Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report
by Dan Krieger
February 1, 2021 - Pioneer League (PL)
Pioneer League: The independent Pioneer League, which formerly operated as an affiliated short-season Rookie Advanced league under Minor League Baseball and now is a Major League Baseball Partner League, announced its 2021 season will feature eight teams each playing a 96-game schedule from May 22 through September 10. The Pioneer League did not play last season, but all eight teams from the 2019 season have moved to the independent league. One team called the Orem (UT) Owlz will sit out the 2021 season after relocating to Windsor (CO) as the Northern Colorado Owlz. The league's eighth member for 2021 will be the Boise Hawks team, which was part of the short-season Class-A Northwest League but was not awarded a Major League affiliate after the recent restructuring of Minor League Baseball.
Mavericks Independent Baseball League: The Salem-Keizer (OR) Volcanoes team, which was part of the short-season Class-A Northwest League and was not awarded a Major League affiliate after the recent restructuring of Minor League Baseball, has organized the new MIBL for the 2021 season with four teams that will play all games at Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer. The Salem-Keizer Volcanoes will be joined by teams called the Campesinos de Salem-Keizer, Salem Senators and Portland Mavericks. Teams will each play a 48-game schedule from May through August.
Wild Wild West League: The summer-collegiate WWWL announced plans for a second season in 2021 with returning teams called the Portland Gherkins and Gresham GreyWolves, along with new teams called the Willamette Wild Bills and the Portland Rosebuds. The WWWL was created last season by the Portland Pickles of the summer-collegiate West Coast League (WCL) when the WCL was unable to play due to coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions. The Portland Pickles and its developmental Portland Gherkins team, along with the Gresham GreyWolves and West Linn Knights, each played a shortened 2020 season of 12-14 games at one ballpark in Marion County (OR). The Portland Pickles are expected to be part of the WCL in 2021. All 2021 WWWL games will be played at the Pickles' Walker Stadium in Portland.
National Basketball Association Gatorade League (G-League): The NBA G-League has confirmed 17 of its 28 teams, plus the league's select G-League Elite team, will each play 15 games as part of a shortened 2021 season at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex at Disney World in Orlando from February 10 through March 6, 2021. There will be no division or conference alignment of teams for this season.
Liga de Basquetbol Estatal de Chihuahua: Mexico's LBE, or State Basketball League of Chihuahua, is trying to organize its 2021 season and is considering having all eight teams play games at one "bubble" venue in Chihuahua from mid-March to mid-May 2021. The LBE's 2020 regular season started in last January with nine teams, but was shut down in March due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
American Basketball Association: The semi-pro ABA announced a team called the New Jersey Knights has been added as a 2021-22 expansion team. No specific city was mentioned as the team's home.
American Arena League: The AAL made a switch of teams in its proposed 2021 West division with the Allen (TX) Tiger-Cats being replaced by a team called the Texas Takeover (Bedford).
European League of Football: The new ELF plans to start in July 2021 with eight teams playing American-style football. The league will include six German teams based in Ingolstadt (Praetorians), Berlin, Hamburg, Stuttgart (Scorpions), Frankfurt and Hannover-Hildesheim (German Knights 1367 Niedersachsen), along with Poland's Wroclaw Panthers and Spain's Barcelona Gladiators. Eventually, the ELF wants to expand to 20 teams.
ECHL: The ECHL awarded a Savannah (GA) expansion franchise that will start play in the 2022-23 season and play in the city's new arena that is currently under construction. The owner of the Savannah franchise also owns the league's Jacksonville Icemen team. With the recent addition of expansion teams in Coralville (IA) and Trois-Rivieres (Quebec), the ECHL has grown to 29 teams.
American Hockey League: The AHL announced the league's Stockton Heat, which is the AHL affiliate of the National Hockey League's Calgary Flames, has been granted permission to temporarily relocate to Calgary for the 2020-21 season due to cross-border travel restrictions from the coronavirus (COVID-19). In the league alignment, the Stockton Heat has been moved from the Pacific Division to the Canadian Division, which includes the four other AHL Canada-based teams. The AHL recently announced its 2020-21 season will run from February 5 to May 16, 2021. Only 28 of the AHL's 31 teams will be participating and teams are grouped in regional Atlantic, North, Central, Pacific and Canadian divisions.
Quebec Major Junior Hockey League: The QMJHL's Maritime Division teams in Nova Scotia (Halifax Mooseheads and Cape Breton Eagles) and Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown Islanders) received provincial approval to restart play this weekend. The province of New Brunswick has yet to grant this approval so the three other Maritime Division teams (Acadie-Bathurst Titan, Moncton Wildcats and Saint John Sea Dogs) based in New Brunswick will have to wait to restart play.
National Women's Hockey League: The six-team NWHL announced the Metropolitan Riveters team has withdrawn from the shortened 2021 season due to several members of the organization testing positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19). The Riveters had played three of its five scheduled regular-season games.
Western Hockey League: The province of Alberta has granted approval for the major-junior WHL to return to play, so the league's five Alberta-based teams that comprise the Central Division will start their season on February 26 with each team playing 24 games within the division and without fans. The league is working with officials so teams in the seven-team East Division (Manitoba and Saskatchewan), the five-team British Columbia Division and the five-team U.S. Division can also start play.
Major League Soccer: The MLS announced its 2021 season will feature 27 teams each playing a 34-game schedule from April 3 through November 7, 2021. The expansion Austin FC will start its inaugural season in 2021 and the league will be aligned in a 14-team Eastern Conference and a 13-team Western Conference. Details of the schedule are still to be announced. The MLS needs to work out scheduling with the league's three Canadian teams because of travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada.
National Independent Soccer Association: The men's Division-III professional NISA is teaming up with United Women's Soccer, which operates a national pro-am league and a reserve league called the UWS League Two, to form a Division-II women's professional league that would start play in 2022. This league would bridge the gap between the amateur-level and the National Women's Soccer League. Per the U.S. Soccer Federation standards, a second-division women's league must start with at least six teams that are located in areas with a population of at least 500,000 and play in stadiums with a capacity of at least 2,000.
National Women's Soccer League: The ten-team professional NWSL announced it will begin the 2021 season with a NWSL Challenge Cup tournament starting on April 9. The 2021 regular season will start on May 15 and run through October 30, 2021 with each team playing a 24-game schedule. The Challenge Cup and regular-season schedules will be announced in the future.
USL League One (United Soccer League): The Division-III professional USL League One announced it will start its 2021 season around May 8 and teams will each play a 28-game schedule through October. The league operated a shortened 2020 season with 11 teams, but the Orlando City B dropped out after the season. The league currently lists 12 teams with the addition of the North Carolina FC from the USL Championship and the return of the Toronto FC II team that sat out last season. Expansion teams called the Central Valley Fuego (Fresno) and Northern Colorado FC (Windsor) have been announced for 2022.
United Women's Soccer: The pro-am UWS announced the Chicago Mustangs will field a team in the league's new Central Conference for the 2021 season. The Mustangs organization has a women's indoor team in the Premier Arena Soccer League and men's teams in the PASL and Major Arena Soccer League 2.
Major League Rugby: Due to the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in San Diego, the San Diego Legion of the professional MLR announced it will temporarily relocate by playing its 2021 home schedule in Las Vegas.
Western Ultimate League: The Portland (OR) Swifts of the women's WUL have yet to play a league game and announced the team has withdrawn from the ultimate Frisbee league, which is now down to six teams. The WUL was to start its inaugural season with seven teams in March 2020, but it was cancelled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).
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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Pioneer League Stories from February 1, 2021
- Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report - OSC Original by Dan Krieger
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