Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report
by Dan Krieger
December 9, 2019 - United Soccer League Championship (USL)
New York-Penn League: The Connecticut Tigers of the short-season Class-A NYPL announced it has selected Norwich Sea Unicorns as the team's new name from the city's nautical history. Other nicknames in contention were the Norwich Golden Roses, Norwich Mill Mules, Norwich Narwhals and Norwich Salty Dogs. The Tigers came to Norwich for the 2010 season with the relocation of the Oneonta (NY) Tigers.
Florida State League: The Fort Myers Miracle of the high Class-A FSL announced the team has been renamed the Fort Myers Mighty Mussels. New ownership took over the Miracle in January and wanted to give the team a new identity. The team started play in Fort Myers for the 1992 season with the relocation of the league's Miami Miracle.
Major League Baseball: The mayor of St. Petersburg, home of MLB's Tampa Bay Rays, has decided not to allow the team to consider splitting its season between proposed new stadiums in Montreal and Tampa. Based on this announcement, the Rays will have to wait until its current lease expires after the 2027 to consider relocation or a shared season. The Anaheim-based Los Angeles Angels had talked of a possible new stadium being built for the team in Long Beach, but an agreement is apparently in the works for the team to purchase additional land near its current stadium and the team remaining in Anaheim through the 2050 season. A group in Portland (OR) has extended its option on a waterfront site where it wants to build a new ballpark for a proposed MLB expansion team.
Pecos League: The independent Pecos League is trying to add a new team called the Martinez (CA) Mackerel for the 2020 season. The city was home to an independent Pacific Association team called the Martinez Clippers for only the 2018 season before it was terminated by the league due to financial issues. The Pecos League had five of its six Pacific Division teams based in California during the 2019 season. One of those five teams called the High Desert Yardbirds (Adelanto, CA) is not returning in 2020. The league also has another proposed 2020 Pacific Division team called the Atascadero (CA) 101s.
Atlantic League: Construction is moving forward on the new ballpark in Gastonia (NC) that is to become home to an independent Atlantic League team starting with the 2021 season.
Western Canada Baseball League: The Edmonton Prospects of the summer-collegiate WCBL were able to sign a one-year lease to continue playing at its current home field through the 2020 season, but its future there beyond next season is uncertain. The city wants to hold other events besides baseball at the facility.
Universal Basketball Association: The semi-pro UBA recently announced a group of five Florida-based teams called the Space Coast Stars, Tampa Kings, Merritt Blazers, Chocolate City Astros and Jacksonville Gold will form the league's Eastern Conference for the upcoming 2020 season. The conference will be managed by the owner of the Melbourne-based Space Coast Stars, which has been part of the spring-summer Florida Basketball Association over the past few years. Last season's UBA Eastern Conference included teams based in South Carolina and those teams are now part of a renamed Atlantic Conference.
American Basketball Association: New ownership has taken over the ABA's new Portland (OR) Freeze team and it has been renamed the Portland Storm.
China Arena Football League: The CAFL completed its short 2019 season this weekend with four participating teams called the Beijing Lions, Wuhan Gators, Shenyang Rhinos and Shanghai Legend. The CAFL held two exhibition games in November involving all four teams followed by the six-game "Championship Tournament" this weekend with all four teams each playing three games against the other teams. The CAFL was created as a professional developmental league for the U.S.-based Arena Football League and other indoor leagues. During on-field play, each eight-player team could have no more than three foreign players. The CAFL held its first season in the fall of 2016 with six China-based teams and planned to switch to a spring-summer schedule for its second season in 2018. The 2018 season was postponed and the league switched to a fall season for its 2019 return as a way to reintroduce the league for a proposed 2020 season.
Elite Indoor Football: The semi-pro EIF recently announced several new teams that will be part of its 2020 season. These include the Alabama Lumberjacks (Dothan), Mississippi Raiders (Hattiesburg), Vermont Bucks (Burlington), Vermont Brew (Middlebury) and the Texas Falcons (Mesquite), which played in the 2019 Dallas Indoors Football League.
Western States Hockey League: The junior-level WSHL, which is part of the Amateur Athletic Union's United Hockey Union, announced two of its teams called the West Sound Admirals (Bremerton, WA) and the Steamboat Wranglers (Steamboat Springs, CO) have shut down operations for the remainder of the 2019-20 season due to a lack of players. Both teams had started play in the league's 2018-19 season. The Admirals were a replacement for a previous team called the West Sound Warriors and the Wranglers joined the WSHL from the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League, which folded after the 2017-18 season. The league's Mid-Western Division will now have six teams with the loss of the Wranglers and the Northwest Division is reduced to five teams with the loss of the Admirals.
Major League Soccer: MLS announced its conference alignment for the 2020 season will feature two 13-team conferences with the addition of the expansion Inter Miami CF to the Eastern Conference and the expansion Nashville SC to the Western Conference. Future expansion will feature the addition of the Austin FC as the 27th team in 2021 followed by the 28th and 29th teams in St. Louis and Sacramento in 2022. MLS announced it will enter final negotiations for its 30th team to be located in Charlotte and it could start play as early as the 2021 season. The owner of the National Football League's Charlotte-based Carolina Panthers is behind the MLS expansion effort and the MLS team would play at a renovated Panthers' stadium. The MLS has not ruled out future growth to 32 teams and groups in Las Vegas and Phoenix have been in discussions with the MLS about expansion teams. Raleigh (NC) has expressed interest in MLS expansion, but the MLS stated that group has not submitted details on a stadium plan.
National Premier Soccer League: The FC Davis (CA) Golden Lions of the elite-level men's NPSL are working on plans to start a women's team next summer and it would eventually start play in the amateur-level Women's Premier Soccer League.
USL Championship (United Soccer League): An owner of the Phoenix Rising FC (Arizona) in the Division-II USL Championship league wants to build a new 7,500-seat soccer stadium in Pawtucket (RI) for a potential USL Championship expansion team. The stadium plans hinge on obtaining some proposed public financing. The Rhode Island Riptide FC is the initial name for the team, but fans would be able to decide on a final name and logo for the team. The league's Tulsa Roughnecks FC has undergone a rebranding and will be called FC Tulsa starting with the 2020 season. The Tulsa Roughnecks FC has been playing in the USL since the 2015 season.
Western Ultimate League: The new semi-professional women's WUL has formed with seven ultimate frisbee teams called the San Diego Super Bloom, Arizona Sidewinders, Los Angeles Astra, San Francisco Falcons, Utah Wild, Portland Swifts and Seattle Cascades. Each team would play three home and three away games from March to May. The WUL grew out of the West Coast Women's Ultimate women's exhibition ultimate frisbee series this past summer that featured three teams called the San Diego Wolfpack, LA 99 and Seattle Cascades. The WUL has already expressed interest in a merger with the women's Premier Ultimate League (PUL), which started play with eight teams in 2019 and has been looking to expand for the 2020 season. Just like the PUL, some of the WUL teams will have affiliations with men's teams in the professional American Ultimate Disc League.
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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United Soccer League Championship Stories from December 9, 2019
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- Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report - OSC Original by Dan Krieger
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