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Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
December 26, 2017 - Major League Soccer (MLS)

BASEBALL

Empire Pro Baseball League: The Empire Pro League announced its 2018 season schedule will start in mid-June. The four teams from last season called the Sullivan (NY) Explorers, Plattsburgh (NY) Redbirds, Old Orchard (ME) Surge and the Puerto Rico Islanders travel team are expected to return. This past August the league announced plans to add two new teams to grow to six teams in 2018, but the new teams have yet to be announced. The Empire Pro League will be entering its third season in 2018.

Pecos Spring League: The independent Pecos League announced its seventh season of the Pecos Spring League will feature six teams called the Houston Apollos, Garden of Gears, Wichita Falls Spudders, Coastal Kingfish, Salina Stockade and the Hollywood Stars. All games are played at a complex in Houston from March 5 through March 28, 2018. Spring players pay for the opportunity to be evaluated by the Pecos League and other independent leagues that are looking to sign players for the regular summer season.

Northwoods League: The city of Waukesha (WI) is considering a proposal from a group wanting to renovate the city's 2,500-seat ballpark for a team that could start play in 2019 as part of the summer-collegiate Northwoods League. A similar attempt for a Northwoods team was voted down in 2009.

BASKETBALL

National Basketball Association: There has been more speculation about NBA expansion with Mexico City and Seattle mentioned as possible locations. The NBA has been scheduling games in Mexico City and played two regular-season games in Mexico City earlier this month, at which time the league announced the possibility of an NBA G-League team being established in Mexico City. Plans were recently approved for renovations of KeyArena in Seattle that would give the city an NBA venue. The NBA says expansion is inevitable, but it is not currently looking into expansion or relocation of a current team.

North American Basketball League: The semi-pro NABL announced it will be adding a four-team Northeast Division for its third spring-summer season in 2018. The four teams include the Washington (DC) Warhawks, Jamestown (NY) Jackals, Chautauqua (NY) Hurricanes and Dubois (PA) Dream. These teams were all part of the 2017 Premier Basketball League (PBL), whose owner took his Rochester RazorSharks team to form the new league called North American Premier Basketball that plans to start play next month. Since the PBL played a winter-spring schedule (January to April), the former PBL teams will start their 2018 NABL season next month, while the NABL's other three divisions will start in April. The winner of the new Northeast Division will compete with the NABL's three other division winners in the playoffs. The NABL Northeast Division teams move to the normal NABL season (April to July) in 2019.

American Basketball Association: The ABA announced two more new teams called the East Houston United and the Lehigh Valley (PA) Hunters have been added as 2018-19 expansion teams. The ABA's Topeka Steel apparently folded earlier this month and a new owner planned to use the nickname for a team to be called the Omaha Steel. It looks like the Omaha Steel name is out and replaced by the new Omaha Cuttaz team, which was announced last week as a 2018-19 ABA expansion team.

FOOTBALL

American Arena League: The new AAL officially announced it has added the Jersey Flight (Trenton) for the league's inaugural 2018 season. The Jersey Flight was originally announced as a 2018 expansion team in the National Arena League (NAL), but it did not meet NAL requirements.

Arena Football League: The AFL's Tampa Bay Storm announced the team has ceased operations and will not be part of the 2018 season. The team sited the rising costs and reduced revenues due to the shrinking of the AFL over the past couple of seasons. The AFL operated with only five teams last season and a new 2018 team announced for Albany (NY) would have grown the league to six teams, but the Cleveland Gladiators ceased operations late last month and now Tampa Bay is gone. The AFL's other remaining teams include the Baltimore Brigade, Philadelphia Soul and Washington (DC) Valor.

National Arena League: The NAL announced its 2018 season schedule that will feature three returning teams called the Columbus (GA) Lions, Jacksonville Sharks and Lehigh Valley Steelhawks (Allentown, PA), along with three expansion teams called the Maine Mammoths (Portland), Massachusetts Pirates (Worcester) and the Carolina Cobras (Greensboro, NC). The 2018 season runs from early April to early August.

HOCKEY

National Hockey League: A proposal by the NHL's New York Islanders to build a new 18,000-seat arena at Belmont Park in Elmont has been accepted. The New York FC of Major League Soccer had also submitted a bid on the site for a new soccer-specific stadium. The Islanders moved to Brooklyn for the 2015-16 season and were not satisfied with the hockey facilities at the Barclays Center. The move would put the Islanders closer to its fan base on Long Island. Groundbreaking is expected early next year with completion of the arena expected for the 2020-21 season. The owner of the NHL's Ottawa Senators wants a new downtown arena to replace its current arena in suburban Kanata as the team struggles with attendance issues. The owner said he would move the team rather than sell it if finances became more of an issue in the future.

SOCCER

Major League Soccer: The MLS announced Nashville will become home to the next expansion franchise and the league's 24th team, but it is uncertain when the Nashville MLS team will start play. Nashville beat out three other competing bids from groups in Sacramento, Detroit and Cincinnati. The league was to announce two new teams, but now says it will announce the next team before the start of the 2018 season. The previously granted Miami expansion franchise, which was originally targeted as the league's 24th team, is also still in the running as the MLS plans to eventually expand to 28 teams. The Nashville MLS group will be starting operations of a new team called Nashville SC in 2018 as part of the Division-II United Soccer League. . United Soccer League: An investor in Northern California has acquired rights to a new Division-II USL team in the Oakland East Bay area. A new 15,000-seat stadium has been proposed and it is hoped the team can start playing when the new stadium is completed in time for the 2021 season. Major League Soccer's D.C. United is behind efforts to build a new 5,000-seat stadium in Loudoun County (VA) for an affiliated USL team that could start play in 2019. A few years ago a Loudoun County stadium failed to get off the ground, as that site was to be home to a proposed baseball team called the Loudoun Hounds of the Atlantic League and a proposed soccer team called the Virginia Cavalry in the North American Soccer League.

United Soccer Leagues "" Premier Development League: The PDL continues to add new teams for the 2018 season. The Utah Youth Association plans to add a PDL team called the Ogden City SC. The SF Glens SC (San Francisco) has been added along with another new team called the Kaw Valley FC that will play home games in both Topeka (KS) and Lawrence (KS). Other previously announced new 2018 teams include the Albion Hurricanes FC (Houston), Lansing United, Corpus Christi FC, Lionsbridge FC (Newport New, VA) and a yet-to-be-named team in Birmingham (AL).

National Premier Soccer League: The NPSL announced an expansion team called FC Monmouth (Monmouth County, NJ) will be added to the league's Northeast Region Keystone Conference for the 2018 season.

OTHER

Professional Bowling Association League: The PBA League plans to return for its six season of play in 2018 with the same eight teams as last season. Teams include the Motown Muscle, Brooklyn Styles, Dallas Strikers, New York City WTT KingPins, Philadelphia Hitmen, Portland (ME) Lumberjacks, L.A. X and Silver Lake Atoms. All league games will be played over one weekend (April 20-April 22, 2018) in Portland (ME).

Major League Rugby: The new professional MLR recently announced its inaugural 2018 season will start in April with seven teams and there is already talk of more teams being added in 2019. A tentatively named "Rugby Club New York" has confirmed it will join the league for the 2019 season. Two Canadian teams in Ontario and British Columbia (Vancouver) could also join for the league's second season.

Dan Krieger is the creator of the Leagues, Teams & Nicknames 2015-16: "The Leagueology Almanac" , which tracks the changes in league alignments, franchise movements and team nicknames in today's sports world. The publication is available for sale at www.amazon.com.

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Major League Soccer Stories from December 26, 2017


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer(s), and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.