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Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
March 5, 2018 - United Soccer League Championship (USL)

BASEBALL

Appalachian League (APPY): The future of the Elizabethton (TN) Twins in the advanced Rookie-level APPY beyond the 2018 season is uncertain as the team's parent, the Minnesota Twins, has yet to commit to share the cost of needed ballpark upgrades. The city had set a February 28 deadline to get the Twins to approve funding for upgrades that would be partially funded by the city.

Midwest League: The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers of the low Class-A Midwest League will be renamed the Wisconsin Brats for one game during the 2018 season as part of a Bratoberfest promotion.

BASKETBALL

National Basketball Association: The ownership group trying to bring a National Hockey League franchise to the renovated KeyArena in Seattle has expressed interest in ownership in a Seattle NBA team, if the opportunity arises in the future. The NBA's Seattle SuperSonics team left to become the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 2008-09 season. There are no current NBA teams looking to relocate and although the NBA has acknowledged that expansion is inevitable, it has not announced any official plans to expand from its current 30 teams. Other markets like Las Vegas, Mexico City, Vancouver (British Columbia) and Louisville have expressed interest in an NBA team.

Global Women's Basketball Association: The GWBA announced a new team called St. Louis Hoopville, which will be based in O'Fallon (IL), has joined the league for its third season in 2018.

Liga Mexicana de Baloncesto Profesional Femenil: The Mexican professional women's basketball league known as the LMBPF started play last month with eight teams called the Acereras de San Luis Potosi, AZTKS, Gamos de la Universidad Marista (Mexico City), Lobas Aguascalientes, Mexcaltecas de Nayarit, Mieleras de Guanjuato, Quetzales de Sajoma and Reinas la Paz. The league plays a 14-round schedule from mid-February to mid-April.

FOOTBALL

Champions Indoor Football: The CIF league started its 2018 season this weekend with 11 teams aligned in a six-team North Conference and a five-team South Conference. The league had 14 teams last season, but lost 4 teams and added an expansion team. The Centex Cavalry (Belton, TX) and Dodge City (KS) Law folded after the 2017 season, while the Bloomington (IL) Edge and West Michigan Ironmen (Muskegon) announced a move to the Indoor Football League (IFL). The CIF and IFL became involved in lawsuits over teams looking to switch leagues for the 2018 season. The CIF won an injunction preventing the Edge and Ironmen from playing in the IFL in 2018 and both teams will not participate in either league in the 2018 season. Two 2017 IFL teams called the Wichita Falls (TX) Nighthawks and Sioux Falls (SD) Storm were announced as members of the CIF for 2018, but the Storm eventually returned to the IFL and the Nighthawks decided to sit out the 2018 season. The CIF added the new Quad City Steamwheelers (Moline, IL) as a 2018 expansion team. A previous team called the Quad City Steamwheelers played in all ten seasons (2000-09) of the former arenafootball2 (af2), which was a minor league to the original Arena Football League. Also, the CIF's Texas Revolution moved its home from Allen to Frisco, while the Dallas Marshals moved its home from Mesquite (TX) to Dallas for the 2018 season. The CIF started play in 2015 and is in its fourth season of play.

American Arena League: Two weeks before the start of its inaugural 2018 season, the AAL announced the Glens Falls (NY) Gladiators will not be part of the season due to issues with obtaining suitable insurance at its home venue. The AAL was a merger of two 2017 leagues call the Can-Am Indoor Football League and Arena Pro Football. The Glens Falls Gladiators played as a travel team in the 2017 CAIFL. The AAL stated all Glens Falls' players have been released, but the team will work toward a return in 2019.

Midwest Professional Indoor Football: The West Michigan Ironmen (Muskegon) team, which was party to an injunction preventing the team from playing in any league other than Champions Indoor Football during the 2018 season, announced the team will play a five-game schedule as part of the 2018 MPIF starting next week.

HOCKEY

Western Provinces Hockey Association: The Western States Hockey League, which operates as a Tier-II junior league under the Amateur Athletic Union's United Hockey Union, is moving forward with its Canadian division of teams that will play under the WPHA banner in the 2018-19 season. The WPHA recently announced six municipalities under consideration that include Edson, Hinton, Slave Lake, Morinville and Cold Lake in the province of Alberta and Meadow Lake in the province of Saskatchewan. There are four additional locations that have expressed interest in joining the WPHA.

SOCCER

Major League Soccer: The MLS started its 2018 season this weekend and increased to 23 teams with the addition of the expansion Los Angeles FC to the Western Conference, which now has 12 teams. There has been no official announcement about a team nickname for Los Angeles FC, but its logo includes a wing and the league registered trademarks for "LAFC Wings" and "The Wings" back in 2016. At the start of the season, 21 of the 23 MLS teams either owned a team or had a single affiliation with a team in the Division-II United Soccer League. The owner of the league's Columbus Crew will continue to try to move the team to Austin, if a suitable stadium site can be found. The team is committed to Columbus for 2018, but would like to move next season even if it would mean playing at a temporary facility in Austin. The MLS has already granted expansion franchises for its 24th and 25th teams in Nashville and Miami, respectively, and those teams could start in the 2020 season. The league plans to announce the location for its 26th team sometime this year and issued a statement this week that it has made the most progress in Cincinnati while it continues to have discussions with Sacramento. Another round of expansion for 2 additional teams is expected sometime in the future to eventually grow the league to 28 teams.

United Soccer League: The Division-II USL announced a new team based in El Paso (TX) will join for the 2019 season. The team will be operated by the ownership of the El Paso Chihuahuas baseball team in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League and will utilize the baseball stadium for home games. The El Paso ownership also operates the FC Juarez Bravos soccer team across the border in Mexico's second-division relegation league called Ascenso MX. The proposed new San Diego-based 1904 FC, which was originally announced as a 2018 North American Soccer League expansion team, announced that it plans to move to the USL and start play in the 2019 season. The team is working on a new stadium for the team north of San Diego in Oceanside (CA). The group trying to bring a USL team to Austin announced it will push to start the team in the 2019 season, even though the ownership of Major League Soccer's Columbus Crew is considering a move to Austin. The Columbus Crew to Austin move is not final and has been slowed by selection of a suitable stadium site, so the USL group decided to move forward rather than lose its franchise. If the MLS move to Austin had been finalized, the USL group was prepared to relocate to another market.

United Soccer Leagues Division-III League: The USL visited Fort Myers (FL) this week as the city is under consideration for a team in the new USL D-III league that plans to start play in 2019.

North American Soccer League: The NASL has cancelled plans for any type of 2018 season since the league was recently denied a preliminary injunction to prevent the United States Soccer Federation's demotion of the league from Division-II status. The NASL started play in 2011 and switched to a split-season schedule in 2013 with separate spring and fall seasons. The league operated with eight teams in 2017, but after the season the Indy Eleven and North Carolina FC moved to the United Soccer League while FC Edmonton and the San Francisco Deltas folded. Of the four remaining teams, the New York Cosmos, Miami FC and Jacksonville Armada FC plan to field teams in the lower-level National Premier Soccer League for 2018. Puerto Rico FC lost its home field during the 2017 Fall Season due to hurricane damage and was forced to play all remaining home games in New York City. The team stated it will make an announcement about its 2018 season in the near future and told players they could start looking for opportunities outside of Puerto Rico.

National Premier Soccer League: The San Diego-based Albion SC Pros team, which has been a member of the men's elite-level NPSL since the 2015 season, has been rebranded to ASC San Diego. The team had been in discussions last year with the North American Soccer League about becoming that league's San Diego franchise, but discussions fell through. The team wants to move up the U.S. Soccer Pyramid and is considering the proposed new National Independent Soccer Association Division-III league, the proposed United Soccer Leagues Division-III league or the Division-II United Soccer League.

OTHER

National Pro Fastpitch: The Akron Racers team in the women's NPF has been transformed into a team now called the Cleveland Comets under the same majority ownership for the 2018 season. The new team will reportedly have a majority of players from China, but it has yet to select a home venue. The team wants to expand its reach to the entire Greater Cleveland area and plans to play home games at a variety of parks throughout Northeast Ohio, including some games in Akron and other markets like Toledo, Youngstown and Columbus. The Akron Racers started in 1999 and played two seasons (1999-2000) as part of the Women's Pro Softball League, which did not have league play for three seasons (2001-03) and returned in 2004 as the NPF with Akron as a member through the 2017 season.

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.


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