Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report
by Dan Krieger
February 8, 2021 - United Soccer League Championship (USL)
American Association: The Kane County (IL) Cougars announced the team has joined the independent American Association as the league's 11th team for the upcoming 2021 season. The team had been part of the low Class-A Midwest League since 1991, but lost its affiliation with Major League Baseball after the recent restructuring of Minor League Baseball. The American Association, which is a Partner League of Major League Baseball, plans to announce a 12th team for the 2021 season in the near future.
Atlantic League: The independent Atlantic League, announced it will start its 2021 season on May 28, 2021. The league is down to six teams after the Somerset Patriots (Bridgewater, NJ) and Sugar Land (TX) Skeeters became Major League Baseball affiliates after the recent restructuring of Minor League Baseball. The Atlantic League, which is now a Partner League of Major League Baseball, stated it is still finalizing admission of new teams. A group in Hagerstown (MD), which recently lost a low Class-A affiliated team called the Hagerstown Suns, has proposed construction of a new ballpark in the city for a new team that would join the Atlantic League in the future.
Appalachian League: Seven of the ten teams that make up the new summer-collegiate version of the Appalachian League, which is now part of Major League Baseball's Prospect Development Pipeline, announced their new team names this week. The Bristol (VA) Pirates are now the Bristol State Liners; the Burlington (NC) Royals are the Burlington Sock Puppets; the Elizabethton (TN) Twins are the Elizabethton River Riders; the Greeneville (TN) Reds are the Greeneville Flyboys; the Johnson City (TN) Cardinals are the Johnson City Doughboys; the Kingsport (TN) Mets are the Kingsport Axmen; and the Pulaski (VA) Yankees are the Pulaski River Turtles. The league was previously an advanced Rookie-level league with teams affiliated and owned by Major League Baseball teams
Pecos League: The independent Pecos League is trying to add a new team called the Lancaster (CA) Sound Breakers. Lancaster recently lost its affiliated high Class-A California League team called the Lancaster JetHawks after the restructuring of Minor League Baseball.
Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League: Two owners of teams in the summer-collegiate PGCBL are trying to bring a PGCBL team to the city of Auburn (NY), which recently lost the affiliated Auburn Doubledays in the short-season Class-A New York-Penn League. The city owns the Doubledays name, so it is uncertain if that would continue to be the team's name.
Eastern Canada Basketball League: The new men's professional ECBL is trying to organize as the premier basketball league in Atlantic Canada's Maritime provinces. Major cities in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick are being targeted for teams in the new league.
Maritime Women's Basketball Association: The new amateur MWBA plans to start play in April 2022 with at least six teams from Atlantic Canada. So far, the league has three Nova Scotia-based teams called the Halifax Sirens, Halifax Thunder and Windsor Edge, and three New Brunswick-based teams called the Port City Fog (Saint John), 506 Elite (Moncton) and Fredericton Freeze.
Women's American Basketball Association: The WABA announced a new team called the Illinois Conquerors (Chicago) has been added as an expansion team.
National Gridiron League: The 12-team NGL, which claims to be America's premier spring football league and has been trying to start its inaugural season since 2019, announced it will play its 2021 season in an unnamed "bubble location" from April 10 through June 13. The league is in discussions with some of its southern cities to select a single location. Teams will play 10 games instead of the planned 18 games.
Freedom Football League: The Portland (OR) Progress of the proposed new FFL, which is a spring-summer outdoor league started by a group of former National Football League players, is now called the Portland Power in the FFL Western Conference. Originally, the FFL had a team called the Oklahoma City Power that has disappeared. The eight-team FFL plans to start play in 2022.
American Hockey League: The 31-team AHL started its 2020-21 season this week with only 28 participating teams aligned in five regional divisions. The league had to make some Pacific Division schedule adjustments after the recent temporary move of the Stockton Heat to Calgary where it is now part of the Canadian Division. The schedule for the five-team Canadian Division has yet to be announced and those teams are idle. The AHL's two Ontario-based teams still need provincial approval to start play.
Federal Prospects Hockey League: The lower-level FPHL's plans to start the 2020-21 season this week with only the two New York teams-the Elmira Enforcers and Watertown Wolves-playing a 16-game series in February has apparently been cancelled due to an altercation that took place prior to the first game. These games were to have been played without fans. Four other FPHL teams had committed to playing this season, but their seasons have been put on hold due to coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions.
National Women's Hockey League: On the eve of the playoffs to end its shortened 2020-21 "bubble" season in Lake Placid (NY), the six-team NWHL decided to cancel the four-team playoffs due to safety concerns from the coronavirus (COVID-19). Last week, the league's Metropolitan Riveters withdrew from play and this week the Connecticut Whale cancelled its final regular-season game and withdrew due to coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns.
Professional Women's Hockey Players Association: The National Hockey League's New York Rangers plan to host a two-day PWHPA event at Madison Square Garden later this month to kick off the PWHPA's 2021 Secret Dream Gap Tour. The NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs also agreed this week to host a future tour event. A PWHPA All-Star team played some games last month against men's junior-level teams in the "Hub City Tampa" tournament sponsored by the United States Premier Hockey League and the PWHPA team will return to Tampa for another five games starting next week .
Western Hockey League: The state of Washington gave the major-junior WHL permission for its five-team U.S. Division, which has four Washington-based teams, to start play in the 2020-21 season next month with all games played within the division. The division's fifth team called the Portland (OR) Winterhawks might start out based in the Seattle area, since Oregon has not yet allowed WHL games to begin. The WHL's five-team British Columbia division is trying to have teams play a 24-game division-only season with all games played in two British Columbia hub citiesâKamloops and Kelowna. The seven-team East Division, which has two teams in Manitoba and five in Saskatchewan, is trying to establish Regina (Saskatchewan) as a hub city for all division-only games.
Western States Hockey League: The junior-level WSHL, which is considered a Tier-II league under the Amateur Athletic Union's United Hockey Union, announced it has added a team called the Vancouver Devils (British Columbia) when the league returns for the 2021-22 season. The WSHL lost 11 teams to other leagues after the 2019-20 season and went dormant this season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).
National Independent Soccer Association: The men's Division-III professional NISA announced its 2021 Spring Season will include nine teams. The season will start with a tournament in Chattanooga on the weekend of April 13-15. The regular season will have each team playing an eight-game schedule from May 1 through June 27 with playoffs following in Detroit. The Spring Season champion will play the Fall Season champion Detroit City FC for the 2021 title. The league's New York Cosmos stated the team will not play in the Spring Season and the team could be put up for sale.
USL Championship (United Soccer League): The Division-II professional USL Championship announced a new team called the Monterey FC will be added for the 2022 season. The team will play at a renovated stadium on the campus of California State University-Monterey Bay (Seaside). A financing plan has been approved for a new 7,500-seat soccer stadium in Pawtucket (RI) that could become home to a future USL Championship team. Plans are also moving forward on a development in Des Moines that will include a proposed new soccer stadium that would become home to a USL Championship team.
USL League Two (United Soccer League): The Thunder Bay Chill of the pre-professional USL League Two announced the team will sit out the 2021 season due to coronavirus (COVID-19) travel restrictions. The team also did not play in 2020. Investors trying to build a new ballpark for the Tennessee Smokies in Knoxville want to bring a USL League Two team to the city. That team would eventually move up to the Division-III professional USL League One and share the new facility that could be ready in 2023.
Major Arena Soccer League: Utica City FC (NY), the Rochester (NY) Lancers and Harrisburg (PA) Heat of the professional MASL have all dropped out of the 2020-21 season without playing any games due to coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions. These teams were part of the 11 of 17 MASL teams that had committed to playing a shortened 2020-21 season. The Baltimore Blast dropped out last month, so the league is down to seven teams that continue to play this season.
Major League Rugby: The Toronto Arrows of the professional MLR announced the team will temporarily relocate for the upcoming 2021 season by playing its home schedule in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta (GA). Toronto is the league's only Canadian team and there are restrictions on travel between the U.S. and Canada. The MLR's Atlanta team called Rugby ATL plays home games at a different location.
National Lacrosse League: The professional NLL has decided to cancel its entire 2020-21 season that had been pushed back to a start in April 2021. The NLL traditionally plays a season from late November through April, but pushed the 2020-21 season start back to April due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). The ongoing situation with quarantines and travel restrictions between Canada and the U.S. led the NLL to concentrate on a new start next November with the 2021-22 season.
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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