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Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
October 5, 2020 - Appalachian League (ApL)

BASEBALL

Appalachian League (APPY): In conjunction with Major League Baseball (MLB) and USA Baseball, the Rookie-Advanced APPY league announced it will transition to a summer-collegiate wooden-bat league starting with the 2021 season. All ten APPY league markets of Bluefield (VA/WV), Burlington (NC), Danville (VA) Princeton (WV), Pulaski (VA), Elizabethton (TN), Greeneville (TN), Johnson City (TN), Kingsport (TN) and Bristol (TN/VA) are expected to be part of the new league and all teams will undergo rebranding prior to next season. The 10 teams of the APPY league were part of the MLB's plan to reorganize its affiliated leagues under Minor League Baseball (MiLB), and reduce the number of teams from 160 to 120. The APPY summer-collegiate league will be part of the MLB's and USA Baseball's new Prospect Development Pipeline that will establish a pathway for development of amateur players. As the MLB and MiLB continue to negotiate on a new Professional Baseball Agreement that expired on September 30, additional changes are expected with other lower-level affiliated leagues, such as the 14-team short-season Class-A New York-Penn League and eight-team Northwest League, and the eight-team Rookie-Advanced Pioneer League.

American Association: A group run by the owner of the independent American Association's Texas AirHogs team, which is based in the western Dallas suburb of Grand Prairie, did not submit renovation plans and a contract for Reverchon Park in Dallas by a September 30 deadline. The group was planning to redevelop the field into a 3,500-seat sports venue for soccer, lacrosse, rugby and a minor professional baseball team to be called the Dallas Eagles, which was assumed to be targeted for the American Association. The effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic were cited as the reason the contract could not be executed. Prior to this effort, the proposed Southwest Baseball League had targeted Reverchon Park in 2018 for one of its four teams, but the league never got off the ground.

Major League Baseball: The MLB commissioner stated a 2021 season without fans in the stands would not be financially viable. Teams lost a total of $3 billion by playing a shortened season with no fans and about 40 percent of revenue comes from gameday receipts.

Sunbelt Baseball League: The group that owns the Columbus (GA) River Dragons minor hockey team in the Federal Prospects Hockey League recently signed an agreement to bring a summer-collegiate SBL team to the city in 2021. A name-the-team contest started and the name is to be announced by January 1, 2021.

BASKETBALL

The Basketball League: The minor professional TBL stated the league will be announcing a location in the state of Kansas as its 13th expansion team for the 2021 season.

American Basketball Association: The semi-pro ABA announced a new expansion team called the East Bay Kings, based in Northern California near Oakland, has been added for the 2020-21 season.

Women's Universal Basketball Association: The semi-pro WUBA started play this weekend in its 2020 National League, which focuses on non-professional rookie-level players and runs through mid-December. The league's 13 teams will play games within three regional conferences: Eastern Conference (Atlanta), Western Conference (Oakland) and Heartland Conference (Houston). The National League is a prequel to the WUBA Super League that will start play in May 2021 with three additional conferences and provide overseas players on opportunity to compete in an off-season U.S.-based summer league.

FOOTBALL

American West Football Conference: As the lower-level indoor AWFC plans for its 2021 season, the league is trying to develop a new team in the state of Oregon with more details to be announced. The AWFC played its inaugural season in 2019 with four teams called the Idaho Horsemen (Nampa), Reno Express, Tri-Cities Fire (Kennewick, WA) and Wenatchee Valley (WA) Skyhawks. A new team called the Yakima (WA) Canines was added for 2020, but the Reno Express and Tri-Cities Fire dropped out. With only three teams, a semi-pro outdoor team called the Tri-City Rage, also based in Kennewick, was to be a fill-in for the 2020 season that was eventually cancelled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The AWFC says Idaho, Wenatchee Valley and Yakima will be part of 2021 and a new ownership group could return a team to the Tri-Cities market, while Reno is still undecided about its return to the league.

XFL: The ownership group that purchased the XFL out of bankruptcy in August announced the league will wait until the 2022 season to restart play. The eight-team league's inaugural 2020 season was cut short due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the league eventually filed for bankruptcy. There was no information provided as to which markets will host teams in 2022.

HOCKEY

United States Hockey League: The junior-level Tier-I USHL announced this week its 2020-21 season will run from November 5, 2020 through April 24, 2021 with teams playing 54 games instead of 62. The typical USHL season runs from late September through March. With two Eastern Conference teams called the Cedar Rapids (IA) Roughriders and Madison (WI) Capitols both deciding to sit out the 2020-21 season, the remaining 14 teams will be aligned in a six-team Eastern Conference and an eight-team Western Conference.

National Collegiate Development Conference: The independent United States Premier Hockey League's Tier-II junior-level NCDC recently started its 2020-21 season that will run through late March 2021. The NCDC again has 13 teams, but they are now aligned in a six-team South and a seven-team North division. The Rochester (NY) Monarchs did not return, but the NCDC added the new Boston Advantage team. Also, the Boston Bandits were sold and relocated to become the Philadelphia Hockey Club based in Sewell (NJ).

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League: Canada's major-junior QMJHL started its 2020-21 season this week with the same 18 teams realigned from 4 to 3 divisions. The six-team Maritimes Division stayed the same, but last season's four-team East, West and Central divisions have been combined into six-team East and West divisions. Teams will each play 60 games within their divisions to minimize travel.

SOCCER

Major Arena Soccer League: The professional MASL has targeted December 31, 2020 for the start of its 2020-21 season, but that date, the participating teams, and the season format are still uncertain due to possible restrictions from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The league operated with 17 teams last season and two Mexican teams called the Soles de Sonora and Monterrey Flash have been given permission to sit out the 2020-21 season. Instead of using last season's Eastern Conference and Western Conference alignment, the MASL could realign in three regional divisions with teams playing games only within their division to minimize travel.

Major Arena Soccer League3: The professional MASL's new amateur developmental MASL3 (M3) announced the Wichita Wings, which operate a team in the MASL2 (M2), have added an M3 team that will be part a Central Conference in 2020-21. The M3 previously announced the Sunflower State FC (Kansas City, KS) and Omaha Kings as Central Conference teams, along with two Michigan-based teams called the Grand Rapids Wanderers and Muskegon Risers in an Eastern North Conference for the 2020-21 season.

USL Championship (United Soccer League): The group trying bring a Division-II USL Championship league team to Des Moines (IA) wants to partner with the city on a toxic former manufacturing site for a proposed stadium. This site is just west of the original stadium site that could then be used for additional commercial development. The league's Loudoun United FC (Virginia) was forced to cancel the remaining three games of their 2020 season due to multiple coronavirus (COVID-19) cases within the organization.

USL League Two (United Soccer League): The pre-professional USL League Two announced teams called the Little Rock Rangers (Arkansas) and Project 510 (Oakland) will join for the 2021 season. The Project 510 club is affiliated with the Oakland Roots SC, which recently joined the Division-II USL Championship league for the 2021 season.

OTHER

Interstate Box Lacrosse Association: The IBLA held its 2020 IBLA Nationals tournament in Pittsburgh last weekend with ten teams, each from a different Regional Box Lacrosse League (RBLL). This year's teams included the Mooncrest Munitionz (Pennsylvania RBLL), Grand Rapids Grizzlies (Michigan RBLL), Philadelphia Phunk (New Jersey RBLL), Albany Hyenas (Empire North RBLL), Aksarben Stampede (Nebraska RBLL), Louisville Canards (Ohio RBLL), Minneapolis Wheat Kings (Minnesota RBLL), Charlotte Reapers (Southeast RBLL), San Diego Whalers (California RBLL) and the Maine Northmen (New England RBLL).

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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