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Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
September 14, 2020 - Major League Soccer (MLS)

BASEBALL

Midwest League: The Beloit (WI) Snappers of the low Class-A Midwest League announced the five nickname finalists for the renaming of the team prior to the 2021 season. The nickname finalists are the Beloit Cheeseballs, Beloit Moo, Beloit Polka Pike, Beloit Sky Carp and Beloit Supper Clubbers. The Snappers will be moving into a new stadium that is expected to be completed in the 2021 season.

Eastern League: Major League Baseball's New York Yankees are reported to be considering a switch of its Double-A Eastern League affiliate from the Trenton (NJ) Thunder to the Somerset Patriots (Bridgewater, NJ), currently a member of the independent and unaffiliated Atlantic League. The Patriots would then become an affiliated team.

West Coast League: The summer-collegiate WCL announced a new team called the Kamloops NorthPaws (British Columbia) will be added for the 2021 season. The WCL has British Columbia-based teams in Kelowna, about 100 miles southeast of Kamloops, Victoria and recently announced Nanaimo. The other WCL teams are based in Oregon and Washington.

Minor League Baseball: Minor League Baseball's (MiLB's) 30-year Professional Baseball Agreement that outlines MiLB's affiliation with Major League Baseball (MLB) expires at the end of this month. The MLB has proposed reducing the number of affiliated teams from 160 to 120 by eliminating certain leagues, creating some new leagues, switching some teams between classifications and adding a couple of current independent teams to the affiliated ranks. To account for the loss of the 14 markets in the short-season New York-Penn League (NYPL), one proposed plan would have the high Class-A Florida State League move down to a low Class-A league with teams playing the first half of the season in Florida and the second half of the season in the northern NYPL markets.

Major League Baseball: The MLB is considering plans for the 2020 postseason that would be held in neutral sites and stadiums. After the initial wild card games are played, the National League playoff games would be held at Texas stadiums (Houston and Arlington), while the American League playoff games would be held at California stadiums (San Diego and Los Angeles Dodgers). The World Series would be held at one location, which currently is reported to be Globe Life Field in Arlington (TX) and home of the Texas Rangers.

BASKETBALL

The Basketball League: The professional TBL announced a new team called the Waco (TX) Royals as its tenth expansion team for the 2021 season. With all 12 of the TBL teams returning from a shortened 2020 season, the league now stands at 22 teams. The TBL plans to announce its 23rd and 24th teams next week.

Liga Nacional de Baloncesto Profesional: Mexico's top professional basketball league known as the LNBP started its 2020-21 season this week with 12 teams aligned in a six-team Zona Este (East Division) and a six-team Zona Oeste (West Division). The LNBP operated with 17 teams last season, but the Huracanes de Tampico and Laguneros de Torreon did not return in the Zona Este and the Angeles de Puebla, C.B. Santos de San Luis Potosi and Capitanes de la CDMX (Mexico City) did not return in the Zona Oeste. The Capitanes de la CDMX have moved to the National Basketball Association G-League as a 2020-21 expansion team.

FOOTBALL

National Football League: The NFL started its 2020 season this week with the same 32-team alignment as last season, but with two name changes. The Washington Redskins are currently called the Washington Football Team and the Oakland Raiders are now the relocated Las Vegas Raiders. Only about five or six teams are allowing a limited number of fans attend games at the start of the season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Alternative Football 3 Developmental: The 7-on-7 indoor AF3, originally called Arena Football 3 and not related to the former Arena Football League or its former minor league Arenafootball2 (af2), was trying to start play in April 2021 but has suspended operations due to the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The developmental league had six proposed teams called the Birmingham (AL) Vulcans, East Ridge Reapers (Chattanooga, TN) and the Waterford Warthogs travel-only team in the Xtreme Football Conference, and the Tennessee Oilers (East Ridge), Rome (GA) Rush and Dalton (GA) Destroyers in the Ultimate Football Conference.

HOCKEY

Manitoba Junior Hockey League: Canada's Junior-A MJHL has added a 12th team called the Winnipeg Freeze for the upcoming 2020-21 season. The ownership of the league's Winnipeg Blues and the Winnipeg Ice of the major-junior Western Hockey League will also own and operate the Winnipeg Freeze. The MJHL has been realigned from a single-table format to three four-team divisions called the Northeast, Interior and Southeast. The Winnipeg Freeze and Winnipeg Blues will be part of the Southeast division.

North American Hockey League: Due to a travel ban and closed arenas, the Tier-III junior-level NAHL's two Alaska-based teams called the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and Kenai River Brown Bears (Soldotna) will play the first two months of the 2020-21 season based in Minnesota. The Ice Dogs will temporarily relocate to Marshall, while the Brown Bears will be based in Anoka and play games in Breezy Point, which lost its Tier-III NA3HL team in the off-season.

American Hockey League: The second-level minor professional AHL, which has each of its 31 teams affiliated with one of the 31 teams in the National Hockey League, finalized the NHL affiliations this week for the upcoming 2020-21 season. The AHL's Charlotte Checkers signed a multi-year affiliation with the NHL's Florida Panthers, while the AHL's Chicago Wolves signed a three-year affiliation with the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes (Raleigh, NC). The Checkers had been a long-time affiliate of the Hurricanes. The Florida Panthers lost its affiliation with the Springfield (MA) Thunderbirds to the St. Louis Blues. The Blues lost its San Antonio Rampage AHL affiliate that was purchased by the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights and relocated to the Las Vegas area as the Henderson Silver Knights for the 2020-21 season. The Chicago Wolves had been the Vegas Golden Knights' previous AHL affiliate.

Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League: The proposed start of Canada's Junior-A SJHL on October 9 for the 2020-21 season is uncertain since the Saskatchewan Health Authority recently stated no hockey games can be played at this time due to concerns related to the coronavirus (COVID-19).

SOCCER

Major League Soccer: The Houston Dynamo of the MLS is considering a possible rebranding that could include a new logo and team name The MLS announced this week the additional 2020 regular season schedule through September that will feature each team playing an additional three games. Due to travel restrictions under the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Canadian teams will play all three of their games in the United States with each team hosting one home game. The Montreal Impact will host a game at Red Bull Arena in Harrison (NJ); Toronto FC will host a game at Rentschler Field in Hartford (CT); and the Vancouver Whitecaps FC will host a game at Providence Park in Portland (OR).

USL Championship (United Soccer League): The Oakland Roots team in the Division-III National Independent Soccer Association, could be moving up to the Division-II Championship league by taking over the territorial rights of the once-proposed USL Championship franchise in East Bay. The original organizer of the East Bay team had proposed a new stadium that never got off the ground in Concord (CA).

National Independent Soccer Association: The Division-III professional NISA announced the San Diego-based 1904 FC will return for the league's 2021 Spring Season. The club was part of the 2019 Fall Showcase and a 2020 Spring Season, which was shortened due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The NISA announced one of the league's co-founders has applied for a NISA team in the Chicago market and it could start in the 2021 Fall Season, if accepted. The NISA recently announced affiliations with three amateur soccer leagues called the Gulf Coast Premier League, the Midwest Premier League and the Eastern Premier League.

OTHER

Arena Lacrosse League: Canada's Ontario-based ALL recently stated its 2021 season might be in jeopardy due to restrictions from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The seven-team league shut down in mid-March with two weeks remaining in the 2020 season and it is still looking for a way to play two consecutive weekends to close out last season. The league typically plays a January-through-March season, but if governmental restrictions are not lifted soon it might cancel the entire 2021 season. The ALL is a developmental league providing talent to the indoor National Lacrosse 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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