Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report
by Dan Krieger
March 19, 2018 - United Soccer League Championship (USL)
Atlantic League: The independent Atlantic League has approved an ownership group that will operate a new franchise in High Point (NC) starting with the 2019 season. The site for a new downtown ballpark is currently being prepared for the start of construction. The Atlantic League will operate with eight teams in 2018 that will include the Road Warriors travel team. The new High Point team is expected to replace the Road Warriors in 2019.
Eastern League: The Erie (PA) SeaWolves of the Double-A Eastern League will be renamed the Erie SnowWolves for a game in July of the 2018 season as part of a "Christmas in July" promotion. The league's New Hampshire (Manchester) Fisher Cats will be renamed the New Hampshire Mountain Men as part of a "What Could Have Been?" promotion. The Granite State Mountain Men was one of the nickname finalists for the team when the New Haven Ravens were relocated to Manchester for the 2004 season.
Southern League: The city council in Madison (AL), near Huntsville, has approved an infrastructure agreement that will help in moving forward plans for a new ballpark, which is expected to become home to the relocated Mobile BayBears of the Double-A Southern League.
American Basketball Association: The ABA announced two new teams called the Charlottesville (VA) Blaze and the River Region Generals, based in Montgomery (AL), have been added for the 2018-19 season.
North American Premier Basketball: The eight-team professional NAPB, which started its inaugural 2018 season on December 31, 2017, now lists Bellevue (WA), Tampa and Raleigh (NC) as new markets for the 2019 season.
Great Plains Basketball Association: The proposed new GPBA is trying to organize for a 2018 season and is looking for teams in the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri.
Florida Basketball Association: The FBA started its 2018 season this week with six teams. The Florida Flight (Orlando), Palm Beach Knights, St. Petersburg Tide, Southeast Royals (Jacksonville) and Space Coast Stars (Melbourne) return from last season, while the new Poinciana Pride replace last season's Bradenton Gymratz team, which is now listed as part of the North American Basketball League. Two other new teams called the Windemere Rain and Winter Haven Dobermans were announced for the 2018 season, but were not able to meet league financial requirements.
Arena Football League: The AFL announced it has signed a new four-year collective bargaining agreement with the AFL Players Union. It was speculated the league would sit out the 2018 season or fold altogether if this agreement had not been signed. The AFL will start the 2018 season next month as planned, but it will have only four teams: the Philadelphia Soul, Baltimore Brigade, Washington (DC) Valor and the Albany (NY) Empire expansion team.
American Arena League: The new AAL, which is a conglomeration of teams from various leagues, such as the 2017 Can-Am Indoor Football League (CAIFL), 2017 Arena Pro Football (APF), 2017 Supreme Indoor Football (SIF), 2017 National Arena League (NAL), Elite Indoor Football (EIC) and a few new teams, started its inaugural 2018 season this weekend. The AAL standings currently list 12 teams in one table: the Atlanta Havoc (new team), Cape Fear Heroes (SIF team from Fayetteville, NC), Carolina Energy (new team in Charlotte), Florida Tarpons (2017 APF team that moved from Estero to Lakeland), Georgia Doom (2017 NAL travel team in Macon), High Country Grizzlies (2017 NAL team in Boone, NC), Jersey Flight (announced 2018 NAL expansion team in Trenton, NJ), Peach State Cats (travel-only team in Dalton, GA that was announced as a 2018 EIF expansion team), Richmond (VA) Roughriders (2017 APF team), Rochester (NY) Kings (2017 CAIFL team), Triangle Torch (2017 SIF team based in Raleigh, NC), and the Upstate Dragons (2017 SIF road team based in Greenville, SC now in Anderson, SC). The affiliate teams are the Austin Wild (2017 SIF travel team called the Cap City Bulls), a new team called the New England Cavalry (Concord, NH), and the Savannah Coast Outlaws (listed as a 2017 APF team, but played no games). Two other 2017 CAIFL teams called the Glens Falls (NY) Gladiators and the Vermont Bucks (Burlington) were announced as 2018 AAL members, but Vermont dropped out in late January 2018 and Glens Falls dropped out about two weeks ago. With the recent loss of Glens Falls, some AAL teams might play some non-league opponents to fill out their 2018 schedules.
Pacific Pro Football: The proposed new Pac Pro developmental pro football league, which originally planned to start play in the summer of 2018 with four league-owned teams based in Southern California, has pushed back its start to the summer of 2019. Since National Football League players must be three years removed from high school, the Pac Pro is for players right out of high school and did not want to go to college and for college players who did not want to continue playing college football.
ECHL: The ECHL has approved an expansion application for a Canadian team in St. John's (Newfoundland) to start play next season at the city's Mile One Center. The new ECHL ownership group has worked out an agreement to share the arena with the St. John's Edge of the National Basketball League of Canada. Shamrocks, Regiment and Storm are reported to be some team names under consideration. Just as the ECHL announced the addition of a team in St. John's, the ownership of the league's Quad City Mallards (Moline, IL) announced the team was withdrawing its ECHL membership after the 2017-18 season due to financial issues. The Quad City Mallards joined the ECHL from the Central Hockey League when it was merged into the ECHL for the 2014-15 season. The operators of the Mallards' arena in Moline are considering other hockey options for the future, possibly a team in the Southern Professional Hockey League or the Tier-I junior-level United States Hockey League. The ECHL announced realignment for next season that will again feature 27 teams. Next season, Quad City will fold, the Colorado Eagles will move up to the American Hockey League, and the Maine Mariners (Portland) and St. John's will be added. The Wheeling Nailers will move from the North Division to the Central Division, which loses Quad City. The Kansas City Mavericks will move from the Central Division to the Mountain Division, which loses the Colorado Eagles. The new St. John's and Maine Mariners teams will be added to the North Division.
Major League Soccer: The MLS announced it is entering a long-term partnership with Mexico's top soccer league known as Liga MX that will include an annual Campeones Cup (Champions Cup). The inaugural 2018 Campeones Cup will be held in September and will feature the 2017 MLS season champion Toronto FC and the Liga MX champion to determine the best club in North America. The Liga MX champion will be determined in a Campeon de Campeones (Champion of Champions) game between each winner of the Liga MX's two-part season - the 2017-18 Apertura and Clausura. The Tigres UANL won the Apertura season and the Clausura winner will be determined in May 2018. In the past, Mexico's Apertura winner and Clausura winner did not meet to determine an overall season champion.
United Soccer League: The Division-II USL started its 2018 season this week with 33 teams aligned in a 16-team Eastern Conference and a 17-team Western Conference. The league had 30 teams last season, but the Orlando City Lions B, Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 and Rochester Rhinos did not return. The USL added six teams that included four expansion teams called the Atlanta United 2, Fresno FC, Las Vegas Lights FC and Nashville SC, along with the Indy Eleven and North Carolina FC from the North American Soccer League. In addition, the Harrisburg City Islanders were renamed the Penn FC for 2018.
United Soccer Leagues "" Division III League: A new team in Greenville (SC) is the third team to join the new USL Division-III league that plans to start play in 2019. Teams in Tucson and Statesboro (GA) were previously announced for the new league.
National Independent Soccer Association: A new Akron (OH) team called Rubber City FC is pursuing a franchise in the proposed new NISA Divison-III league that is being planned for a start in 2019.
American Ultimate Disc League: The men's professional AUDL recently announced its 2018 season schedule that will start at the end of March with 23 teams aligned in six-team East, South and Midwest divisions and a five-team West division. The league had 24 teams last season, but the Vancouver Riptide (British Columbia) did not return. Also, the Jacksonville Cannons were relocated to become the Tampa Bay Cannons for the 2018 season. Teams will play a 16-game schedule through mid-July 2018. The AUDL's Detroit Mechanix and Nashville NightWatch have organized women's teams for the 2018 season that could lead to a full AUDL women's division in the future. The Nashville women's team is called the Nashville NightShade.
National Pro Fastpitch: The five-team NPF announced its 2018 regular season schedule that will run from mid-May to mid-August with each team playing 48 games. The NPF had six teams last season, but the Texas Charge (San Marcos) and Scrap Yard Dawgs (Houston) did not return. The league added the Aussie Spirit, which is an Australian travel team based in Shawnee (KS), and the Cleveland Comets team that replaced the Akron Racers. The Spirit is scheduled to play home games at various Midwest markets like Wichita, Kansas City (MO), St. Joseph (MO), Omaha, Springfield (MO) and Ames (IA). The new Cleveland Comets team is scheduled to play home games in the Ohio markets of Parma, Canton and Avon.
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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