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Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
December 2, 2019 - National Lacrosse League (NLL)

BASEBALL

International League: The Triple-A International League's new Worcester (MA) team, which will be the relocated Pawtucket (RI) Red Sox (PawSox) starting with the 2021 season, officially announced the team will be called the Worcester Red Sox, or the shortened WooSox. The PawSox have been part of the league since the 1973 season, but ownership was unable to work out a deal to replace the older McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket and will move the team to the new Polar Park stadium in Worcester after the 2020 season.

American Association: A potential ownership group is trying to build a new 8,000-seat ballpark in the southwest Minneapolis suburb of Shakopee for a proposed team called the Metro Millers that could become a rival of the St. Paul Saints in the independent American Association. Back in 2008 there was a failed effort in nearby Burnsville to build a new ballpark for a proposed Metro Millers team. A team called the Minneapolis Millers was a longtime affiliated minor league team in the area until Major League Baseball's Minnesota Twins came to town for the 1961 season.

Frontier League: The Can-Am League's Ottawa Champions were not included in the league's recent merger to create an expanded Frontier League for the 2020 season because the team was in the process of being sold and did not have a lease in place for Ottawa's RCGT Park. A purchase agreement with this group was contingent on a lease for RCGT Park, but city officials recently endorsed a lease proposal from another group, which states it has interests from both the Atlantic League and the Frontier League that want to bring a new Ottawa team to the city for the 2021 season.

BASKETBALL

The Basketball League: The Mesquite (NV) Desert Dogs of the TBL announced the team will not be participating in the league's 2020 season for geographical and financial reasons. Of the 13 teams planned for the TBL's 2020 season, the Desert Dogs were the only western-based team. This leaves the TBL with 12 teams for its third season starting in early 2020. The TBL had ten teams last season, but five teams are not returning. The league added seven new teams called the Indianapolis Express, Dallas Skyline, Columbus Condors, Lewisville (TX) Yellow Jackets, Tri-State Admirals (New Jersey), Dayton Flight and Gulf Coast Lions (Bradenton/Sarasota). The five returning teams include the Albany (NY) Patroons, Jamestown (NY) Jackals, Owensboro (KY) Thoroughbreds, Tampa Bay Titans and Raleigh (NC) Firebirds.

FOOTBALL

Arena Football League: The AFL announced this week the league has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and it will cease operations. In October, the league suspended the local operations of its six member teams while it considered future options, but has decided to shut down entirely. The six AFL teams in the recent 2019 season included the Albany (NY) Empire, Atlantic City (NJ) Blackjacks, Baltimore Brigade, Columbus Destroyers, Philadelphia Soul and Washington (DC) Valor. This version of the AFL started play in 2010 and was originally called Arena Football 1 (AF1) until it purchased out of bankruptcy the assets of the original AFL, which operated from 1987 through the 2008 season and filed for bankruptcy in 2009, and the AFL's minor league called arenafootball2 (af2), which operated from 2000 through the 2009 season. The new AFL never adopted an originally planned two-tiered system based on market size with former AFL markets in Tier I and former af2 markets in Tier II. The new AFL started play in 2010 with 15 teams that included 7 markets from the 2008 AFL, 7 markets from the 2009 af2 and one from a former af2 market. The new AFL went from a high of 18 teams in 2011 to a low of only 4 teams in the 2018 season.

Indoor Football League: The IFL announced a new team based in Frisco (TX) of the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area has been added as the league's 13th team for the 2020 season. Frisco has had previous indoor football teams called the Frisco Thunder for two seasons (2007-08) in the Intense Football League, which merged with United Indoor Football to form the IFL for the 2009 season, but the Thunder never started play in the 2009 IFL season. A team called the Frisco Falcons was announced for the inaugural 2012 season of the indoor Lone Star Football League, but never started play. A team called the Texas Revolution of Champions Indoor Football (CIF) played the 2018 season and three home games of the 2019 season in Frisco before folding. The IFL also announced its 2020 season schedule will feature 13 teams aligned in one table for the standings. The league had ten teams last season, but the Nebraska Danger (Grand Island) suspended operations and the league added three expansion teams called the Oakland Panthers, Spokane Shock and the yet-to-be-named Frisco team, along with the Duke City Gladiators (Albuquerque) from the CIF. Each team will play 14 games from early March to late June 2020.

HOCKEY

Junior Women's Hockey League: The top Major Junior U19 Division of the developmental JWHL started its 13th season in October with five teams based in Canada (two in Ontario, two in British Columbia and one in Manitoba) and three teams based in the United States (two in Massachusetts and one in Washington, DC). Teams play games on eight weekend events scheduled through February in Canada and the United States. The JWHL also has a six-team U16 Division and a four-team U14 Division.

National Ringette League: The Canadian women's NRL is well into its 2019-20 season that features 13 teams. A five-team Western Conference includes teams in British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba, while an eight-team Eastern Conference with four-team Red and White divisions has teams in Quebec, New Brunswick and Ontario. The season runs from late September 2019 to mid-March 2020. Ringette is of Canadian origin and is a team sport similar to ice hockey in equipment and playing surface. Players use straight sticks to control and pass a rubber ring. The game is centered more around skating and passing rather than puck handling and involves catching or "stabbing" the ring. The NRL started play in 2004 and is the showcase league for ringette in Canada and part of the Ringette Canada organization.

SOCCER

National Independent Soccer Association: The New York Cosmos have been accepted into the Division-III NISA, so the team will play professional soccer in 2020. The NISA will hold separate Spring and Fall seasons in 2020. As of now, the Cosmos will start play in the Fall 2020 season. The Cosmos were part of the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) with a team called the New York Cosmos B since the 2015 season, but the NPSL implemented a restriction on the use of professional players starting in 2020 so the team had been searching for a new league.

National Women's Soccer League: The NWSL's Tacoma-based Reign FC has entered into exclusive negotiations for the sale of a majority interest in the club to the OL Groupe, which is the parent company of the Lyon-based French football club Olympique Lyonnais that has a women's team in France's Division 1 Feminine league and a men's team in France's Ligue 1. The sale is expected to be completed before January 31, 2020. After the sale, the NWSL team is expected to continue playing at Cheney Stadium, home to the Triple-A Tacoma Rainers baseball team in the Pacific Coast League, while working on construction of a new soccer-specific stadium.

USL League Two (United Soccer League): The pre-professional USL League Two recently announced three new teams called the South Bend (IN) Lions, Southern Soccer Academy (Dallas, GA) and TFA (Total Futbol Academy) Willamette (Albany, OR) have been added for the league's 2020 season. The Southern Soccer Academy will move to Marietta (GA) for the 2021 season. TFA Willamette played some friendlies against a couple of Oregon-based USL League Two teams during the 2019 season.

Major Arena Soccer League 2: The MASL2, or M2, which is a developmental second-level league affiliated with the Major Arena Soccer League, started its 2019-20 season this weekend after recently announcing a merger with the Texas-based U.S. Arena Professional League (USAPL) that will cease operations. The USAPL played its inaugural 2019 summertime season with four teams called the Amarillo Bombers, Falls Town Flyers (Wichita Falls), West Texas Rumbleweeds (Odessa) and the Lubbock Renegades travel-only team. The Amarillo Bombers and Falls Town Flyers will start play in the 2019-20 MASL2, while Lubbock, West Texas and a planned USAPL expansion team in Abilene will start play in the 2020-21 MASL2 season. Joining the two USAPL teams will be four returning MASL2 teams called the Colorado Inferno (Colorado Springs), Colorado Rumble (Denver), New Mexico Runners (Albuquerque) and Muskegon (MI) Risers, along with three other new teams called the Austin Power, Wichita Wings and Chihuahua Savage (Mexico), which was part of the 2019 season in Mexico's indoor soccer league called Liga Mexicana de Futbol Rapido (LMFR). A previously announced Chicago Thunder team did not meet league requirements. Of the nine MASL2 teams, eight will play as part of a Mountain Division for the 2019-20 season. The Muskegon Risers will be part of a Great Lakes Conference and play a few games against some non-league teams in the Great Lakes area where the league hopes to expand next season. The MASL2 season runs through March 2020.

OTHER

National Lacrosse League: The indoor professional NLL started its 2019-20 season this weekend with 13 teams aligned in 3 divisions after operating last season with 11 teams aligned in a six-team Eastern Division and a five-team Western Division. The league's Rochester Knighthawks franchise was sold and relocated to become the Halifax Thunderbirds (Nova Scotia), while the NLL added expansion teams called the New York Riptide (Long Island) and a new version of the Rochester (NY) Knighthawks. The five-team Western Division remains the same with the Calgary Roughnecks, Colorado Mammoth, San Diego Seals, Saskatchewan Rush and Vancouver Warriors. The six Eastern Division teams and the two expansion teams were divided into a North Division and an East Division. The North Division includes the Buffalo Bandits, Halifax Thunderbirds, Rochester Knighthawks and Toronto Rock, while the East Division has the Georgia Swarm (Atlanta), New England Black Wolves (Uncasville, CT), New York Riptide and Philadelphia Wings. Each team will play an 18-game schedule through April 2020.

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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