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Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
March 18, 2019 - Major League Soccer (MLS)

BASEBALL

Empire Pro Baseball League: The Plattsburgh (NY) Redbirds of the independent EPBL announced a name change to the Plattsburgh Thunderbirds for the 2019 season. The Plattsburgh Redbirds joined the league for the 2017 season.

International League: With the Pawtucket (RI) Red Sox of the Triple-A International League moving about 40 miles north to a new ballpark in Worcester (MA) after the 2020 season, the city of Pawtucket is trying to find a tenant for its McCoy Stadium. A possible Double-A Eastern League has been mentioned for Pawtucket, but another affiliated team in close proximity to Worcester might not obtain approval.

Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs: The city of Martinez (CA) has terminated its license agreement with the Martinez Clippers team in the Pacific Association for failure to pay fees for the use of the city's baseball facility during the 2018 season. Some of the financial dealings of the team's ownership are currently under investigation by the FBI. The Martinez Clippers were an expansion team in 2018. The league is still considering options to try to keep the league at six teams for the 2019 season.

BASKETBALL

North American Basketball League: The semi-pro NABL recently started its 2019 springtime season with 13 teams aligned in a four-team Midwest Division, a four-team Northeast Division and a five-team Southeast Division. The league had 20 teams last season aligned in four divisions, but the Southwest Division of teams did not return. Some new NABL teams for 2019 include the Detroit Cobras, Lancaster (OH) Thunder, Charleston (SC) Panthers, Kentucky Enforcers (Florence) and Tennessee Stallions.

Central Basketball Association: The CBA started its seventh season this weekend with seven teams called the Baltimore Shuckers, Bowling Green (KY) Hornets, Fort Wayne Flite, Indianapolis Blaze, Jackson (TN) Eagles, Memphis Rail Runners and Middle Tennessee Storm (Nashville). The league had eight teams last season but the Danville-based Illinois Coal Miners did not return. Each team will play an eight-game schedule that runs through April 2019.

Women's Basketball Development Association: The WBDA, which formerly operated as the Women's Blue Chip Basketball League, announced its 2019 season will start on April 27. The league currently lists 30 teams aligned in a 15-team Eastern Conference and a 15-team Western Conference.

FOOTBALL

National Gridiron League: The proposed new 12-team indoor NGL has pushed back the start its inaugural 2019 season by a month until May 4. The league has apparently had some issues getting all team home venues ready for the start of the season. The 2019 season will still end on July 29 because each team's schedule has been reduced from 16 to 12 games. There has been speculation over the past couple months as to whether the league will even start its inaugural season.

National Football League: After all the talk about potential homes for the NFL's Oakland Raiders during the 2019 season, the Raiders are close to a lease agreement to remain at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum for the 2019 season with an option on the 2020 season, if construction of the team's new Las Vegas stadium is not completed.

Alliance of American Football: As the eight-team AAF moves through its first season, the league recently stated there are no plans to add new teams or relocate any teams for a proposed 2020 season. The National Football League entered into a programming partnership to televise some AAF games this season, but there is talk of the NFL possibly loaning players to AAF teams for development purposes. The AAF has several former NFL and Canadian Football League players and it assigned each NFL and Canadian Football League team to an AAF team for rights to sign former players released from those teams.

Indoor Football Association: The semi-pro IFA started its 2019 season late last month with seven teams called the Illinois Renegade (Chicago), Mad City Nightmare (Madison, WI), Phoenix Sports Group (Waukegan, IL), Rockford (IL) Rams, Southern Wisconsin Monsters (Middleton), Southland Power (Chicago) and Stateline Sting (Rockford, IL). The IFA seasons runs through the first week of April 2019.

XFL: In addition to using The Spring League to test new rules, the proposed new outdoor XFL is also testing new rules at the practices of Your Call Football (YCF), which consists of two teams (Team Power and Team Grit) comprised of former National Football League and Canadian Football League players. The YCF is currently playing its second four-game series in which online fans are provided three plays to vote on and the majority play is then executed on the field. Online players earn points for cash prizes per game.

HOCKEY

ECHL: The Portland-based Maine Mariners of the ECHL became the Maine Wild Blueberries for a regular-season game last weekend. The Wild Blueberries, also referred to as Bloobs, was one of the potential nicknames in a name-the-team contest for the team that started play in the 2018-19 season.

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, will be adding a new team called the Pueblo (CO) Bulls for the 2019-20 season. The Bulls recently announced dates for its summertime tryout camps.

SOCCER

Major League Soccer: The MLS commissioner visited St. Louis this week to discuss progress on the city's MLS expansion plans. The league wants to make a decision on its 28th team before the end of this year and St. Louis and Sacramento are considered the frontrunners. Phoenix, Las Vegas and Charlotte were mentioned as additional possible expansion markets, but other cities will have to wait until the league decides whether to expand beyond 28 teams. The Inter Miami CF MLS expansion team plans to play its first two seasons at a proposed redevelopment project on the site of Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale that could also serve as the team's academy training facility. While its permanent home called Miami Freedom Park is being completed, Inter Miami plans to build a new 18,000-seat stadium in Fort Lauderdale to serve as a temporary home and then be used by a Division-II affiliated team in the USL Championship. A competing group wants to simply renovate Lockhart Stadium for a USL Championship team.

United Soccer League Academy Cup: The USL announced a new USL Academy system that will start with a USL Academy Cup later this year featuring academy-level teams operated by all teams in the USL hierarchy - USL Championship, USL League One and USL League Two. Currently, 32 USL clubs across these three levels have youth-level academy teams with players of ages 13 to 17. As this infrastructure continues to grow, the USL plans to expand the cup competition into a pre-professional academy league across the entire country.

National Women's Soccer League: The new soccer stadium under construction in Louisville for the Louisville City FC of the Division-II USL Championship could also become home to a future women's team in the NWSL. The stadium will be ready in 2020 and the NWSL president has talked to local officials about a possible future team in the city.

OTHER

Premier Ultimate League: The new women's PUL ultimate frisbee league announced its inaugural 2019 season schedule that will feature eight teams each playing a five-game schedule from April 20 to June 14. Teams will include the Atlanta Soul, Austin Torch, Nashville Nightshade, Raleigh Radiance, Indianapolis Red, New York Gridlock, Columbus (OH) Pride and the Medellin Revolution of Colombia.

Premier Lacrosse League: The proposed new professional outdoor lacrosse PLL, which will be a six-team touring league starting in June 2019, announced Atlanta as the fifth location to host one of the league's 12 weekend events.

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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Major League Soccer Stories from March 18, 2019


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer(s), and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.


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