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Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
March 2, 2020 - Major Arena Soccer League (MASL)

BASEBALL

American Association: The Kansas City (KS) T-Bones of the independent American Association introduced its new owner and the team is expected to be part of the upcoming 2020 season. The team was behind on lease payments last season under previous ownership and was evicted from its stadium in October 2019. A new five-year stadium lease agreement is expected to be signed in the near future.

South Atlantic League (SALLY): The Lexington (KY) Legends of the low Class-A SALLY will play a three-game series in August of the 2020 season as the Kentucky Beer Cheese, as it pays tribute to a cheese spread that is a Kentucky staple.

Northwoods League: The city of Oconomowoc in suburban Milwaukee has yet to approve plans by a group wanting to build a 2,500-seat ballpark for a proposed team in the summer-collegiate Northwoods League. Previous attempts had been made in the Milwaukee suburbs of Pewaukee and Summit.

BASKETBALL

Women's Development Basketball Association: The WDBA announced several new teams for the upcoming 2020 spring-summer season. As of now, the Eastern Conference will return five teams from last season and add ten new teams called the Decatur (IL) Dynasty, Lynchburg (VA) Lazers, Lady Carolina Crusaders (Columbia, SC), Hyde Park Defenders (Chicago), Florida Lady Lightning, Indiana Ballerz (Gary), Georgia Lady Fire, Georgia Lady Ballers (Atlanta), Statesboro (GA) Royals and Memphis Halo. The Western Conference will return seven teams from last season and add seven new teams called the San Diego Tropics, Southwest Lady Desercats (El Paso), Stockton Phoenix, San Antonio Sauce, Houston Hustle, Dallas Dynamite and Austin Action. The WDBA also lists the Honolulu Reign as a lone Pacific Conference team, the Toronto Lady Elite 1's as a lone Canada Conference team and the AS1 Hoops (San Luis Potosi) team as a lone Mexico Conference team. The WDBA season runs from May through July.

National Basketball League – United States: The new semi-pro NBL-US started its inaugural 2020 season last week with 19 teams. The MPBL (Men's Professional Basketball League) Gulf Coast Conference consists of a seven-team South Division with teams based in Texas and Louisiana. The 12-team UMBL (United Men's Basketball League) North Conference has a six-team Central Division with six teams from Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, and a six-team East Division with teams based in the Atlanta area. The 2020 NBL-US regular-season runs until May 10. The NBL-US wants to provide opportunities for players to showcase their talents to leagues in Europe, Asia and the Caribbean with teams participating in various international tournaments and exhibition games. The league recently announced a partnership with the NBL-Philippines for developing talent, cross-marketing and games between both leagues.

FOOTBALL

National Gridiron League: The proposed new 12-team indoor NGL, which is making a second attempt to start play in 2020 after it failed to get off the ground last year, has had some recent team relocations. The Wilkes-Barre-based Pennsylvania Pioneers are now the Pittsburgh Pioneers; the Evansville-based Indiana Firebirds are now the Dayton Firebirds; the Topeka-based Kansas Kapitals are now the Kansas City Kapitals; and the Norfolk-based Virginia Destroyers are now the Virginia Beach Destroyers. The NGL also announced its intention to move away from playing indoors and eventually become an eight-man outdoor football league.

American West Football Conference: The AWFC announced the Tri-Cities Fire (Kennewick, WA) has unexpectedly ceased operations due to financial difficulties. The league's Reno Express announced the team would be sitting out the AWFC's second season in 2020, but hopes to return in 2021. This leaves the league with three remaining teams—the Idaho Horsemen (Nampa) and Wenatchee Valley (WA) Skyhawks from last season and the expansion Yakima (WA) Canines. The AWFC has arranged for a semi-pro outdoor team called the Tri-City Rage, also based in Kennewick, to play six regular-season road games as part of the 2020 AWFC season. The Tri-City Rage was part of the outdoor semi-pro Northern Cascade Football League in 2019. A revised AWFC schedule was issued and the 2020 season will start March 17.

HOCKEY

American Hockey League: The AHL has approved the transfer of ownership of the AHL's San Antonio Rampage to the National Hockey League's Vegas Golden Knights, along with the relocation of the team to the Las Vegas area for the 2020-21 season. Since San Antonio was the AHL affiliate of the St. Louis Blues, the Blues will need to establish an affiliation for the 2020-21 season. The Knights' former AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, appears to be the only option for the Blues in 2020-21. There has been talk of the Blues possibly establishing its own AHL affiliate in Kansas City (MO). The Broadmoor Arena in Colorado Springs (CO) is including the AHL in its active search for new sports franchises as possible future tenants. The AHL's Stockton Heat, which recently signed a one-year lease extension for 2020-21, has been mentioned as a possible future relocation candidate.

National Hockey League: The NHL's expansion team in Seattle will start play in the 2021-22 season, but it has yet to announce its team nickname, which was supposed to have been announced before this year's All-Star break in January. A recent report speculated Seattle Kraken would be the new name. A Seattle Times fan poll in 2018 selected Seattle Sockeyes as the top vote-getter.

North American Hockey League: The Tier-III junior-level NAHL announced the Topeka Pilots team will be moving to the Kansas City area for the 2020-21 season. The Pilots' owner also owns the ECHL's Missouri Mavericks in the Kansas City (MO) suburb of Independence and has been behind a development in the Kansas City (KS) suburb of Olathe that is to include an new hockey arena for an NAHL team to be called the Kansas City Scouts. The Pilots started in the NAHL for the 2007-08 season as the Topeka RoadRunners after relocating from Santa Fe. The team changed to the Pilots for the 2018-19 season.

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League: In January, the president of the Cape Breton Eagles (Sydney, Nova Scotia) of Canada's QMJHL stated the team's current attendance is not enough to sustain the team. The Eagles came under new majority ownership in 2018 and shortened its name from the Screaming Eagles before this season. The team owner is committed to the market, but admits it needs funding for improvements to its home arena where the team's lease expires after this season.

SOCCER

National Independent Soccer Association: The Division-III professional NISA started its inaugural 2020 Spring Season this weekend with eight teams aligned in one table. Teams include the Detroit City FC, Cal United Strikers FC, LA Force, Oakland Roots SC, Michigan Stars FC (Pontiac), 1904 FC (San Diego), Stumptown Athletic (Charlotte) and Chattanooga FC. Each team will play a 14-game schedule through mid-June. The NISA will also operate a Fall Season that will include some additional teams.

Major Arena Soccer League: A couple of MASL team owners have become investors in the league's Orlando Seawolves franchise to get the team through the 2020-21 season after the team's operator walked away from the organization at the beginning of this year. The league is committed to the Orlando market, but current investors will evaluate the situation after the season.

National Women's Soccer League: The professional Division-I NWSL announced its 2020 season schedule that will feature the same nine teams as last season aligned in a single table. Each team will play a 24-game schedule from April 18 to October 18, 2020. During the off-season, the parent company of the French soccer club Olympique Lyonnais (Lyon) completed the purchase of the NWSL's Tacoma-based Reign FC. The NWSL, which is supported by Canada Soccer and U.S. Soccer, previously announced a tenth team called the Proof Louisville FC will be added as a 2021 expansion team.

Major League Soccer: The men's Division-I professional MLS started its 2020 season this week and the league has grown from 24 to 26 teams with the addition of the expansion teams called Inter Miami CF and the Nashville SC. The league is aligned in a 13-team Eastern Conference that added Inter Miami and a 13-team Western Conference that added Nashville SC. The Chicago Fire became the Chicago Fire FC in the off-season. Each MLS team will play a 34-game schedule to early October 2020. The MLS has already announced new teams in Austin and Charlotte will start play in 2021, while new teams in St. Louis and Sacramento will start in 2022 to grow the league to 30 teams.

OTHER

Premier Golf League: The World Golf Group is planning the launch of the new PGL in January 2022. The PGL would feature 12 four-man teams playing an 18-event season over eight months with 10 of the events held in the United States. A league by the same name was attempted back in 1995 but never got off the ground. The proposed American Golf League tried the league-based team golf concept in 2001 to 2005 with plans for franchises in 16 cities. The World Golf Group wants to work with the PGA Tour rather than becoming a breakaway league.

Dan Krieger is the creator of the Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report, which has been tracking changes in the sports world's leagues, teams and nicknames since April 2007.


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