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Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
August 31, 2020 - Pecos League (Pecos)

BASEBALL

Pecos League: The independent Pecos League completed its shortened 2020 season that featured four teams in a Central Division playing all games at a complex in Houston from early July through August. The league previously announced plans for a four-team Pacific Division to play somewhere in California this fall, but that was dependent on the state restrictions due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). There has been no update as to whether the Pacific Division will play.

Liga Norte de Mexico: Mexico's minor league LNM (Northern Mexico League), which is considered the Double-A affiliate to Mexcio's top Triple-A Liga de Mexicana Beisbol (LMB), announced last month the cancellation of its entire 2020 season due to the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The LNM usually operated a two-part season from early April to mid-July and teams have affiliations with higher-level LMB teams. Prior to the cancellation, the LNM had announced a schedule for the first part of the 2020 season that was to include all five teams from last season, plus the new Industriales de Otay (Tijuana) team.

BASKETBALL

East Coast Basketball League: The semi-pro ECBL, which had to cancel most of its 19-team February-through-May 2020 season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, is undergoing some major expansion for the 2021 season with the recent announcement of 13 new teams. Ten of the new teams are from the American Basketball Association (ABA) and form a new two-division Mid-Atlantic Conference. The five-team Northern Division has the Binghamton (NY) Bulldogs, Spa City Gamblers (Saratoga Springs, NY), West Chester (PA) Wildcats, Western Mass Zombies (Springfield) and the Plaistow (NH) Shockers from last season's ABA. The five-team Southern Division includes the Philly Raiders, Philly Cannons, Hub City Hogs (Hagerstown, MD), Fredericksburg (VA) Grizzlies and Red Rose Thunder, formerly the Ephrata (PA) Thunder, from last season's ABA. In addition, teams called the Coastal Elite Pirates (Myrtle Beach, SC) and Garden City Magic (Augusta, GA) were added to the Southeast Division of the Southern Conference and the North Carolina Capitals (Wake Forest) to the Northeast Division of the renamed Mid-South Conference (formerly the Northern Conference). The 2021 season will run from January to June with 30 teams each playing 15 league games and 5 non-league games.

American Basketball Association: The semi-pro ABA announced another new team called the Lancaster Lions has been added for the upcoming 2020-21 season. Exactly which Lancaster was not mentioned.

FOOTBALL

National Football League: Several NFL teams have announced they will start the 2020 season without fans in their stadiums due to restrictions from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Championship Indoor Football: The CIF announced its 2021 season schedule for seven teams that will compete from mid-March to mid-June. Each team will play ten league games, plus an additional home game against a CIF-approved non-league team. The CIF finished the 2019 season with seven teams, but the Duke City Gladiators (Albuquerque) left for the Indoor Football League. The CIF added the West Texas Warbirds (Odessa) as a seventh team for the 2020 season, which was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The 2021 CIF teams include the Sioux City (IA) Bandits, Omaha Beef, Wichita Force, Salina (KS) Liberty, Oklahoma Flying Aces (Enid), Amarillo Venom and West Texas Warbirds.

Indoor Football League: The IFL officially announced a new team will be added to Prescott Valley (AZ) for the 2021 season. This will be the league's third team in Arizona, which is already home to the Tucson Sugar Skulls and Arizona Rattlers (Phoenix). The team will play home games at Findlay Toyota Center, which recently lost the Northern Arizona Suns of the National Basketball Association G-League. A former Prescott Valley team called the Arizona Adrenaline was part of the 2008 American Indoor Football Association and after a two-season dormancy returned for the 2011 season in the IFL before folding.

American Arena League: A team called the Allen (TX) Tiger-Cats announced it will be part of the AAL for the 2021 season. The West Texas Warbirds of Champions Indoor Football stated their first game will be a non-league game against the Fort Worth Blaze, which the Warbirds list as an AAL team.

HOCKEY

North American Hockey League: The Corpus Christi (TX) IceRays and Kansas City Scouts teams in the Tier-II junior-level NAHL have suspended operations for the 2020-21 season due to the uncertainty and restrictions surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but both plan on returning for the 2021-22 season. The IceRays joined the NAHL for the 2010-11 season. The Kansas City Scouts operated as the Topeka (KS) Pilots last season and were in the process of relocating to a new home in Shawnee (KS). Both Corpus Christi and Kansas City had been listed as part of an eight-team South Division.

North American 3 Hockey League: The Danbury (CT) Colonials of the Tier-III junior-level NA3HL, which is affiliated with the Tier-II NAHL, announced a name change to the Danbury Jr. Hat Tricks for the 2020-21 season. A new Tier-II NAHL team called the Danbury Jr. Hat Tricks recently came to the city with the relocation of the Wilkes-Barre Knights. Both junior-level Danbury teams will now take the name of the Danbury Hat Tricks minor professional team in the Federal Prospects Hockey League.

SOCCER

National Women's Soccer League: The professional NWSL announced a return to play between September 5 and October 17, 2020 with an "NWSL Fall Series". All nine teams will be aligned in three regional pods (Northeast, South and West) and each team will play four games against teams in their own pod. The OL Reign (Tacoma), Portland Thorns and Utah Royals (Salt Lake City) will play in the West, Sky Blue FC (New Jersey), Washington (DC) Spirit and Chicago Red Stars will play in the Northeast, while North Carolina Courage (Cary), Orlando Pride and Houston Dash will play in the South. The league's 2020 regular season, which was supposed to run from April to November, was cancelled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, so the league held a Challenge Cup tournament in Utah last month with eight of the nine teams participating.

USL Championship (United Soccer League): The ownership of the St. Louis FC in the Division-II USL Championship announced the team will shut down after the 2021 season due to the arrival of a Major League Soccer team called the St. Louis City SC for the 2023 season. The owners of St. Louis FC will have a minority ownership position with the St. Louis City SC. It is uncertain if St. Louis City FC will operate or affiliate with a pro reserve team in the USL Championship or the Division-III USL League One.

Major League Soccer: The Flamengo Brazilian soccer club is reported to be interested in bringing an MLS team to Las Vegas where a developer is trying to build a new MLS-style stadium 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 of the Division-II USL Championship. The developer had planned to purchase the Las Vegas Lights FC and move it up to the MLS, if the stadium is approved. 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 football stadium being built in the city for the National Football League's Las Vegas Raiders.

Liga de Balompié Mexicano: Mexico's new Liga de Balompié (LBM), or Mexican Football League, recently announced it will start its inaugural season on October 16, 2020 without fans. At least 19 teams have been selected with additional teams still under consideration. The LBM will be an alternative to Mexico's current first-division league called the Liga MX, which is part of the Mexican Football Federation and affiliated with the international FIFA soccer organization. The LBM is the first professional league sanctioned by the Sweden-based Confederation of Independent Football Associations (ConIFA) and the LMB falls under the ConIFA's Asociacion Nacional de Balompie Mexicano (ANBM), or National Association of Mexican Football.

OTHER

Athletes Unlimited Softball: The organization known as Athletes Unlimited started its new four-team women's professional softball league this weekend. The five-week season will run through September with all games played at the Parkway Bank Sports Complex in Rosemont (IL). The four teams called Team Wagner, Team Warren, Team Pendley and Team Fagan do not have individual team owners and are not tied to any one city. Teams play three games each weekend, one game against each of the other teams. Players are not under contract with any one team and they are ranked by points earned each week by the team and individually. The top four players each week become captains who then draft new teams for the next weekend. Athletes Unlimited will try a similar concept with a women's volleyball league in 2021.

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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