Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report
by Dan Krieger
December 23, 2019 - American Hockey League (AHL)
Pecos League: The independent Pecos League's new Martinez (CA) Mackerel team, which will start play in the 2020 season, announced it is already considering a new team name since the city council opposed the nickname due to negative references to "mackerel" in the Urban Dictionary. The league plans to announce one other new California-based team next month that will keep the league at 12 teams. The new Martinez team was to be part of the California-based Pacific Association, which had a 2018 team called the Martinez Clippers, but it switched to the Pecos League due to off-season changes in the Pacific Association.
Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs: The San Rafael Pacifics team from the independent Northern California-based Pacific Association recently announced it is leaving the league for a new independent league to be started in 2020. The 2019 Pacific Association travel-only team called the Salina Stockade will also not return in 2020 leaving the league with three teams called the Napa Silverados, Sonoma Stompers and Vallejo Admirals. The league has added a fourth team called the California Dogecoin based in Fairfield (CA).
Florida State League: The Florida Fire Frogs of the high Class-A FSL are still looking for a home for the 2020 season after their ballpark in Kissimmee was purchased to be converted into a soccer facility. The team is reported to be working on a temporary location for 2020, while trying to move to the Cocoa-based Central Florida Sports Park in Brevard County. The team played as the Brevard County Manatees at the Viera-based Space Coast Stadium until moving to Kissimmee as the Fire Frogs for the 2017 season.
The Basketball League: The professional TBL recently held its player draft for the 12 teams that will participate in the league's 2020 season, which will feature each team playing a 24-game schedule from January 31 through April 19, 2020. Of the ten teams from last season, the Albany (NY) Patroons, Jamestown (NY) Jackals, Owensboro (KY) Thoroughbreds, Tampa Bay Titans and Raleigh (NC) Firebirds have returned. 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).
Champions Indoor Football: The CIF announced its expansion team based in Odessa (TX) will be called the West Texas Warbirds when it starts play in the 2020 season. Warriors, Law, Outlawz and Thunder were other nickname options. Odessa was home to the Odessa/West Texas Roughnecks indoor team that played in several leagues from 2004 through the 2012 season. Another team called the West Texas Wildcatters played in the 2014 season of the former Lone Star Football League (LSFL), but folded before the 2015 season when the LSFL merged with the Championship Indoor Football League to form the CIF.
XFL: The recently named St. Louis BattleHawks of the new 2020 spring-season XFL had four other team nickname options under consideration: Aces, Archers, Greywolves and Phantom.
Legends Football League: The women's indoor 7-on-7 full-tackle LFL, which was called the Lingerie Football League before a rebranding in 2013, recently announced it would not be holding a 2020 season. A week later, the league has morphed into the Extreme Football League, or X League, with a proposed 2020 season that will feature the same eight markets from the 2019 LFL season, but with all teams except the Nashville Knights having new names. The Atlanta Steam is now the Atlanta Empire, the Austin Acoustic is the Austin Sound, the Chicago Bliss is the Chicago Blitz, the Denver Dream is the Denver Rush, the Los Angeles Temptation is the Los Angeles Black Storm, the Omaha Heart is the Omaha Red Devils and the Seattle Mist is now the Seattle Thunder. The Lingerie Football League started as an alternative Super Bowl halftime show in 2004 and began league-play for a 2009-10 fall-winter season, before switching to a spring-summer season and a new name for its 2013 season. The LFL operated a four-team LFL-Australia for a 2013-14 season and a four-team LFL Canada for a 2012 season. The LFL had been trying to establish other international leagues in Asia, Europe and Mexico. The new X League will allow players to become equity owners in the league.
American Hockey League: The AHL's Springfield (MA) Thunderbirds announced the team will be renamed the Springfield Ice- O-Topes for a "What If? Night" promotion next month. The nickname was used in The Simpsons television series and Springfield Isotopes was one of the nickname choices for the current team when the AHL's Portland (ME) Pirates moved to Springfield for the 2016-17 season. The developers for a proposed 7,500-seat arena in Suffolk County (NY) on Long Island have received a second extension until April 2020 to submit plans for a Ronkonkoma arena that is hoped to become home to a future AHL team.
ECHL: The owner of the ECHL's St. John's-based Newfoundland Growlers team has been trying to establish a new ECHL team affiliated with the National Hockey League's Montreal Canadiens in Trois-Rivieres (Quebec) for the 2020-21 season, but the mayor does not seem interested in having an ECHL team playing in the city's new 4,500-seat arena that is to be completed by the fall of 2020.
Ligue Nord Americaine de Hockey: The Quebec-based minor professional LNAH, or North American Hockey League, is two months into its 2019-20 season that features six teams. The league had six teams last season, but early in the 2018-19 season an expansion team called the Berlin (NH) BlackJacks was shut down by the league and replaced by the Quebec-based Saint-Jerome Petroliers du Nord (Oilers of the North). The Petroliers lost its lease in Saint-Jerome in the off-season, so the team moved about 25 miles south and is based in Laval (Quebec) for the 2019-20 season. All five of the other LNAH teams returned for 2019-20. The LNAH regular season runs through the first week of March 2020.
Major League Soccer: The MLS officially announced Charlotte as the location for the league's 30th team. The owner of the National Football League's Charlotte-based Carolina Panthers will operate the MLS team that will start play at a renovated Panthers' football stadium for the 2021 season. The MLS announced its 2020 season schedule that will feature 26 teams with the addition of the Nashville SC and Inter Miami CF expansion teams. To reach 30 teams, Charlotte and Austin will start play in 2021 with Sacramento and St. Louis starting in 2022. There is a possibility of future MLS expansion to 32 teams with Las Vegas and Phoenix considered as potential locations. A developer is attempting to build a new MLS-style stadium in Las Vegas on the site of Cashman Field, which was the former home of the Las Vegas 51s Triple-A baseball team and current home to the Las Vegas Lights FC of the Division-II USL Championship. The group has been granted an extension on its 180-day negotiating window with the city until February 2020. If the stadium goes through, the Las Vegas Lights FC would be the team applying for MLS expansion. If an MLS team is not granted, there are plans for a scaled back version of the stadium for the USL Lights. The owner of the National Hockey League's Vegas Golden Knights is also trying for an MLS expansion team that would play at the new stadium being built in Las Vegas for the NFL's relocated Oakland Raiders.
National Women's Soccer League: Despite reports that a Sacramento team would join in 2020, the professional NWSL announced the league will not be expanding and will remain at nine teams for the 2020 season. A team called Proof Louisville FC has been announced as a 2021 expansion team and a Sacramento team could join at that time. Atlanta and Cincinnati are other markets with interest in joining the NWSL. The league also announced the parent company of the French soccer club Olympique Lyonnais (Lyon) has completed the purchase of the NWSL's Tacoma-based Reign FC.
Canadian Premier League: The professional CPL held its 2020 player draft last month and it included the same seven teams that participated in the league's inaugural 2019 season, which featured a separate 10-game spring season (April-July) and an 18-game fall season (July-October). Proposed expansion for 2020 will not happen, but as many as three teams could be added in 2021 with separate East and West divisions to minimize travel. Some possible expansion locations could be Saskatoon (Saskatchewan), Quebec City (Quebec), Montreal (Quebec) and Fraser Valley (British Columbia). The CPL is also interested in the Ottawa market where the Ottawa Fury FC of the USL Championship recently folded. The league would like to have 14 to 16 teams by 2026 with the possibility of a second division being added that would include relegation and promotion between divisions.
Premier Ultimate League: The PUL women's professional ultimate frisbee league recently announced it will expand from 8 to 12 teams for its second season in 2020 with the addition of teams called the Minnesota Strike, Milwaukee Monarchs, Portland (Maine) Rising and Washington D.C. Shadow. The league will also be aligned into East and Central divisions. The PUL has been in discussions with the new seven-team Western Ultimate League (WUL) that will start play in 2020. A possible future merger of the two leagues is being considered.
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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