and the team plans to start play in the 2017-18 season. The new Worcester team is expected to become a rival with the league's only other New England-based team called the Manchester (NH) Monarchs. Worcester was home to two previous teams in the higher-level American Hockey League - the Worcester IceCats (1994-2005), who moved to become the Peoria Rivermen, and the Worcester Sharks (2006-15), who moved after last season to become the San Jose Barracuda.

Southern Professional Hockey League: The ECHL has yet to officially approve the move of its Evansville (IN) IceMen team to Owensboro (KY) for next season, but a businessman has already announced plans to bring an SPHL expansion team to the Evansville market for next season. The city of Evansville still has to approve a lease agreement with the new SPHL team. The lower-level SPHL is operating with nine teams this season and already announced a new team called the Roanoke (VA) Rail Yard Dawgs, whose ownership was involved with the league's Biloxi-based Mississippi Surge team that suspended operations after the 2013-14 season. Another Biloxi-based group trying to bring a new SPHL team to the city for the 2016-17 season has a deadline of February 15, 2016 to submit plans to the league.

Major League Roller Hockey: The MLRH started its 2016 Pro Tour with events in Irvine (CA) and Washington (DC) over the past two weekends. Teams called the Lobsters, Orange County Cowboys and San Diego Hosers participated in California, while DC Filibusters, Baltimore Bandits, Virginia Chaos and Maryland Devils participated in Washington.

SOCCER

Canadian Premier League: The CPL plans to become a full professional soccer league with six to eight Canada-based teams starting play in 2017 or 2018. Hamilton (Ontario) is expected to be one of the team locations with other cities like Calgary (Alberta), Ottawa (Ontario), Regina (Saskatchewan) and Winnipeg (Manitoba) said to be under consideration.

Professional Futsal League: The proposed new PFL is in the planning stages for its inaugural season that is expected to start play in 2017 with 16 teams. Several owners of teams in the National Basketball Association will be involved in PFL franchises and various international soccer clubs will be affiliated with each of the PFL franchises through a partnership or as an outright owner. As of now, the initial markets include Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami New York and Seattle. Anaheim, Orlando, Phoenix, Portland and San Francisco were also said to be under consideration for PFL teams. Futsal is five-a-side version of indoor soccer and plays on a court with no dasher boards unlike American indoor soccer. Futsal is played internationally and is the only version of indoor soccer approved by the international governing organization known as FIFA.

United Soccer Leagues "" Premier Development League: A new PDL expansion team called the FC Boston Bolts has been added to the Northeast Division for the 2016 season. The Bolts take over the territory from the PDL's Real Boston Rams that dropped out of the league after the 2015 season. The Rams had joined the league as a 2013 expansion team.

United Women's Soccer: After announcing an eight-team East Conference of teams in December 2015, the proposed new pro-am UWS recently announced a five-team West Conference for its inaugural 2016 season. The West Conference will include the Colorado Pride (Colorado Springs), Colorado Storm (Denver) and Santa Clarita (CA) Blue Heat from last season's now-defunct United Soccer Leagues W-League, and the Houston Aces and Real Salt Lake Women from the 2015 Women's Premier Soccer League.

Northwest Premier League: The Seattle Uninube FC, which was recently announced as member of the new women's elite-amateur NWPL based in Washington State, will take the Seattle Stars FC name after its men's partner team in the Evergreen Premier League of Washington. A few other women's NWPL teams are partnered with EPLWA men's teams and use the same name.

OTHER

Pacific Rugby Premiership: The PRP recently started its third season with seven top Division-I rugby clubs from the western United States participating in a schedule running from late January to mid-May 2016. The same seven clubs called the Belmont Shore Rugby Club (Long Beach, CA), Olympic Club Blues (San Francisco), Denver Barbarians, San Francisco Golden Gate RFC, Old Mission Beach AC (San Diego), Santa Monica Dolphins and Glendale (CO) Raptors have returned from last season. Except for Glendale, all of these clubs were at one time part of the nationwide Rugby Super League (RSL), which operated a springtime season from 1997 through the 2012 season.

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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