Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report
by Dan Krieger
January 29, 2018 - Eastern League (EL)
Appalachian League: The advanced Rookie-level Appalachian League announced Major League Baseball's Cincinnati Reds will operate the Greeneville (TN) Reds in the league's 2018 season. The Reds will replace the Greeneville Astros team that had been operated by the Houston Astros since the 2004 season and left the league after the 2017 season. The Greeneville Reds will continue to play at Pioneer Park on the campus of Tusculum College.
Eastern League: The Trenton (NJ) Thunder of the Double-A Eastern League announced the team will be renamed the Trenton Pork Roll on Friday night home games during the 2018 season as a tribute to the pork-based processed meat known as pork roll that is popular in New Jersey and some surrounding states. The league's Reading Fightin' Phils will become the Reading Whoopies for one game during the 2018 season as a tribute to the Whoopie Pie snack treat popular in the area. The team had a similar promotion last year.
International League: A proposed financing plan on a new stadium for the Pawtucket (RI) Red Sox of the Triple-A International League did not pass the state House of Representatives and the plan may need to be revised to have the team put up more funding. Failure of a stadium funding bill in Pawtucket would be good news in Worcester (MA), which has been trying to build a new stadium to lure the team to the city.
Prospect League: The summer-collegiate Prospect League announced it will add a team based in Cape Girardeau (MO) for the 2019 season. The team will play at the city's Capaha Field, which is home to the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks baseball team.
Southwest League of Professional Baseball: Construction of a new stadium in Bellmead (TX) for the Waco BlueCats of the proposed Southwest League is still to be determined and the city will be asked to vote in May on a hotel tax increase to help finance stadium maintenance. The league organizer expects to get a deal finalized this spring and have construction completed in time for a 2019 season. The league currently has only one other proposed team called the Royse City (TX) Griffins.
Midwest Basketball League: The semi-pro MBL has posted the schedule and league alignment for its third spring-summer season that will run from April through July 2018. The league currently lists 18 teams aligned in five-team Northwest and Southwest divisions and four-team Northeast and Southeast divisions. Three new teams added for 2018 include the Indy Show (Indianapolis), Rochester (MN) Roadrunners and the Illinois Bulldogs, a team currently playing in the American Basketball Association.
XFL: The new outdoor springtime XFL plans to start play with eight teams in 2020. The organizer of the XFL started a league by the same name in 2001 as an "extreme" outdoor professional spring football league, but it lasted only the 2001 season. The new XFL will be more traditional than its predecessor, but will try to play a more fast-paced and fan-friendly game. The XFL organizer will own all eight teams. The city of Orlando, which had a team called the Orlando Rage in the original XFL, has expressed interest in a team in the new XFL.
Arena Football League: The new AFL team in Albany (NY) announced it will be called the Albany Empire when it starts play in April 2018. The other nicknames under consideration were Phoenix, Fire and Machine. An indoor football team called the Spokane Empire, which played two seasons (2016-17) as part of the Indoor Football League, had previously used this nickname. The original AFL had a team called the Albany Firebirds that played 11 seasons (1990-2000) before moving to Indianapolis for the 2001 season. A team called the Albany Conquest was added to the AFL's minor league called arenafootball2 (af2) for the 2002 season. That team was renamed the Albany Firebirds for its last season in 2009.
Legends Football League: The women's LFL, which is the 7-on-7 tackle football league that started play in 2009 as the Lingerie Football League, recently announced plans for major expansion across the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and Asia over the next ten years. The main focus will be on growing the LFL USA league to 33 teams by 2028. The league currently has eight participating teams and recently secured ownership for a 2020 team in Houston with discussions ongoing in several other markets. The formation of teams for Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Europe will start in 2020. The LFL operated a four-team LFL Canada for one season in 2012 and a four-team LFL Australia for a 2013-14 season. At that time, the LFL Australia was going to be renamed LFL Oceania in anticipation of adding some teams in New Zealand. A four-team LFL Europa had been planned for a 2015 start, but never got off the ground.
ECHL: The ownership group trying to bring an ECHL team to St. John's (Newfoundland) for the 2018-19 season has ties to the National Hockey League's Toronto Maple Leafs, so a new St. John's team could become an ECHL affiliate of the Maple Leafs. The Orlando Solar Bears are the current ECHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the American Hockey League's Toronto Marlies.
National Hockey League: The development group that includes the owner of the NHL's Ottawa Senators has reached a land transfer agreement on a downtown Ottawa site that could eventually become home to a new arena for the Senators. The New York Islanders are close to a deal to play some of its home games over the next few seasons at its former home (Nassau Coliseum) until its new arena at Belmont Park is ready in 2021.
Major League Soccer: The MLS is expected to officially announce its Miami expansion team next week. The league has a long-term goal of reaching 28 teams and the Los Angeles FC will be added as the 23rd team in 2018. An expansion team for Nashville was recently announced and depending on when they start play, Miami and Nashville will become the 24th and 25th teams. Cincinnati, Detroit and Sacramento are considered the frontrunners for the next MLS expansion teams.
National Women's Soccer League: After recently announcing its 2018 season schedule for ten teams, the professional NWSL will now operate with only nine teams as the Boston Breakers will cease operations. The league thought it had a new ownership group ready to take over the team, but that group backed out last week. The Boston Breakers is the only team that has played in all seasons of the three women's professional soccer leagues: the Women's United Soccer Association (2001-03), the Women's Professional Soccer League (2009-11) and the NWSL (since 2013). The NWSL will hold a dispersal draft next week to place the Breakers players on other NWSL teams for the 2018 season.
United Soccer League Division-III League: The South Georgia Tormenta FC (Statesboro), which currently plays as part of the United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League, announced the club will be a founding member of the new USL Division-III league that plans to start play in 2019. The USL spent 2017 visiting various prospective cities for its new Division-III league.
Women's Premier Soccer League: The Milwaukee Torrent soccer club in the men's National Premier Soccer League has confirmed a new Milwaukee Torrent women's team will compete in the 2018 season of the WPSL.
Liga MX: The 18-team Liga MX, which is Mexico's top Division-I soccer league, started the Clausura (closing or second half) portion of its 2017-18 season earlier this month with the same teams as the Apertura (opening or first half) portion. The Clausura portion runs through April. Mexico's lower-level relegation league to the Liga MX is called the Ascenso MX and it also started its Clausura portion of the 2017-18 season earlier this month with the same 16 teams as the Apertura. Usually at the end of the Apertura/Clausura season, one Liga MX team is relegated to the Ascenso MX and one Ascenso MX team is promoted to the Liga MX.
American Ultimate Disc League: Although the men's professional AUDL does not currently have a women's league, the AUDL's Detroit Mechanix team announced plans to operate both a men's and a women's team in 2018. This would be the first AUDL team to organize a women's team. The AUDL has faced a national boycott from players over its perceived lack of support for gender equality. It is uncertain what teams the new Detroit women's team will play, but the Mechanix hope other AUDL teams start forming women's teams.
Dan Krieger is the creator of the Leagues, Teams & Nicknames, 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.
• Discuss this story on the Eastern League message board...
Eastern League Stories from January 29, 2018
- Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report - OSC Original by Dan Krieger
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.