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Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
November 25, 2019 - New York-Penn League (NYPL)

BASEBALL

Minor League Baseball (MiLB): The initial plan by Major League Baseball to restructure the various affiliated leagues under MiLB prior to the 2021 season has received unfavorable reactions from the affected teams and leagues, as well as politicians. The current 160 teams in MiLB would be reduced to 120 teams—30 teams at each level of Triple-A, Double-A, high Class-A and low Class-A. A total of 42 current affiliated teams would be eliminated with the two current independent league markets St. Paul (MN) and Sugar Land (TX) proposed as joining MiLB. The short-season Class-A and advanced Rookie-level classifications, which now include the New York-Penn League, Northwest League, Pioneer League and Appalachian League, would be eliminated. Some markets from these leagues will replace markets in the higher-level classifications and additional leagues could be formed at the remaining levels to cut down on travel costs. There has been talk of a possible Dream League being comprised of some eliminated teams and entry-level players along with more summer-collegiate leagues for potential prospects.

International League: The Triple-A International League's new Worcester (MA) team, which will be the relocated Pawtucket (RI) Red Sox for the 2021 season, will announce its team name and logo next week.

Northwoods League: The summer-collegiate Northwoods League announced its 2020 schedule that will feature the same 22 teams as last season playing a 72-game schedule from late May to early August. The league will again be aligned in five-team Great Plains East and Great Plains West divisions, along with six-team Great Lakes East and Great Lakes West divisions.

Major League Baseball: A long-time sports executive is trying to build support for a potential Orlando-based MLB team to be called the Orlando Dreamers. There were no specific plans for a ballpark or ownership group and no information as to whether the proposed team would be a relocated team or an expansion team.

BASKETBALL

American Basketball Association: The semi-pro men's ABA announced a new team called the Scottsdale (AZ) Titans as an expansion team for the 2020-21 season.

Historical Basketball League: The proposed new HBL, which is affiliated with the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, will be a professional, collegiate club-sports league that will employ college athletes to play a full summer season of basketball and those athletes will be enrolled as full-time students. The league will also feature players that have lost their NCAA collegiate eligibility or have been dropped from the NBA and want to begin or resume their college education. The HBL originally announced a June 2020 start, but that has been pushed back to June 2021 with eight proposed teams located in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Richmond (VA), Washington (DC), Norfolk (VA), Raleigh (NC), Charlotte, and Atlanta.

FOOTBALL

National Football League: As part of new labor negotiations, the NFL is considering a 17-game regular-season schedule with each team playing at least one neutral-site game. These games could be played internationally in countries like England, Ireland, Germany, Mexico and Canada, as well in some non-NFL markets in the United States.

Canadian Football League: The CFL's overall attendance declined across the league for the 2019 season, the British Columbia Lions have been put up for sale and the CFL is still looking to complete the sale of the league-operated Montreal Alouettes. The group trying to bring the CFL's Atlantic Schooners expansion team to Halifax (Nova Scotia) has had to rework financing plans for its proposed 24,000-seat stadium that will be voted on by the city next month. The financing will require local taxes and provincial funding.

Arena Football 3: The proposed new developmental AF3, which plans to start play in 2021, now lists eight participating teams: Georgia Blaze (Dalton), Rome (GA) Rage, Birmingham (AL) Vulcans, Florida Firecats (location to be announced), Delta River Sharks (Louisiana or Mississippi), Waterford Warthogs (travel team), Tennessee Oilers (Chattanooga) and East Ridge Reapers (Chattanooga).

HOCKEY

Federal Prospects Hockey League: The lower-level professional FPHL announced an expansion team located in Bloomington (IL) will start play in the 2020-21 season. The owner of the league's Danville (IL) Dashers and Port Huron (MI) Prowlers will operate the new Bloomington team. The FPHL will play three regular-season neutral-site games in Bloomington in January and March of this current 2019-20 season. The city had previous professional minor league teams called the Bloomington Prairie Thunder, which played in the former United Hockey League (2006-07), International Hockey League (2007-10) and Central Hockey League (2010-11), and the Bloomington Blaze, which played in the Central Hockey League (2011-13) and became the Bloomington Thunder for one season (2013-14) in the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL). The Bloomington Thunder name was used for the city's new junior-level Tier-I United States Hockey League team that started in the 2014-15 season, changed to the Central Illinois Flying Aces for the 2017-18 season, and withdrew from the league after the 2018-19 season. An investor has expressed interest in bringing an FPHL team to the Memphis area with a team based out of the Landers Center in Southhaven (MI). This arena was most recently home to an SPHL team called the Mississippi RiverKings that folded after the 2017-18 season.

Professional Women's Hockey Players' Association: The PWHPA, which consists of players boycotting the National Women's Hockey League this season and advocating a new sustainable women's hockey league, announced a new fourth stop on its "Dream Gap Tour" will be in the Toronto area in January 2020. This latest stop will be a weekend event with PWHPA players on six teams each playing two games. The PWHPA has also posted schedules for some other individual regional games involving PWHPA players.

SOCCER

Major Arena Soccer League: The professional MASL started its 2019-20 season this week with one less team than originally planned, as its proposed MetroStars Canada touring team has ceased operations. Last month, the MASL announced the Mississauga MetroStars (Toronto) team would play a 12-game touring schedule as the MetroStars Canada for the 2019-20 season. The Mississauga MetroStars had joined the MASL as a 2018-19 expansion team. The MetroStars Canada team was to play two games each at six other Ontario locations: St. Catharines, Kingston, Oshawa, Windsor, Sarnia and Brampton. The idea was to help stimulate interest and growth in professional arena soccer in Canada. However, the league realized there were too many financial and logistical issues with the MetroStars' proposed barnstorming schedule so the team was folded. With the loss of the MetroStars, the MASL Eastern Conference is down to nine teams to go with an eight-team Western Conference. The MASL had 17 teams last season aligned in four divisions. The El Paso Coyotes, Rio Grande Valley Barracudas (Hildalgo, TX) and MetroStars did not return, but the league added the new Mesquite (TX) Outlaws, the Rochester Lancers from last season's MASL2, and the Soles de Sonora (Mexico) team that returned after sitting out a season. The league's Turlock (CA) Express, which changed its named in the off-season to the Cal Express as part of a naming rights deal with Califino Tequila, is now called the Turlock Cal Express.

National Premier Soccer League: The Houston Dutch Lions FC of the men's elite amateur-level NPSL announced the team is relocating to Olympia Heights (FL) and will be known as the Miami Dutch Lions FC starting with the 2020 season. The NPSL also announced a team called the Austin United FC has been added to the Lone Star Conference for the 2020 season.

National Women's Soccer League: The NWSL's Sky Blue FC is moving all of its 2020 home games to Red Bull Arena, home of Major League Soccer's New York Red Bulls in Harrison (NJ). The Sky Blues's home field has been at Rutgers University in Piscataway (NJ), about 30 miles southwest of Harrison, since the team started play in the league's inaugural 2013 season. The Sky Blue FC played two well-attended games at Red Bull Arena during the 2019 NWSL season.

Major League Soccer: The MLS held an expansion draft to start stocking the Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC teams that will start play in the 2020 season. The league's Chicago Fire, which has been part of the MLS since the 1998 season, is reported to be changing its official name to Chicago Fire FC.

USL Championship (United Soccer League): A group of investors is trying to build a new 10,000-seat soccer stadium in Buffalo for a proposed Division-II USL Championship team that could start play in the 2023 season. The city has a current amateur team called the FC Buffalo that has been part of the National Premier Soccer League since the 2010 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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