Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report
by Dan Krieger
October 26, 2020 - ECHL (ECHL)
American Association: The Grand Prairie-based Texas AirHogs of the independent American Association announced the team has terminated its membership in the league, which is now down to 11 teams. The AirHogs joined the league as an expansion team called the Grand Prairie AirHogs in the 2008 season. For the 2016 season, the team merged with the league's Amarillo Thunderheads team and became the Texas AirHogs, playing half of its home games in Grand Prairie and the other half in Amarillo. The team returned to Grand Prairie as its only home the next season and kept the Texas AirHogs name. Starting with the 2018 season, the team entered a three-season agreement with the Chinese Baseball Association for 30 players from the Chinese National Team to train in Grand Prairie and become part of the team's regular-season roster. Only 6 of the league's 12 teams participated in the 2020 season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and Texas AirHogs sat out the season. The American Association has one other Texas-based team called the Cleburne Railroaders and the league expects to announce future expansion in Texas in 2021.
South Atlantic League (SALLY): The Lakewood (NJ) BlueClaws of the low Class-A SALLY announced the team has changed its name to the Jersey Shore BlueClaws ahead of the 2021 season. The Lakewood BlueClaws started play in the 2001 season with the relocation of the league's Cape Fear Crocs from Fayetteville (NC).
Liga Mexicana de Beisbol: Mexico's highest-level LMB (Mexican Baseball League), which is considered to be at the Triple-A level of play, is negotiating a new working agreement with Major League Baseball that would make it easier for the MLB to sign LMB players and give the respective LMB team a percentage of the contract price.
The Basketball League: The minor professional TBL announced a team called the Portland Storm (Oregon), which played last season as part of the American Basketball Association, has been added as the league's 16th expansion team since last season and the 28th team overall for the upcoming 2021 season. The TBL's goal is to grow to 32 teams.
National Basketball Association: The group trying to build a 23,000-seat arena in Las Vegas for a future NBA team has been granted a six-month extension by a board of Clark County commissioners to complete multiple agreements for the project. If these are not completed by March 6, 2021, the land use agreement for the parcel will expire. The arena has been in the planning stages for several years and another requirement is that construction must start in two years. It is uncertain whether an NBA team would be available for relocation to Las Vegas and the NBA currently has no plans for expansion.
American West Football Conference: The AWFC's new 2021 expansion team to be called the Oregon High Desert Storm will be located in the Central Oregon city of Redmond, which is about 20 miles northeast of Bend (OR). Currently, the league's other teams are the Wenatchee Valley Skyhawks (Wenatchee, WA), Yakima (WA) Canines and Idaho Horsemen (Nampa). Additional teams could be added prior to the 2021 season.
Indoor Football League: Due to coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions in the state of Illinois, the IFL's Quad City Steamwheelers (Moline, IL) announced the team would go dormant for the 2021 IFL season. The Steamwheelers switched to the IFL for the 2019 season after playing their inaugural 2018 season as part of Champions Indoor Football. The Steamwheelers plan to return for the 2022 season.
Texas Alliance Arena League: The proposed independent TAAL, which plans to have all teams based in Texas, announced a new Abilene-based team called the West Texas Vipers has joined the league. The TAAL plans to hold a news conference early next month to officially announce a new Fort Worth team.
ECHL: The ECHL's Norfolk (VA) Admirals announced the team will sit out the 2021-22 season under the league's COVID-19 Voluntary Suspension Policy. The state of Virginia placed an attendance restriction of no more than 1,000 fans per game. The team plans to return for the 2021-22 season.
Federal Prospects Hockey League: The FPHL announced it will start the 2020-21 season on December 18, 2020 with only eight of the league's ten teams participating. The Delaware Thunder (Harrington) and the expansion Motor City Rockers (Fraser, MI) will sit out the season due to the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Both teams will return for the 2021-22 season, along with the previously announced expansion team in Bloomington (IL).
Professional Women's Hockey Players' Association: The PWHPA, whose players boycotted the National Women's Hockey League last season and played a series of tour-based tournaments and exhibitions last season, has received a $1 million sponsorship that will help in its goal of developing a sponsor-driven women's hockey league with more competitive player salaries and benefits. The PWHPA is planning at least six tours starting in 2021 with players based out of five North American hub cities.
Manitoba Junior Hockey League: The Neepawa Natives team in the Canadian Junior-A MJHL announced this summer it would change its name prior to the 2020-21 season due to the current nickname being considered controversial.
National Women's Soccer League: The professional NWSL confirmed this week the name of its new Los Angeles-based expansion team will be the Angel City Football Club, or Angel City FC. The team was officially announced as the league's 11th team and it will start play in 2022. An official with the Sacramento Republic FC men's team, which is currently part of the Division-II USL Championship and will move up to Major League Soccer in 2023, recently stated the team has been in talks with the NWSL about a future Sacramento-based women's team.
Major Arena Soccer League: The MASL's Milwaukee Wave announced the team will not participate in the 2020-21 season due to the uncertainty of potential COVID-19 attendance restrictions at its home arena. The Wave has not missed an indoor season since its start in the 1984-85 season of the former American Indoor Soccer Association.
Canadian Premier League: The eight-team professional CPL, which is at the top of the Canadian soccer system, is reported to be considering future expansion, possibly with a second team in British Columbia. The league has the Pacific FC based in Victoria on Vancouver Island, but teams from Germany's Bundesliga have expressed interest in backing a CPL team, possibly located in the Greater Vancouver area's Fraser Valley on the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. The CPL has also talked of an expansion team for Quebec and a second team in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), which has the league's York9 FC. The York9 FC has been considering a rebranding to expand its marketing outside the York Region to the entire GTA.
Major League Soccer: The city of Las Vegas extended negotiations for six months with a developer 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. If the stadium moves forward, the Las Vegas Lights FC would be sold to an investor who would apply for MLS membership. The owner of the National Hockey League's Vegas Golden Knights has also expressed interest in an MLS expansion team, possibly using the new stadium recently completed for the National Football League's Las Vegas Raiders.
USL Academy League (United Soccer League): The USL Academy League, which will be an elite-level youth development competition starting in 2021, announced its founding teams will be aligned in seven regions (Northeast, Atlantic, Southeast, Florida, East Central, South Central and Southwest) to minimize travel. Each region's teams will be announced over the next two weeks. The league announced this week the teams for the 6-team Southeast Division, 8-team Atlantic Division and 13-team Northeast Division. Participating higher-level clubs from the USL Championship, USL League One or USL League Two will field one elite youth team made up of the top U15-U19 prospects in their organization.
Major League Rugby: The professional MLR's Old Glory DC rugby club announced it will move its home from Cardinal Stadium at The Catholic University in Washington (DC) to Segra Field in Leesburg (VA) starting with the 2021 season. Segra Field is home to the Loudoun United FC, a member of soccer's Division-II USL Championship and an affiliate and reserve team of Major League Soccer's D.C. United.
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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