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Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
July 15, 2019 - International League (IL)

BASEBALL

International League: The city of Worcester (MA) broke ground this week on a new 10,000-seat stadium, which will become home to the Triple-A International League's Pawtucket Red Sox team that will relocate from Rhode Island to Worcester for the 2021 season. The team will also undergo a name change as part of the relocation.

New York-Penn League: The owner of the Lowell (MA) Spinners of the short-season Class-A NYPL stated the team is committed to the market even though the Triple-A International League's Pawtucket Red Sox (PawSox) will be moving in 2021 to Worcester, which is less than 40 miles away from Lowell. Like the PawSox, the Spinners are an affiliate of the Boston Red Sox and the owner has suggested a rebranding to the Lowell MillSox, based on the history of the textile industry in the city. There has also been speculation the Spinners could relocate and replace the PawSox in Pawtucket (RI).

American Association: The ownership of the Kansas City T-Bones (Kansas) in the independent AA plans to sell the team due to debt problems. It is hoped a deal can be reached to keep the team in the city.

BASKETBALL

National Basketball League of Canada: The Cape Breton Highlanders (Sydney, Nova Scotia) of the ten-team NBL-Canada stated the team has not been able to secure adequate investment support and is suspending operations for the upcoming 2019-20 season. Team ownership plans to meet with potential investors over the next several months to determine whether the team can restart operations for the following season. The Cape Fear Highlanders joined the league as a 2016-17 expansion team. The league has another Nova Scotia-based team called the Halifax Hurricanes that has been part of the league since 2015. A team called the Cape Breton Breakers was based in Sydney and played in both spring-summer seasons (1993-94) of the former National Basketball League.

Women's National Basketball Association: A potential ownership group plans to submit an application to the WNBA sometime this summer for a Toronto-based franchise that could be operational for the 2020 season. The WNBA's new commissioner recently stated that expansion was not planned for the near future and the league wants to concentrate on the health of its 12 current teams before considering expansion.

FOOTBALL

Canadian Football League: The CFL has entered a partnership agreement with the British American Football Association to grow the audience of the CFL in Great Britain. The CFL has similar agreements with American football organizations in Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Norway and Sweden as the league expands its international footprint and talent pool.

HOCKEY

American Hockey League: The AHL announced its 2019-20 season schedule that will feature the same 31 teams as last season aligned in eight-team North, Central and Atlantic divisions and a seven-team Pacific Division. Each team will serve as a minor-league affiliate for one of the 31 National Hockey League teams. The season will run from early October 2019 to mid-April 2020. Teams in the Pacific Division will play a 68-game season, while teams in the other divisions will each play a 76-game season.

National Women's Hockey League: The Connecticut Whale, one of the NWHL's original four teams for the 2015-16 season, announced it will be based in Danbury for the upcoming 2019-20 season. Of the teams past four seasons, the Whale was based in Stamford for three seasons (2015-16 and 2017-19) and North Branford for one season (2016-17). The Danbury Ice Arena will also become home to two men's teams for the 2019-20 season: the new Danbury Hat Tricks of the Federal Prospects Hockey League and the new Danbury Colonials of the Tier-III junior-level North American 3 Hockey League.

Western States Hockey League: The junior-level WSHL, which is part of the Amateur Athletic Union's United Hockey Union, is planning a second season of a Provincial Division with teams based in western Canada for the 2019-20 season. A four-team league called the Western Provinces Hockey Association (WPHA) was started last season and served as the WSHL's Provincial Division, but has switched to become a western division of the Ontario/Quebec-based Greater Metro Hockey League (GMHL) for the 2019-20 season. The 2018-19 Provincial Division included the Saskatchewan-based Meadow Lake Mustangs and three Alberta-based teams called the Edson Aeros, Hinton Wildcats and Cold Lake Wings. The Meadow Lake Mustangs and Edson Aeros will be part of the 2019-20 WSHL, while the WSHL announced the new Hinton Timberwolves and a new renamed Cold Lake team will replace last season's struggling WPHA teams in those markets. The WSHL recently announced a fifth team to be based in Barrhead (Alberta) near Edmonton for the 2019-20 season.

SOCCER

Major League Soccer: The city of Fort Lauderdale approved an agreement with the MLS's new Inter Miami CF to build a new 18,000-seat stadium that should open in 2020 and serve as the team's temporary home until a proposed new 25,000-seat stadium can be completed in Miami. The Fort Lauderdale facility will also serve as the home for Inter Miami's training academy and a possible future lower-level affiliated soccer team. The MLS announced Las Vegas will host the championship game for the new Leagues Cup, which will be a competition starting later this month between four MLS teams and four teams from Mexico's top-level Liga MX. Las Vegas is considered to be one of the potential markets for future MLS expansion and the city has two competing efforts. One group wants to build a new downtown soccer-specific stadium and another wants an MLS team to play in the new football stadium being built for the National Football League's relocated Oakland Raiders. The MLS would prefer a soccer-specific stadium.

Liga MX: Mexico's top Division-I soccer league known as Liga MX will be starting the Apertura (Opening) portion of its two-part 2019-20 Apertura/Clausura season next week with 19 teams, one more than last season. The Club Atletico de San Luis won both halves of the 2018-19 season in the lower-level Liga Ascenso and was promoted to the Liga MX. The Veracruz Tiburones Rojos club was relegated to the Liga Ascenso after last season, but the team paid a significant fee to remain in the Liga MX giving the league 19 teams for this season. In one other Liga MX move, the FC Juarez Los Bravos (Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua), which played in last season's lower-level Liga Ascenso, purchased the Liga MX's Lobos de BUAP (Benemerita Universidad Autonoma de Puebla) and took the Lobos place in the Liga MX for the 2019-20 season. All 19 Liga MX teams are aligned in one table and will play a regular-season schedule that runs through November.

Liga MX Femenil: The top Mexican women's soccer league known as Liga MX Femenil started the Apertura (Opening) portion of its two-part 2019-20 Apertura/Clausura season this week with 19 teams, each operated by one of the 19 teams in the men's top-level Liga MX. The Liga MX Femenil had 18 teams aligned in nine-team groups last season, but since the Liga MX grew to 19 teams, the Liga MX Femenil also grew to 19 teams and is now aligned in one table. The Liga MX's promoted Atletico de San Luis team added a team in the Liga MX Femenil, while the Liga MX's FC Juarez Los Bravos established a women's team after purchasing the Lobos de BUAP Liga MX team. The Liga MX Femenil regular season runs until mid-November.

National Women's Soccer League: As the Indy Eleven (Indianapolis) men's team in the Division-II United Soccer League Championship tries to build a new 20,000-seat stadium that could be considered for a potential Major League Soccer expansion team, officials have acknowledged interest in establishing a future NWSL team once the new stadium has been completed.

National Independent Soccer Association: The Division-III professional NISA, which plans to start play this September with a least ten teams, officially announced the San Diego-based 1904 FC will be one of the charter team members. The 1904 FC originally planned to join the Division-II North American Soccer League as a 2018 expansion team, but that league suspended operations. The team than applied to join the Division-II United Soccer League Championship for 2019, but that application was denied. The NISA will be formally announcing additional teams over the next few weeks.

OTHER

National Lacrosse League: The professional indoor NLL held its expansion draft this week to stock its two new teams called the New York Riptide (Long Island) and Rochester (NY) Knighthawks. The new Rochester Knighthawks team is replacing last season's Rochester Knighthawks team, which relocated to Canada as the Halifax Thunderbirds (Nova Scotia) for the upcoming 2019-20 season.

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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