Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report
by Dan Krieger
January 18, 2021 - Atlantic League (AtL)
BASEBALL Atlantic League: The Atlantic League's expansion team in Gastonia (NC) announced the team will be called the Gastonia Honey Hunters when it starts play in the 2021 season. Other potential team names included the Fire Ants, Uppercuts, Hogzillas and Hotshots. The league last played in 2019 with eight teams, but has since lost the Somerset (NJ) Patriots to the affiliated Eastern League and the Sugar Land Skeeters to the affiliated Pacific Coast League. With the addition of Gastonia, and to keep the league at an even number of teams, the travel-only Road Warriors team will not be utilized in the 2021 season.
Prospect League: The Burlington (IA) Bees and the Clinton (IA) LumberKings announced they have joined the summer-collegiate Prospect League for the 2021 season. Both teams were members of the affiliated low Class-A Midwest League, but recently lost their affiliations with Major League Baseball after a restructuring of Minor League Baseball. With the addition of expansion teams called the Johnstown (PA) Mill Rats and Alton (IL) River Dragons, the league has grown to 16 teams.
Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League: The owner of the Elmira (NY) Pioneers in the summer-collegiate PGCBL plans to place a PGCBL team in Batavia (NY) for the 2021. The Batavia Muckdogs were a member of the short-season Class-A New York-Penn League, but recently lost their affiliation with Major League Baseball when the league was dissolved as part of a restructuring of Minor League Baseball.
Puerto Rico Independent Baseball League: The new PRIBL plans to start play in 2021 with four teams called the Pelicans de Rincon, Tainos de Mayaguez, Conquistadores de Aguada and Peregrinos de Hormigueros. Teams will play a 30-game schedule in March and April 2021.
The Basketball League: The minor professional TBL announced its 35th team and 23rd expansion team since a shortened 2020 season will be called the Omaha's Finest. The TBL's 2021 season will start in April and the 35 teams will each play 24 games. A West Conference will include four-team Pacific Northwest and So Cal divisions; a Central Conference will include a four-team Plains and a five-team Southwest division; a Midwest Conference will have four-team Upper Midwest and Lower Midwest divisions; and an East Conference will have five-team Northeast and Southeast divisions.
Women's American Basketball Association: The WABA recently announced a new team called the Atlanta Lynx has been added for the 2021 season. The WABA posted a league map that includes 32 teams for its upcoming summertime 2021 season.
Canadian Football League: The CFL's Edmonton Football Team, formerly the Edmonton Eskimos, ended fan submissions for a possible new team name early last month. The team wants to keep the double-E in the name. The team would not give vote totals, but listed the top ten nickname submissions as the Eagles, Energy, Elk/Elks, Elite, Empire, Edge, Express, Extreme, Explorers and Evolution. The new name will be selected in early spring of 2021. The club president has ruled out "Empire" as the team name.
Major League Football: The developmental MLFB reported last month it is preparing for a 2021 start with a Florida training camp in April and six teams playing a regular season in May and June.
ECHL: The ECHL approved two expansion applications for teams at new arenas in Coralville (IA) and Trois-Rivieres (Quebec) with both teams to start play in the 2021-22 season. The group that owns the league's Newfoundland Growlers (St. John's) will operate both of the new teams. The Coralville team will be affiliated with the National Hockey League's Minnesota Wild and the Trois-Rivieres team is expected to announce an affiliation with the NHL's Montreal Canadiens. The addition of the two new teams will increase the ECHL to 28 teams. The ECHL also announced the second portion of its 2020-21 schedule from February 2 through April 3, 2021. Thirteen teams started play in the first portion of the schedule, but the Fort Wayne Komets will be added for the second portion. With the increase to 14 teams, the league has aligned the teams into two seven-team conferences (Eastern and Western) for the season. A third portion of the schedule through June 6, 2021 will be announced at a later date.
United States Premier Hockey League: The USPHL started its Hub City Tampa event last week with teams from the organization's Tier-II National Collegiate Development Conference, Division-III Premier Division and Division-III Elite Division playing games at the Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa. The event runs through mid-February. The USPHL also announced it would like to expand further into Florida for the 2021-22 season. The USPHL currently has three Florida-based clubs that each have a team in the Premier Division and the Elite Division.
National Women's Hockey League: The six-team NWHL announced the schedule for its shortened two-week 2020-21 season that will have all games played at one arena in Lake Placid (NY). The season will feature each team playing five games and the playoffs from January 23 through February 5, 2021.
Federal Prospects Hockey League: The FPHL stated it will start its 2020-21 season on February 3, 2021, but only the league's two New York-based teamsâthe Elmira Enforcers and Watertown Wolvesâwill begin play in a series of games for rights to the New York Empire Cup. All other teams will start play on a date still to be determined.
Major League Soccer: The MLS's Montreal Impact announced the team will undergo a rebranding as the Club de Foot Montreal (CFM). The team will be known as CF Montreal, CFM or CFMTL.
Major Arena Soccer League: Eleven of the MASL's 17 teams committed to playing in the 2020-21 season, but the first portion of the schedule for this month includes only 6 teams and a recently announced schedule for next month added only one more team. Of the remaining four teams, the Baltimore Blast announced this week the team will cancel its entire 2020-21 season and work toward returning in 2021-22.
National Women's Soccer League: The professional NWSL confirmed expansion plans for 2022 will include the addition of the Los Angeles-based Angel City FC and a new Sacramento team. The ownership of the men's Sacramento Republic FC, which will be moving to Major League Soccer from the Division-II USL Championship in 2023, will be involved in the new NWSL team. The NWSL is adding a tenth team called Racing Louisville for the 2021 season. The NWSL also announced the end of its partnership with the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) that will make the league more self-sufficient and independent.
USL League One (United Soccer League): The Division-III professional USL League One will add the new Northern Colorado FC for the 2022 season with a team nickname still to be announced. The team will be based out of the Future Legends Complex in Windsor (CO), north of Denver, where a multi-purpose stadium will also host the Northern Colorado Owlz baseball team in the Pioneer League. The USL League One will gain another team as the North Carolina FC (Cary/Raleigh) of the Division-II USL Championship announced this week it will move down a level to the USL League One starting with the 2021 season.
United Women's Soccer: The pro-am UWS announced the SASA (St. Albert's Soccer Association) Impact FC, based in the Edmonton area, has been added to the West Conference for 2021. The Albany (NY) Rush and the New Jersey Teamsterz (Bayonne) will place teams in the UWS East Conference for 2021. The Teamsterz will also add a team in the reserve-level UWS League Two. Two other teams called the Delaware Union (Dover) and Northern Virginia FC (Woodbridge), or Nova FC, have been added to the four previously announced teams in the UWS League Two's new Mid-Atlantic Conference. The UWS League Two has added a five-team Southeast Conference for 2021 with teams called the Jacksonville FC, Atletico Miami Deportiva, Unity FC (Winter Haven), SportsParadize (Orlando) and Orlando FC Royals. The UWS League Two tried to start a four-team Southeast Conference last season, but it was shut down due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) with only one game played between Orlando FC and Unity FC.
Premier Lacrosse League: The PLL officially announced its eighth team for the 2021 season will be called the Cannons Lacrosse Club, or Cannons LC. The team was formerly the Boston Cannons of Major League Lacrosse (MLL), which was recently merged into the PLL. Teams in the tour-based PLL do not represent individual markets, but travel to different locations for weekend events involving PLL teams. The PLL announced this week its 2021 season will again be a tour-based format over 11 weekends from June 4 through the championship on September 19, 2021. This will include an All-Star event and three weekends of playoffs. Exact dates and tour cities are still to be announced. In addition to the Cannons, other PLL teams include the Archers, Atlas, Chaos, Chrome, Redwoods, Waterdogs and Whipsnakes.
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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