Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report
by Dan Krieger
August 20, 2018 - ECHL (ECHL)
International League: The Pawtucket (RI) Red Sox (PawSox) of the Triple-A International League and the city of Worcester (MA) signed a letter of intent for the PawSox to relocate to Worcester where a new 10,000-seat stadium is to be built for the team. The new stadium is not expected to be ready until the 2021 season, so the team is expected to remain in Pawtucket for the next two seasons. The team is expected to be renamed the Worcester Red Sox, or WooSox, as part of the move. The International League's PawSox started play in the 1973 season after the relocation of the league's Louisville Colonels team. The PawSox had been working on plans to replace its current home at McCoy Stadium with a new stadium in Pawtucket, but apparently ownership was not satisfied with the financing on an amended stadium plan.
Southern League: The Double-A Southern League team currently playing as the Mobile BayBears, which will be rebranded when it moves to the Huntsville suburb of Madison for the 2020 season, has narrowed its list of possible team names to five: Comet Jockeys, Moon Possums, Space Chimps, ThunderSharks and Trash Pandas. The next round of voting for the new team name has already started.
Southwest League of Professional Baseball: The proposed new SWL recently announced it will be holding a two-day player tryout in November as the independent league looks to start play in 2019. The league has stated it wants to start with a minimum of six teams, but it currently has only four announced teams: the Joplin (MO) Miners and three Texas-based teams called the Waco BlueCats, Royse City Griffins and a yet-to-be-named Dallas franchise.
Expedition League: The new summer-collegiate Expedition League recently completed its inaugural 2018 season with 8 teams and is looking to grow to 12 teams by next season. The league has expressed interest in placing a team in Fremont (NE) to go with its two other Nebraska-based teams in the league called the Western Nebraska Pioneers (Scottsbluff/Gering) and the Hastings Sodbusters.
Midwest Basketball League: The semi-pro men's MBL, which recently completed its third spring-summer season with 18 teams across 4 divisions, has already announced a new Des Moines-based team called the Iowa Elite Pro will be added for the 2019 season.
Universal Basketball Association: The men's semi-pro UBA announced a new team called the Smoky Mountain Black Bears (Gatlinburg, TN) will be added to the league's Northern Conference for the 2019 season. The UBA also announced a new Austin-based Gold Division for the 2019 season that will include teams called the Austin Greeners, Capital City Jokers, Shine City All-Stars and the Temple Claws.
National Basketball League of Canada: The St. John's Edge (Newfoundland & Labrador) of the NBL-Canada would prefer the league group all ten teams in a single-table format for the 2018-19 season. The Edge played its inaugural 2017-18 season in the Central Division with four other Ontario-based teams, rather than with the five other Atlantic Canada teams that comprised the Atlantic Division. With another Ontario-based team called the Sudbury Five joining the Central Division for the 2018-19 season, the Edge was supposed to move to the Atlantic Division. After the 2017-18 season, the Central Division's Niagara River Lions team decided to leave for the new spring-summer Canadian Elite Basketball League. The NBL-Canada could not replace Niagara and is back to ten teams. The league could continue with the five-team divisions, have an unbalanced four-team Central and six-team Atlantic, or group teams in one table.
American Basketball Association: The ABA announced a new team called the Missouri Capitals has been added for he upcoming 2018-19 season. The owner of the ABA's St. Louis Spirits team is organizing the Capitals team that will be based in the Columbia/Jefferson City.
Northern Arena Football: The owner of the Richmond Roughriders team, which played the 2018 season as part of the American Arena League (AAL), is organizing a new regional indoor league called Northern Arena Football (NAF) for a start in March 2019. The NAF plans to have six to eight teams located in medium-sized cities in the North/Northeast region of the United States with teams in close proximity to lower travel costs. The league organizer said the Richmond Roughriders will remain in the AAL for now, but the team is looking at relocation sites because of proposed renovations to the Richmond Coliseum.
National Gridiron League: The proposed new indoor NGL, which plans to start play in the spring of 2019 with two six-team divisions, announced one of its teams will be the new Evansville-based Indiana Firebirds. Not all NGL teams have locations as of yet, but the Firebirds are listed as part of an Eastern Division that includes the Virginia Destroyers, Virginia Iron Horses (Roanoke), the Blue Bombers and the Wildcats. The Western Division lists the Kansas Kapitals (Topeka), Texas Bighorns, Baton Rouge Red Sticks, the Stampede and the Twisters.
National Women's Hockey League: The National Hockey League's Minnesota Wild has entered into a partnership with the NWHL's expansion Minnesota Whitecaps team that will have the Wild providing marketing and other resources to the Whitecaps. The Whitecaps will be playing their home games this season at the Wild's practice facility in St. Paul. The NWHL's Metropolitan Riveters (Newark) have a partnership with the NHL's New Jersey Devils, while the NWHL's Buffalo Beauts are owned by the group that owns the NHL's Buffalo Sabres.
ECHL: The ECHL's Orlando Solar Bears lost its affiliation with the National Hockey League's Toronto Maple Leafs after five seasons when the Maple Leafs moved its ECHL affiliation to the league's expansion Newfoundland Growlers (St. John's) for the 2018-19 season. This week the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning announced a three-year deal for the Orlando Solar Bears to become the Lightning's ECHL affiliate.
Western States Hockey League: The junior-level WSHL, which considers itself as a Tier-II league under the Amateur Athletic Union's United Hockey Union, has undergone a few changes for the upcoming 2018-19 season. The West Sound Warriors (Bremerton, WA) are now the West Sound Admirals under new management. The league's Casper (WY) Coyotes shut down after the 2017-18 season, but a new ownership group has formed the new Casper Bobcats for the 2018-19 season. The WSHL's proposed Western Provinces Hockey Association, which was supposed to be a new six-team Canadian junior league with teams in the western provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta, is now a four-team Provincial Division of the WSHL. The Provincial Division includes the Saskatchewan-based Meadow Lake Mustangs and three Alberta-based teams called the Edson Aeros, Hinton Wildcats and Cold Lake Wings. Two other Alberta-based teams called the Maskwacis Attack and the Slave Lake Dragons were announced, but will not be part of the 2018-19 season.
United Soccer Leagues Division-III League: The new USL Division-III league filed its paperwork with the U.S. Soccer Federation for Division-III status in its inaugural 2019 season. The league plans to have at least ten teams, six of which have already been announced. The league plans to announce its remaining teams in the upcoming weeks and also stated a goal of 24 teams by the 2021 season.
Major Arena Soccer League: The MASL announced its alignment for the upcoming 2018-19 season that will feature 17 teams. The Eastern Conference will have a five-team South Central Division and a four-team Eastern Division, while the Western Conference will have a four-team Pacific Division and a four-team Southwest Division. The MASL had 16 teams last season, but the Cedar Rapids Rampage and Soles de Sonora (Hermosillo, Mexico) did not return. The Dallas Sidekicks returned to the MASL under new ownership after sitting out last season and the league added two expansion teams called the Orlando SeaWolves, which is operated by the former ownership of the Cedar Rapids Rampage, and a yet-to-be-named Mississauga (suburban Toronto) team. Also, the Syracuse Silver Knights relocated to Utica (NY) to become the Utica City FC.
Major League Soccer: The Austin city council approved a term sheet for a lease on a 24-acre site that will allow the ownership of MLS's Columbus Crew FC to move forward with construction of a new soccer stadium in Austin and relocate the franchise. If Columbus does move to Austin, a proposed MLS expansion team for San Antonio, about 80 miles southwest of Austin, would not be considered by the league. As for the Miami MLS expansion team, a lawsuit trying to block a vote on a new MLS stadium project has been rejected by the courts. A proposed logo for the new Miami team has the name as the Internacional Club de Futbol, which could be shortened to Inter Miami. The Miami MLS team plans to start play in the 2020 season, so it would have to be at temporary location.
Liga MX Femenil: Mexico's top women's soccer league known as Liga MX Femenil started its 2018-19 two-part season (Apertura/Clausura) last month with 18 teams aligned in nine-team groups. All 18 teams are affiliated with the 18 teams in the top men's professional league called Liga MX. Similar to the Liga MX, the Liga MX Femenil plays the first part of the season known as the Apertura from July to November 2018 and its second part of the season known as the Clausura from early January to early April 2019.
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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