Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report
by Dan Krieger
October 15, 2018 - ECHL (ECHL)
American Association: The independent American Association announced its 2019 divisional alignment with the addition of the Milwaukee Milkmen expansion team and the suspension of operations for the Wichita Wingnuts. Milwaukee will be part of the six-team North Division, while the Sioux Falls (SD) Canaries will be moved from the North and take Wichita's spot in the six-team South Division.
Arizona Fall League: Major League Baseball's AzFL started its 2018 season and again has six teams aligned in three-team East and West divisions. The AzFL uses six training facilities in the Phoenix area and each team is assigned prospects from five MLB teams. The East Division features the Mesa Solar Sox, Salt River Rafters and Scottsdale Scorpions, while the West Division has the Glendale Desert Dogs, Peoria Javelinas and Surprise Saguaros.
California Collegiate League: With the summer-collegiate Great West League (GWL) suspending operations for the 2019 season, one of its teams called the Lincoln (CA) Potters announced a move to the California Collegiate League for the 2019 season. The Potters played two seasons (2017-18) in the GWL.
Liga Nacional de Baloncesto Profesional: The LNBP, Mexico's top professional basketball league, started its 2018-19 season this weekend with 14 teams aligned in seven-team North (Conferencia Norte) and South (Conferencia Sur) conferences. The LNBP had 11 teams aligned in one table last season, but the Toros de Nuevo Laredo did not return and the league added four teams - the new Laguneros de Torreon, Angeles de Puebla and Lenadores de Durango, along with the Huracanes de Tampico team that sat out the past two seasons. All three markets with new teams added for 2018-19 had previous teams in the league. The league could grow to 16 teams next season with the return of Nuevo Laredo and the addition of a team in Guadalajara.
National Basketball Association: The city of Seattle is looking to attract an NBA franchise to replace the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics team that moved to Oklahoma City in 2008, but there are no current prospects for relocation of an existing team and there are no immediate plans for league expansion.
Arena Football League: The owner of the AFL's Albany (NY) Empire recently stated the league is looking at Atlantic City (NJ), Newark (NJ) and Louisville (KY) for possible expansion and that Atlantic City is the most likely prospect for a 2019 expansion team. The league's Cleveland Gladiators sat out last season due to arena renovations and could return. Orlando, Detroit and Tampa have also been mentioned for possible future AFL teams.
American Patriot League: The proposed new outdoor APL, which is part of an organization called the World Professional Football Association, plans to start play as a new spring/summer professional league in 2019. The APL recently announced its first market will be Daytona Beach (FL) where the league recently signed a stadium lease agreement. The ten proposed APL teams will be aligned into five-team Liberty and Freedom divisions and they will be located in markets that do not have many current professional sports teams. The remaining nine teams will be announced once the league signs stadium leases in those markets.
Elite Indoor Football: The EIF announced it is partnering with the outdoor amateur-level Universal Football League next season to allow UFL players a chance to play in the EIF. The EIF has a team called the Nashville Power listed as a new member for 2019. The owner of the Nashville Elite outdoor team from the adult amateur-level Middle Tennessee Football League is also general manager of the Power and the Nashville Elite will be the official feeder team to the Power.
ECHL: The ECHL, which is two levels below the National Hockey League, started its 2018-19 season this week that again features 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 added two new teams called the Maine Mariners (Portland) and the Newfoundland Growlers (St. John's). Newfoundland was considered an expansion team, while the operators of the Maine Mariners' had purchased the ECHL's dormant Alaska Aces (Anchorage) franchise that shut down operations after the 2016-17 season.
Major League Soccer: A new investment group in St. Louis has revived the city's search for an MLS expansion team and it plans to build a new 20,000-seat soccer stadium. A different ownership group had developed plans to build a new soccer stadium that required $60 million in public funds, but those plans were rejected after a citywide vote last year. The latest stadium proposal will be financed from mostly private sources and it will not require a public vote. The MLS has always been interested in the St. Louis market and this announcement could move the city up on the list for one of the final two expansion spots. Groups in Charlotte, Detroit, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Antonio and San Diego are also looking to join the MLS as one of the next expansion teams. A new potential ownership group in Columbus that includes local investors and the owner of the National Football League's Cleveland Browns is negotiating to keep the Columbus Crew SC in the city. The current owner of the Crew has been trying to move the team to a proposed new stadium in Austin. The MLS recently expressed its interest in a team for Austin and stated that regardless of the situation in Columbus, it will move forward with a team in Austin that would start play no later than 2021. If the Columbus Crew SC remains in the league and Austin is added as a new team, there would be only one remaining expansion spot for the other competing groups.
Major Arena Soccer League 2: The owner of the Rochester (NY) Lancers stated he has received verbal approval from the MASL2, which is the developmental league for the Major Arena Soccer League (MASL), for team to be a member of the 2018-19 MASL2 season. The Lancers last played as an indoor team as part of the 2014-15 MASL season.
United Soccer League (USL Championship): The Albuquerque-based expansion franchise in the Division-II USL, which will become the USL Championship league next season, announced the team will be called the New Mexico United when it starts play in the 2019 season. The USL's Penn FC, which was called the Harrisburg City Islanders prior to a rebranding for the 2018 season, announced the team will sit out the 2019 season and restart in 2020 as part of the USL' new lower-level Division-III league that will start play next season as the USL One.
United Soccer Leagues Division-III (USL One): The ownership of the Lansing Lugnuts baseball team in the low Class-A Midwest League has organized a new soccer team called the Lansing Ignite that will compete in the new USL Division-III professional soccer league, which will be called the USL One when it starts play in 2019. The Ignite's home field will be at the Lugnuts' Cooley Law School Stadium. The Lansing United men's amateur soccer team, which played four seasons (2014-17) in the National Premier Soccer League and one season (2018) in the USL's Premier Development League, will cease operations.
National Women's Soccer League: Major League Baseball's Kansas City Royals recently sued the NWSL's Utah Royals FC (Salt Lake City) over the use of the "Royals" nickname. The NWSL has denied these allegations and stated there should be no confusion between the two teams and logos. The Utah Royals FC joined the league for the 2018 season when the team operator acquired the membership interests of the NWSL's FC Kansas City Blues team that had ceased operations after the 2017 season. The Utah Royals FC was created as a separate NWSL franchise, but it had rights to former Kansas City players.
American Ultimate Disc League: The AUDL held an owners' meeting last week and announced it will attempt to organize a women's league that could start play as early as the 2020 season. The AUDL stated there could be challenges finding owners and raising enough capital to get the women's league started. The new league would be a separate entity with its own franchises and ownership groups and current AUDL teams would not be required to form a separate women's team. The AUDL said the announcement of the new women's league was not a reaction to recent boycotts or criticism of the league's gender equity.
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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