Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report
by Dan Krieger
June 24, 2019 - United Soccer League Championship (USL)
Arizona League: The pure Rookie-level AzL started its 2019 season this week and has grown from 18 to 21 teams now aligned in a six-team Central, seven-team West and an eight-team East division. AzL teams are operated by Major League Baseball (MLB) organizations and play at the various spring training complexes in the Phoenix area. The increase in teams was due to MLB's Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics adding second teams in the league for 2019. These teams are now called the Brewers Gold, Brewers Blue, Athletics Green, Athletics Gold, Dodgers 1 and Dodgers 2. The leagues Indians 1 and Indians 2 changed to the Indians Red and Indians Blue for the 2019 season. The Cubs, Giants and Padres also each have two teams in the league for 2019.
Appalachian League (APPY): The advanced Rookie-level APPY league started its 2019 season this week with the same ten teams as last season aligned in five-team East and West divisions. The APPY has four teams in Tennessee, three in Virginia, two in West Virginia and one in North Carolina.
Empire Professional Baseball League: The lower-level independent EPBL started its 2019 season this week and again has six teams now aligned in two three-team divisions. Of the six teams from last season, the Old Orchard Beach (ME) Surge relocated to become the Saranac Lake (NY) Surge. The Aguada (Puerto Rico) Explorers are now a Puerto Rico-based travel team called the Road City Explorers. The Plattsburgh (NY) Redbirds were renamed the Plattsburgh Thunderbirds. The New York Bucks moved its home from Canton to Peru (NY). The North Country Division includes Saranac Lake, Plattsburgh and New York, while the South Caribe Division has Road City, the Puerto Rico Islanders and the Concord-based New Hampshire Wild. Each team will play about 40 games through the first week of August.
Major League Baseball: The MLB has given the American League's Tampa Bay Rays permission to pursue splitting its regular-season home games between the Tampa Bay area and the city of Montreal. The Rays' attendance has been struggling and has ranked at or near the bottom for the past two seasons. The plan is to build new outdoor ballparks in both markets with the Rays playing home games in the spring and early summer, while Montreal would host games in late summer and fall. MLB's former Montreal Expos team hosted some home games in Puerto Rico for its last two seasons (2003 and 2004) before the franchise was relocated to become the Washington Nationals for the 2005 season.
BIG3 League: The BIG3 professional 3-on-3 touring basketball league, which featured 8 teams consisting of former National Basketball Association players for its past two summer seasons of 2017 and 2018, started its third season this weekend with 12 teams after the addition of 4 new teams called the Aliens, Bivouac, Enemies and Triplets. All eight teams from last season called the 3 Headed Monsters, 3's Company, Ball Hogs, Ghost Ballers, Killer 3's, Power, Tri-State and Trilogy returned for 2019. The 2019 regular-season includes 16 events in 16 different cities with each event consisting of six teams participating in three separate games. The season runs through August with a playoff round and a championship round each held in two additional cities.
American Basketball Association: The semi-professional ABA announced a team called the Virginia Vets, based in the Hampton Roads area, will start play this November in the ABA's 2019-20 season. The ABA had a recent team called the Hampton Roads Stallions in the 2013-14 season.
American Arena League: The city of Florence (SC) stated it does not plan to renew its contract with the AAL's Carolina Havoc to play in the Florence Center next season. The city said the team averaged only 168 fans per home game in the 2019 season. The Havoc was the Atlanta Havoc, based in Buford (GA), for the 2018 AAL season and relocated to Florence for the 2019 season.
China Arena Football League: The indoor CAFL, which is considered a professional developmental league for the U.S.-based Arena Football League and other indoor leagues, has been holding player combines in the United States and Canada since March and will continue through this month as it looks for players to participate in the league's return in the fall of 2019. The CAFL held its first season in the fall of 2016 with six China-based teams and planned to move to a spring-summer schedule for its second season in 2018. That season was postponed and the league announced it would return in the fall of 2019.
A-League: The Sarasota BigCats of the semi-pro indoor A-League, which completed a short inaugural 2019 season this spring with only three participating teams, have joined the developmental outdoor Eight-man Extreme Football League (EXFL) for the EXFL's 2019 summertime season that started this weekend and runs through August. The Atlanta Furious team, which played as part of the 2018 Elite Indoor Football, has also joined the EXFL for the 2019 season.
Federal Prospects Hockey League: The FPHL, also known as the Federal Hockey League, announced its 2019-20 season schedule this week that will feature ten teams. All six teams from last season will return and the league has added four expansion teams. Three of the new teams have been announced and include the Danbury (CT) Hat Tricks, Delaware Thunder (Harrington) and Columbus (GA) River Dragons. The 2019-20 schedule announcement also included the establishment of a yet-to-be-named tenth team to be based in Michigan. The league has expressed interest in the Battle Creek (MI) market in the past. The 2019-20 FPHL season will run from late October 2019 to early April 2020.
Superior-International Junior Hockey League: The SIJHL, which is one of ten Junior-A level hockey leagues in the Canadian Junior Hockey League, announced its team called the Minnesota Iron Rangers (Hoyt Lakes) has been granted a one-year leave of absence and will sit out the 2019-20 season. The league plans for the team to return in 2020-21 under new ownership. The team started play as the Iron Range Ironheads based in Chisolm (MN) for the 2011-12 season, but moved to Hoyt Lakes to become the Minnesota Iron Rangers starting with the 2012-13 season.
United Soccer League USL Championship: A new ownership group is trying to bring a Division-II USL Championship team to San Diego that would start play in either 2020 or 2021. There have been some other attempts to bring soccer to the city. A recent effort to build a stadium for a proposed Major League Soccer expansion team was unsuccessful. A San Diego-based team called 1904 FC was to join the Division-II North American Soccer League in 2018, but that league suspended operations. After an application to join the Division-II USL for 2019 was denied, the 1904 FC is now part of the proposed new Division-III National Independent Soccer Association that plans to start play this September. The ASC San Diego (Albion Soccer Club) is a member of the National Premier Soccer League's new Division-III Founders Cup competition that will start play this August.
Major League Soccer: The owner of the Raleigh-based North Carolina FC in the Division-II USL Championship league is expected to release plans for a proposed 20,000-seat stadium near downtown Raleigh that is hoped to become home to an MLS expansion team. Financial assistance required for the stadium could be a roadblock. A previous stadium plan at a downtown site has failed to move forward.
U.S. Premiership Soccer: The new pro developmental U.S Premiership started play late last month with a six-team South Florida Division, which will be one of several regional divisions the league is planning for a proposed 60 teams across the United States. Teams are being established for divisions in California, Utah, Texas and the Northeast. The league has been under development since last year and played a few games in 2018 and some regional exhibition games in 2019. In its early development, the league had the United States split into seven proposed national conferences (NorthWest, MidWest, NorthEast, MidAtlantic, West, SouthWest and SouthEast).
U.S. Association of Rugby League: The USARL, which is the governing body for the sport of rugby league in the United States, started its 2019 competition late last month with 11 teams aligned in a five-team South Conference and a six-team North Conference. The league had 11 teams last season, but the New York Knights did not return to the North Conference and the Lakeland (FL) Renegades were added to the South Conference. The USARL regular-season runs through July 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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