Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report
by Dan Krieger
May 21, 2018 - American Association (AA)
American Association: The independent American Association started its 2018 season this week with 12 teams aligned in six-team North and South divisions. The Salina (KS) Stockade did not return, but the league added an expansion team called the Chicago Dogs to remain at 12 teams. The league realigned teams from a North, Central and South three-divisional alignment in 2017 to just two divisions in 2018. The league's Texas AirHogs (Grand Prairie) team will feature 30 players from the Chinese National Baseball Team known as the Beijing Shougang Eagles rotating in and out of its roster during the 2018 season. The team will be referred to as the Texas AirHogs - powered by Beijing Shougang Eagles.
Can-Am League: The independent Can-Am League started its 2018 season this week with the same six full-schedule teams as last season. A national team from the Dominican Republic and a team called the Salina (KS) Stockade, which is owned and operated by the Pecos League, will be partial-schedule travel teams with each team playing a three- or four-game series against each of the league's six regular full-schedule teams during the month of June. Last season, national teams from the Dominican Republic and Cuba were the league's travel teams. The Salina Stockade was part of the 2016 Pecos League and played a full schedule as a travel team with limited home games as part of the 2017 American Association season.
Atlantic League: The owner of the Atlantic League's Long Island Ducks team has been given 90 days to negotiate for Atlantic City (NJ) in an attempt to bring a minor league baseball team, assumed to be in either the Atlantic League or Can-Am League, back to the city's Surf Stadium. A team called the Atlantic City Surf was part of the Atlantic League from 1998 through the 2006 season and the Can-Am League from 2007 through the 2008 season before folding.
Southern League: The Mobile BayBears of the Double-A Southern League have received league approval to move to Madison (AL) in the Huntsville area. Approval is still needed from Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball.
Women's National Basketball Association: The WNBA started its 2018 season this week that will again feature a six-team Eastern Conference and a six-team Western Conference. The only team change from last season was the move of the San Antonio Stars to become the Las Vegas Aces. Las Vegas took San Antonio's spot in the Western Conference. The WNBA's New York Liberty moved its home from the 20,000-seat Madison Square Garden to the 5,000-seat Westchester County Center (White Plains, NY), which is home to the Westchester Knicks of the National Basketball Association G-League, as ownership tries to sell the WNBA team.
Women's Blue Chip Basketball League: The developmental semi-pro WBCBL recently started its 2018 season with 40 teams aligned in eight regional divisions: Atlantic, East Coast, Carolinas, North East, Mid South, Suncoast (Florida), Mid West and West Coast. The WBCBL season runs from early May to mid-July. The WBCBL has been around since the 2005 season.
XFL: The proposed new springtime professional XFL is asking fans to choose the locations for its eight teams that will start play in 2020.
Alliance of American Football: The proposed new springtime AAF announced two more locations for teams to be based in Salt Lake City (UT) and just east of Phoenix in Tempe (AZ). The AAF plans to start play in February 2019 with eight teams. Teams were previously announced for the markets of Orlando, Atlanta and Memphis with the final three markets to be announced in the coming weeks.
National Women's Hockey League: The professional NWHL announced plans to add the Minnesota Whitecaps (St. Paul) as an expansion team for the 2018-19 season. The NWHL has operated with the same four northeastern teams since it started play in the 2015-16 season, so this will be its first expansion team. The Minnesota Whitecaps team, which will be operated by the NWHL, was started in 2004 and was part of the Western Women's Hockey League (WWHL) until the league disbanded after the 2010-11 season. Since that time, the Whitecaps have been playing an independent schedule against women's college teams and played four exhibition games against NWHL teams in 2015. The NWHL was interested in adding the Whitecaps since the league first organized, but there were concerns over travel costs during league startup.
ECHL: The ECHL announced its 2018-19 season schedule that will run from mid-October 2018 through early April 2019 and again feature 27 teams. The league lost two teams with the folding of the Quad City Mallards (Moline, IL) and the move of the Colorado Eagles (Fort Collins) to the higher-level American Hockey League for the 2018-19 season. The ECHL is adding an expansion team called the Maine Mariners (Portland) and another to be based in St. John's (Newfoundland) that is expected to make an official announcement about its name next week.
Southern Professional Hockey League: There is still a possibility a new SPHL team based in the Quad Cities could be part of the 2018-19 season, as the league granted the operators of the arena in Moline (IL) additional time to try to find an ownership group for an SPHL franchise. The area is looking to replace the former ECHL team called the Quad City Mallards that ceased operations after the 2017-18 season. Some ownership groups have expressed interest in placing a Quad City team in the junior-level Tier-I United States Hockey League, but if a USHL team does not relocate for the 2018-19 season a new team in that league would have to await until the 2019-20 season.
United States Premier Hockey League: The Atlanta Knights organization, which operated Tier-III junior-level teams in the 2017-18 USPHL Premier and USPHL Elite divisions, has been renamed the Atlanta Kings as part of a move to a new facility in suburban Marietta (GA).
North American Hockey League: The new junior-level Tier-II NAHL team to be based near Baltimore in Odenton (MD) for the 2018-19 season will be called the Maryland Black Bears.
Major League Soccer: The ownership of the Columbus Crew in the MLS has unveiled plans for a new stadium at a site in Austin (TX) as the team tries to move there by next season. The MLS expansion team in Miami is still undecided where it will build a proposed soccer-specific stadium. There are three possible locations still being considered for a Miami-based franchise that was initially granted to former player David Beckham back in 2014.
Canadian Premier League: The new professional CPL announced its second team will be called the Cavalry FC, based in Calgary (Alberta). The ownership of the Canadian Football League's Winnipeg Blue Bombers will operate a Winnipeg-based team in the CPL and it plans to announce details of the team early next month. Although an official announcement is weeks away, the British Columbia CPL team might be based out of Westhills Stadium in the Langford area of Victoria on the southern part of Vancouver Island. The new league is expected to start play in 2019 with eight teams.
Major Arena Soccer League: The MASL's Soles de Sonora (Hermosillo, Mexico) team announced it will sit out the 2018-19 season. The Soles de Sonora were part of the MASL for three seasons (2015-18). The MASL's Cedar Rapids (IA) Rampage is also not expected to return next season.
United Soccer League Division-III League: After the city of Madison (WI) recently agreed to an improvement plan for the city's local soccer field, an ownership group announced plans to launch a Madison-based team in the new USL D-III league that plans to start play next year. The new league has already announced three other teams called the South Georgia Tormenta FC (Statesboro), FC Tucson and a year-to-be-named Greenville (SC) team.
Major League Rugby: As the MLR plays its inaugural 2018 season with seven teams, expansion for next season has already begun with Rugby United New York (New York City) previously announced and a new team in Dallas under consideration. The Dallas Griffins club was originally announced as a 2018 team, but decided not to play in the league's first season. The Ontario Arrows (Toronto), Chicago, Boston and Vancouver (British Columbia) have also been mention for possible expansion in 2019 or beyond. An MLR expansion team for Washington (DC) recently announced plans to enter the league no later than 2020 and could start playing some exhibition games next season. Washington had been under consideration for a new team in the international Pro14 league that was looking to expand into North America.
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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