Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report
by Dan Krieger
March 7, 2016 - Major League Soccer (MLS)
Pecos Spring League: The independent Pecos League started its fifth season of its Houston-based Pecos Spring League this weekend. Five teams called the Coastal Kingfish, Galveston Sea Lions, Houston Apollos, Mesa Arizona Garden of Gears and Ohio Wranglers are participating in the 2016 season that runs from March 6 to 25. Players pay for the opportunity to be evaluated by the Pecos League and other independent leagues that are looking to sign players for the upcoming summer season.
Show Me Collegiate Summer Baseball League: The Show Me Collegiate League is the name of the new league that will have four teams called the Cobras, Stars, Wild and Villains playing all 2016 games at the former Price Cutter Park/Ducks Stadium in Ozark (MO). The U.S. Baseball League is renovating the stadium and will operate the new league with a schedule starting on June 1, 2016. The stadium was home to the independent professional team called the Ozark Mountain Ducks/Springfield-Ozark Mountain Ducks that last played in the 2004 season of the Frontier League.
Major League Baseball: The MLB commissioner has expressed interest in expanding from 30 to 32 teams in the future. The expansion process will not start until new stadium situations are settle for the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays, since those two teams have been mentioned as relocation candidates if they cannot work out new stadium deals in their respective markets. Although some cities like Portland (Oregon), Nashville, Charlotte, San Antonio and Austin have been mentioned for possible expansion, Montreal seems to be at the top of the list for a team with Vancouver (British Columbia) and Mexico City receiving interest from MLB.
Global Women's Basketball Association: The Women's American Basketball Association, which has played a short summer schedule with a few teams over the past two seasons, is evolving into the new GWBA. Teams called the Milwaukee Aces, Louisville Fillies, Flint Monarchs and the new Illinois Starletz (Chicago) will transition from the WABA to the GWBA with other teams to be announced. The GWBA teams will play a summer schedule against teams in the United States and against affiliated foreign teams. The league is starting with a network of U.S. teams based in the Midwest and plans to start play in 2016.
New Era Basketball Association: The NEBA has come under new control and plans to move forward with a nationwide spring-summer season that will start in 2016. The NEBA played with six teams in a 2015-16 winter season that is being called an exhibition season. The NEBA currently lists 14 teams.
American Indoor Football: The AIF started its 2016 season and currently has 20 teams listed in ten-team Northern and Southern divisions. The league operated with nine teams last season, but the Atlanta Sharks, Buffalo Lightning, ASI Panthers (Reading, PA), Cleveland Saints/Pack and Saginaw Sting did not return. The Chicago Blitz, Maryland Eagles (travel-only team) and Savannah Steam returned, along with the relocated York (PA) Capitals, now the Harrisburg-based Central Penn Capitals. The league added seven new teams called the Philadelphia Yellow Jackets, Triangle Torch (Raleigh, NC), West Michigan Ironmen (Muskegon), Central Florida Jaguars (Lakeland), Winston-Salem (NC) Wildcats, Atlanta Vultures and the Northern Kentucky Nightmares travel team. The Lehigh Valley Steelhawks (Allentown, PA) and Columbus (GA) Lions joined the AIF from the Professional Indoor Football League.
Five teams joined the AIF from the now-defunct X-League Indoor Football: the River City Raiders (formerly the St. Louis Attack), Corpus Christi Fury, Florida Tarpons (Estero), New Mexico Stars (idle in 2015 after dropping from Champions Indoor Football) and the Myrtle Beach (SC) Freedom, a previously announced X-League expansion team. The Georgia Firebirds (Albany) and Steel City Menace, which was the Denver-based Mile High Menace team that moved to Pueblo (CO), had been associated with North America Indoor Football before switching to the AIF. Another new team called the South Carolina Ravens (Charleston) is listed, but is considered a provisional team scheduled to play six 2016 road games against AIF teams. An announced new team called the Abilene (TX) Warriors ran into arena issues and was recently dropped from the AIF team list. Several other teams like the Texas Stealth (North Richland Hills), CSRA Gladiators (Aiken, SC), Marion (OH) Blue Racers, Northshore Gators (Slidell, LA), Pineywood Bucks (Henderson, TX), and Louisiana Cottonmouths (Baton Rouge) were announced as AIF teams, but left for one reason or another.
Supreme Indoor Football: The owner of the Cape Fear Heroes (Fayetteville, NC) and organizer of the proposed new SIF announced the Cape Fear Heroes and the SIF will not play in the 2016 season. The SIF held a 2016 player draft in January for five proposed teams. The Cape Fear Heroes played three seasons (2012-14) in American Indoor Football and were part of X-League Indoor Football last season. The SIF was to be part of a new governing body called the Indoor Football Alliance that was to include a new version of the Continental Indoor Football League, but the CIFL was also unable to get organized for the 2016 season.
Sugar N Spice Football League: The SSFL, a women's league that plays a lingerie-style 7-on-7 full-contact football on 50-yard indoor and outdoor fields, has added new teams called the Tri-County Warriors (San Marcos, TX) , Baton Rouge Bengals, Harlingen Honeys, Las Cruces (NM) Coyotes, Dallas Dynasty, New Orleans Oracles and South Padre Pirates for its fifth season in 2016. The league lists 16 participating teams for the 2016 season with the majority of teams located in Texas.
China American Football League: The Arena Football League plans to start the China American Football League (CAFL) as a professional developmental arena football league in the fall of 2016 with six to eight teams in major Chinese cities. The CAFL will play by AFL rules and have American and Chinese players. Since the AFL season runs from spring to summer, some current AFL players are expected to play in the fall season of the CAFL. Dates were recently announced for tryouts next month in Beijing and Shanghai with tryouts in the United States to be announced soon.
Southern Professional Hockey League: The city of Evansville signed a five-year arena lease agreement with the owner of a new Evansville-based SPHL expansion team that will start play in the 2016-17 season and replace the ECHL's current Evansville IceMen team, which announced a move to Owensboro (KY) for next season. A name-the-team contest was held, but the new SPHL team name will not be announced until after the ECHL season ends. When the IceMen announced the move to Owensboro, the head of the Tier-I United States Hockey League, which is the top level of junior hockey in the United States, expressed interest in placing a USHL team in Evansville, but the city was more interested in a professional team.
ECHL: As requested by the Evansville IceMen, the city of Owensboro (KY) has given the ownership of the ECHL team a second extension to finance renovations of the arena in Owensboro where the team hopes to start play next season.
Eastern Hockey League: The Tier-III junior-level EHL plans to change its Elite Division of teams to a 19 and under age limit and rename it the 19U Elite Division for the 2016-17 season. For the 2015-16 season, the EHL added an eight-team Elite Division of teams that acted as a developmental feeder for 8 of the 18 teams in EHL's Premier Division. The 19U Elite Division will expand to 16 teams for the 2016-17 season.
National Hockey League: The new 20,000-seat T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas is set to open next month and hopes to become home to an NHL team. An investor is trying to acquire a Las Vegas-based NHL expansion team for the arena with the 2017-18 season considered the earliest an NHL team could start.
Major League Soccer: MLS started its 21st season this weekend with the same 20 teams and alignment as last season. Each MLS team is required to have an affiliated developmental team in the United Soccer League (USL). Several MLS teams changed USL affiliations for the 2016 season: the Columbus Crew from the Austin Aztex to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds; Orlando City FC Lions from Louisville City FC to Orlando City FC B; Philadelphia Union from the Harrisburg City Islanders to Bethlehem Steel FC (Allentown); FC Dallas from Arizona United FC to Oklahoma City Energy; Houston Dynamo from the Charleston (SC) Battery to the Rio Grande Valley FC (Edinburg, TX); and Sporting Kansas City from the Oklahoma City Energy to the Swope Park Rangers (Kansas City, MO). The league is trying to get to 24 teams by the 2020 season and plans to grow to 28 teams beyond that. MLS will add the new Atlanta United FC next season and will have a new Minnesota team start play in 2017 or 2018. A new Los Angeles team will start in 2018 and a Miami team is expected to be added once it works out a stadium plan.
Premier League of America: The ownership of the Cedar Rapids (IA) Rampage indoor team in the Major Arena Soccer League plans to add an outdoor team called the Cedar Rapids Rampage United in the 2016 season of the amateur-level PLA. The 12-team PLA is part of the United States Adult Soccer Association and operated as the Great Lakes Premier League last season. The league has teams in Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, Michigan and Illinois.
USA Rugby League: The semi-pro USARL announced its 2016 season schedule will run from early June through July. The league will again feature 14 teams like last season, but a team called the White Plains (NY) Wombats will replace the Connecticut Wildcats in the five-team Northeast Division. The league also has a four-team South Division and a five-team Mid-Atlantic Division.
American Rugby Premiership: The premier club rugby ARP will be switching from a fall-spring season to only a fall season starting later this year. The new professional league known a PRO Rugby will be starting in 2016 with a spring-summer schedule, so the ARP does not want the spring portion of its schedule to conflict with the PRO Rugby 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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