Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report
by Dan Krieger
September 23, 2019 - United Soccer League Championship (USL)
Arizona Fall League: The six-team AzFL started its 2019 season this week, a month earlier than past seasons, with teams aligned in three-team East and West divisions. The AzFL will use four spring training facilities in the Phoenix area and each team is assigned prospects from five MLB teams. The East features the Mesa Solar Sox (Sloan Park), Salt River Rafters (Salt River Fields) and Scottsdale Scorpions (Salt River Fields), while the West includes the Glendale Desert Dogs (Camelback Ranch), Peoria Javelinas (Peoria Sports Complex) and Surprise Saguaros (Peoria Sports Complex). The 2019 season runs through October.
Can-Am League: The independent Can-Am League is considering the addition of a new team in Old Orchard Beach (ME) for the 2020 season. The city was most recently home to a team called the Old Orchard Beach Surge that play its first season (2015) in the North Country Baseball League and then three seasons (2016-18) in the Empire Professional Baseball League. The city was also home to an affiliated Triple-A International League team for five seasons in the 1980s.
Frontier League: After announcing last month it would cease operations at the conclusion of the 2019 season, the independent Frontier League's River City Rascals team, which is based in the St. Louis suburb of O'Fallon (MO), went out on top by winning the 2019 league championship earlier this week. The city of O'Fallon is seeking a new baseball team for the 2020 season that could be another independent team or a summer-collegiate team. The River City Rascals started play in the 1999 season after taking over the league's Zanesville (OH) Greys franchise, which had played four seasons (1993-96) before going dormant for two seasons (1997-98), and moving it to O'Fallon.
Expedition League: The Hub City Hotshots (Aberdeen, SD) of the summer-collegiate Expedition League announced the team will suspend operations for the 2020 season. The team was a charter member of the league that started play for the 2018 season.
Western Canadian Baseball League: The town of Sylvan Lake (Alberta) is considering construction of a 2,200-seat ballpark for a possible team in the summer-collegiate WCBL that could start as early as 2021.
Liga Nacional de Baloncesto Profesional: Mexico's top professional basketball league known as the LNBP started its 2019-20 season this week with 17 teams aligned in an eight-team East Region (Zona Este) and a nine-team West Region (Zona Oeste). The league had 14 teams last season aligned in seven-team North (Conferencia Norte) and South (Conferencia Sur) conferences. All 14 teams from last season have returned and join 3 new teams called the Astros de Jalisco (Guadalajara), Dorados de Chihuahua, and Plateros de Fresnillo. The LNBP originally announced 18 teams for the 2019-20 season, but the Pioneros de Quintana Roo team, which was trying a comeback after last playing in the 2015-16 season, announced last month the team would not play this season. As part of a new marketing agreement with the Sisnova insurance group, the league has been renamed Liga Sisnova LNBP for its 20th season. The LNBP season runs through December with playoffs in January.
United Basketball League: The semi-pro UBL, which has been playing a season consisting of weekend cluster events the past few years, announced some 2020 events for Dallas, El Reno (OK) and Macy (NE). League meetings will be held over the next several weeks to finalize the 2020 schedule.
Universal Basketball Association: The semi-pro UBA announced expansion into Las Vegas for the 2020 season that will start in February 2020. A combine will be held in Las Vegas next month to evaluate players for four Las Vegas-based teams called the Sin City Aces, Las Vegas Reapers, Las Vegas Prodigy and Vegas Dragons. In July, the UBA announced the West Columbus Basketball League (WCBL) will operate the UBA's Northern Conference in 2020. The new Northern Conference will have 12 teams called the Louisville Diesel, Dayton Sharks, Indiana Generals, Indy Majic, Ohio Push, Ohio Wizards, Ohio Overtime, Ohio Wolves, Ohio Tropics, Ohio Kings, Ohio Chiefs and Ohio Storm. Teams in the WCBL will serve as development teams for Columbus-based professional UBA teams.
National Arena League: The NAL announced it is close to announcing new ownership for the Portland-based Maine Mammoths team, which is expected to return for play in the league's 2020 season. The Maine Mammoths was a 2018 NAL expansion team that suspended operations for the 2019 season.
North American Hockey League: The group that owns the Kansas City Mavericks (Independence, MO) of the ECHL and the Topeka Pilots of the Tier-II junior-level NAHL has filed an application to trademark the Kansas City Scouts as the name for a junior-level NAHL team that could start play in a couple years at a new 3,700-seat facility to be built in Olathe (KS). The Kansas City (MO) Scouts was a former National Hockey League team that lasted only two seasons (1974-76) before relocating to Denver.
National Hockey League: The owner of the National Basketball Association's Houston Rockets is still interested in bringing an NHL team to the city, but the league has no immediate plans to place a team in Houston as it prepares to add its 32nd team in Seattle in a couple of years. Earlier this year, the Seattle Times published the results of its unofficial tournament for fans to name the new Seattle-based NHL team. The Sockeyes placed first in the voting with Totems and Metropolitans in second and third place.
Canadian Hockey League: The 20-team Ontario Hockey League (OHL), the 18-team Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and the 22-team Western Hockey League (WHL), the three leagues that make up the 60-team major-junior CHL, all started their 2019-20 seasons this week. The OHL teams and alignment stays the same as last season with an Eastern Conference consisting of five-team East and Central divisions and a Western Conference with five-team Midwest and West divisions. The QMJHL alignment remains the same with an Eastern Conference consisting of a six-team Maritimes Division and a four-team East Division and a Western Conference with four-team Central and West Divisions. The only change was the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles becoming the Cape Breton Eagles for 2019-20. The WHL has an Eastern Conference with six-team East and Central divisions and a Western Conference with five-team U.S. (United States) and B.C. (British Columbia) divisions. The WHL's Kootenay ICE moved from Cranbrook (BC) to become the Winnipeg ICE for the 2019-20 season, so the ICE was moved from the Central Division to the East and the Swift Current Broncos were moved from the East to the Central. The OHL, QMJHL and WHL seasons run through late March 2020.
Major Arena Soccer League: The MASL announced the Rochester Lancers will be part of its 2019-20 season. The Lancers played in the MASL's inaugural 2014-15 season, but suspended indoor play before restarting last season as part of the second-division MASL2 (M2). The MASL previously announced a 17-team alignment with a nine-team Eastern Conference and an eight-team Western Conference, but now has Rochester added to create a ten-team Eastern Conference. The 2019-20 seasons starts in late November.
USL Championship (United Soccer League): The previously announced new San Diego-based expansion team in the Division-II USL Championship plans to start play in 2020 instead of waiting until the 2021 season. The team will play at Torero Stadium on the campus of the University of San Diego. The ownership of the Des Moines Menace team in the pre-professional U-23 USL League Two wants to build a new 6,000-seat soccer stadium in the city to launch a new USL Championship by the 2022 season.
USL League One (United Soccer League): A local group in Portland (ME) is looking to place a new team called the Portland United in the Division-III USL League One by the 2021 season. The USL League One started its inaugural season this year with ten teams and is planning future expansion.
National Independent Soccer Association: The Philadelphia Fury of the Division-III NISA lost one of its main investors and has decided to pull out of the league's inaugural 2019 fall showcase season. The Fury had played two games this fall and the rest of its scheduled games will be considered as forfeits. The league is working with the Fury's management so the team can return for the NISA's 2020 spring season.
National Pro Fastpitch: The women's NPF team called the USSSA (United States Specialty Sports Association) Pride, also known as the USSSA Florida pride and based in Viera (FL) since the 2017 season, announced it will not return to the NPF for the 2020 season. The Pride will remain a professional organization and play an independent schedule outside the NPF. The Pride joined the league for the 2009 season after taking over the league's folded Washington (DC) Glory franchise and was based in the Kissimmee area until the 2017 season.
Dan Krieger is the creator of 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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