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Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
February 4, 2019 - United Soccer League Championship (USL)

BASEBALL

Southwest League of Professional Baseball: The group trying to organize the independent professional SWL for a start in the 2019 season was unable to make a lease payment for Joplin's Joe Becker Stadium, which was to be home to a 2019 SWL team called the Joplin (MO) Miners. The league organizer said it has taken more time than originally planned to get the league off the ground, so it looks like Joplin is out for now. The SWL wanted to start with six teams and previously announced three other first-season teams based in Texas called the Waco BlueCats, Royse City Griffins and a yet-to-be-named Dallas franchise.

Can-Am League: The independent professional Can-Am League announced the Cuban National Team and a Japanese team called the Shikoku Island will be part of the league's 2019 international series of games with each of the league's six regular member teams. Since the 2015 season, the league has had teams play international teams during the month of June as part of its regular season schedule. The Cuban National team previously participated in the 2016 and 2017 series and Shikoku Island in 2015 and 2016.

Northwoods League: The new Traverse City (MI) team in the summer-collegiate Northwoods League announced the team will be called the Traverse City Pit Spitters when its starts play in 2019. The name was selected because the city is known as "The Cherry Capital of the World". Other nickname finalists were the Black Pearls, Dogmen, Dune Bears, Sasquatch and Tree Shakers.

Pioneer League: The Missoula (MT) Osprey of the advanced rookie-level Pioneer League announced the team will implement a name change for the 2020 season. The Missoula Osprey was formed for the league's 1999 season with the relocation of the Lethbridge (Alberta) Black Diamonds team.

Liga Mexicana del Pacifico: Mexico's fall-winter LMP, or Mexican Pacific League, plans to grow to ten teams next season with the addition of two teams. One team will be the Algodoneros de Guasave operated by an owner of two teams in the Triple-A Mexican Baseball League. The other team in Monterrey will be operated by the Sultanes de Monterrey Triple-A team and could take the Sultanes name. A former LMP team called the Algodoneros de Guasave played in the league through the 2013-14 season before moving to become the Charros de Jalisco (Guadalajara).

BASKETBALL

North American Basketball League: The semi-pro men's NABL announced the teams and alignment for its fourth season that will start next month. The NABL's 13 teams will be aligned in a four-team Midwest Division, a four-team Northeast Division and a five-team Southeast Division. The league had 18 teams last season aligned in four divisions, but the five-team Southwest Division did not return for 2019. Some new NABL teams for 2019 include the Detroit Cobras, Lancaster (OH) Thunder, Charleston (SC) Panthers, Georgia Kingz (Decatur), Kentucky Enforcers (Florence), Buffalo Blue Hawks and the Tennessee Stallions (Antioch).

Women's Basketball Development Association: The WBDA, which formerly operated as the Women's Blue Chip Basketball League, announced a new team called the Southern California Splash has been added to the league's Western Conference for the upcoming 2019 season. The WBDA currently lists a 16-team Eastern Conference and a 13-team Western Conference.

Midwest Basketball League: The semi-pro men's MBL announced a new team called the Bay Area Titans, based in Green Bay (WI), has been added to the West Division for the 2019 season. The Titans replace the previously announced Great Plains Bison (Winnebago, NE) in the nine-team West division.

FOOTBALL

Canadian Football League: The CFL's Montreal Alouettes, also referred to as the Als, have undergone a rebranding as the MontreALS for the 2019 season. The CFL also reached an agreement with the German Football League (GFL) to form a partnership to grow the game of football in both countries. Select GFL players will be added to the CFL's National Combine next month.

XFL: As the proposed new XFL prepares for its first season in 2020, the league has formed a partnership with The Spring League, which is an elite development league and scouting event for professional football talent, to test some of the XFL's proposed rules and gameplay plans. The next showcase for The Spring League will be in Austin (TX) from March 28 to April 11. The XFL held its first testing session last month with two Mississippi-based junior college teams. The XFL wants to be a standalone league and not a developmental league for the National Football League, unlike the new Alliance of American Football that starts play next weekend with eight teams.

New England Football League: The proposed new NEAL announced a team called the Vermont Bucks (Burlington) has joined for the league's first season in 2019. An indoor football team called the Vermont Bucks played in the 2017 season of the American Arena League before folding last year. In addition to Vermont, the NEAL plans to add at least two more teams for 2019. The NEAL has posted possible team names such as the Beantown Bullies, Boston Bay Whalers, Boston Bay Blaze, Boston Bay Lightning, Coastal Cranes, North End Natives and Bunker Hill Bulldogs for a proposed fifth team.

HOCKEY

American Hockey League: The AHL affiliate of the National Hockey League's new Seattle expansion team could start play the same season as the NHL team in 2021-22 giving both leagues 32 teams. Although there has been no announcement on a home for Seattle's AHL affiliate, it is expected to be a western-based team, possibly on the West Coast, and placed in the current seven-team Pacific Division. This would even out the AHL's four divisions to eight teams apiece. The AHL also announced there would be no franchise movement for next season with all divisions staying the same.

Western Hockey League: The major-junior WHL announced its team called the Kootenay Ice will move from Cranbrook (British Columbia) to Winnipeg (Manitoba) for the 2019-20 season and take the Winnipeg Ice as its name. The Kootenay Ice has been part of the WHL since the 1998-99 season. Plans are underway in Winnipeg to build a new facility for the WHL team. Winnipeg is home to professional hockey teams with the Jets in the National Hockey League and the Manitoba Moose in the American Hockey League. The Ice ownership also signed an agreement to purchase the lower-level Winnipeg Blues of Canada's Junior-A Manitoba Junior Hockey League.

United States Premier Hockey League: A team called the Charleston (SC) Colonials will start play in the 2019-20 season of the independent junior-level USPHL. The Colonials will operate teams in the USPHL's Premier and Elite divisions.

SOCCER

National Women's Soccer League: The Seattle Reign FC of the professional NWSL will move to Tacoma's Cheney Stadium, which is home to the Tacoma Rainiers baseball team of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, for the 2019 season. The team will not use Tacoma in its name and will simply be called the Reign FC.

United Soccer League - Championship: The Seattle Sounders 2 team, which is the Division-II USL Championship affiliate of Major League Soccer's Seattle Sounders, is moving to Tacoma for the 2019 season. The team has been renamed the Tacoma Defiance and will play home games at Cheney Stadium, which is home to the Tacoma Rainiers baseball team in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. The owner of a potential USL Championship team in East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area is working with officials in Concord (CA) on a proposed stadium. The team is targeting the 2021 season for its start of league play. After its inaugural 2018 season, the league's Fresno FC announced it will not operate its developmental U23 team in the 2019 USL League Two, formerly the Premier Development League, nor will it operate its women's team in the 2019 Women's Premier Soccer League.

Major League Soccer: The North Carolina FC of the Division-II USL Championship, formerly the United Soccer League, has submitted a funding plan to Wake County to help fund a proposed 22,000-seat stadium for an MLS expansion team. The new owner of the National Football League's Carolina Panthers has expressed interest in an MLS expansion team that could share a new or renovated Panthers' stadium. The new Nashville MLS expansion team will start in 2020 and will play at least one season at Nissan Stadium, home of the NFL's Tennessee Titans, until its planned MLS-style stadium is ready in 2021.

OTHER

Premier Ultimate League: The new women's semi-pro PUL has been organized for a start in April 2019 with seven teams. Six of the women's teams called the Atlanta Soul, Austin Torch, Nashville Nightshade, Raleigh Radiance, Indianapolis Red and Colombia's Medellin Revolution played various showcase games in 2018 and will be joined by a new seventh team called the New York Gridlock. There is a possibility an eighth team, possibly in Washington (DC), could be added for 2019. Each team will play five to seven games with the season ending in June 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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