Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report
by Dan Krieger
February 15, 2021 - Champions Indoor Football (CIF)
Minor League Baseball: Major League Baseball has completed its restructuring of MiLB with the recent signings of an MLB Professional Development License by all 120 teams that were offered affiliations under the new MLB player development system. MLB now operates all of affiliated minor league baseball and eliminated the MiLB and the various league names and offices. Each of the 30 MLB teams will have one Triple-A, Double-A, High-A and Low-A affiliate starting with the 2021 season. MLB geographically realigned the 30 affiliates under each classification. The new 20-team Triple-A East will have Midwest, Northeast and Southeast divisions and the 10-team Triple-A West will have East and West divisions. The 10-team Double-A Central will have North and South divisions, the 12-team Double-A Northeast will have Northeast and Southwest divisions, while the 8-team Double-A South will have North and South divisions. The 12-team High-A Central will have East and West divisions, the 12-team High-A East will have North and South divisions, while the six-team High-A West will have no divisions. The 12-team Low-A East will have Central, North and South divisions, the 10-team Low-A Southeast will have East and West divisions, while the Low-A West will have North and South divisions.
American Association: After announcing the addition of the Kane County (IL) Cougars as its 11th team last week, the American Association announced this week its 2021 season schedule will feature 12 teams with the addition of the Houston Apollos as a travel-only team. The league will be aligned in six-team North and South divisions.
Major League Baseball Draft League: The six-team MBL Draft League, which will be focused on the top prospects eligible to be selected by MLB clubs in the summer draft, announced its inaugural 2021 season will start May 24 with each team playing a 68-game season. The league members are teams that were not awarded affiliations during the restructuring of Minor League Baseball. These include the Frederick (MD) Keys from the Carolina League, the Trenton Thunder from the Eastern League, and the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Niles, OH), State College (PA) Spikes, West Virginia Black Bears (Morgantown) and Williamsport (PA) Crosscutters all from the former New York-Penn League.
Expedition League: The summer-collegiate Expedition League announced it will add a team in Grand Forks (ND) for the 2022 season. The city had a former team called the Grand Forks Channel Cats for three seasons (1998-2000) in the summer-collegiate Northwoods League.
National Basketball Association Gatorade League (G-League): Seventeen NBA G-League teams, along with the select G-League Elite team, started the league's shortened 2021 season this week at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World in Orlando. Each team will play 15 games through March 6 followed by the top eight teams participating in a single-elimination playoff.
American Basketball Association: The semi-pro ABA announced the Baldwin County (AL) Hoopers have been added as a 2021-22 expansion team. The ABA also announced another attempt at a Canadian league called ABA Canada with initial teams to be in Ontario and Quebec. The ABA has had several Canadian teams in its history and announced an ABA Canada initiative in 2010 that was to feature five Ontario-based teams starting play in 2011. These teams never developed, but a team called the ABA-Canada Revolution played some exhibition games in 2011. The ABA has several other ongoing attempts at developing international leagues with its ABA Mexico, ABA Australia and ABA Caribbean.
Women's Basketball Development Association: The WBDA, which operated with 31 teams in a 2019 season and had to cancel its 2020 season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), has a new administration and is planning for a return in 2021. A new team called the South Texas Swarm (McAllen) has been added.
Canadian Football League: The CFL's Edmonton Football Team, formerly known as the Edmonton Eskimos, announced the seven nicknames for fan voting to choose the team's new name. The possible nickname choices are the Edmonton Evergreens, Evergolds, Eclipse, Eagles, Elements, Elk and Elkhounds.
Champions Indoor Football: The Odessa-based West Texas Warbirds of the CIF announced the team will not be able to fulfill its 2021 CIF schedule that was due to start in March, so the team will play a shorter independent schedule with at least six home games from May to July. The team ran into arena scheduling issues due to the extended season of the Odessa Jackalopes of the junior-level North American Hockey League. The Warbirds were an expansion team last season, but the 2020 season was never played.
Fan Controlled Football: The new 7-on-7 indoor fan-interactive FCF, which plans to be the first fan-controlled professional sports league with fans electronically calling plays, started its inaugural season this weekend with teams called the Zappers, Wild Aces, Beasts and Glacier Boyz. Each team will play three games over three weekends in February. All games are played at the Infinite Energy Arena in the Atlanta suburb of Duluth (GA). The FCF was first organized as the Interactive Football League in 2017, changed to the Electronic Football League (eFL), then the Fan Controlled Football League and now the FCF.
National Arena League: Due to the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the seven-team NAL has pushed back the start of its 2021 season from April 3 to May 22, and shortened each team's schedule from 14 to 8 games.
American Hockey League: The AHL's five-team Canadian Division started play this week. The league announced the schedule for the division through February, but other dates are still to be announced.
Federal Prospects Hockey League: The lower-level FPHL announced it will start its 2020-21 season next weekend with only four teams: the Carolina Thunderbirds (Winston-Salem), Columbus (GA) River Dragons, Port Huron (MI) Prowlers and Elmira (NY) Enforcers. Only three cities will host games as the Carolina will play all road games. As to the other three FPHL teams committed to playing this season, the Danville (IL) Dashers and Danbury (CT) Hat Tricks are unable to start next week due to coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions, while the owner of the Watertown (NY) Wolves stated it is unlikely the team will play this season due to the coronavirus and the unavailability of its arena after mid-April.
Western Hockey League: The major-junior WHL's seven-team East Division, which includes two teams from Manitoba and five teams from Saskatchewan, has received permission from the government in Saskatchewan for teams to each play a 24-game season with all games to be played at the Brandt Centre in Regina (Saskatchewan). The East Division schedule for the 2020-21 season will start on March 12.
Major League Soccer: With the MLS and the MLS Players Association signing a new collective bargaining agreement this week, the league announced its 2021 season start has been pushed back two week to April 17. It is still uncertain how the MLS will handle scheduling for the three Canadian teams.
National Women's Soccer League: With the city of Albuquerque moving forward on a new downtown stadium for the men's New Mexico United of the Division-II USL Championship, the team's ownership is interested in adding a women's team and has been in discussions with the NWSL and the United Soccer League, which is planning to start a new women's soccer league.
United Women's Soccer: The pro-am UWS recently announced the Scorpions SC (Taunton, MA) has been added as a fourth team to the league's East Conference for the 2021 season.
USL League One (United Soccer League): Plans for a new stadium in Fort Wayne (IN) are in the initial phase, but it is hoped it will be ready for the 2023 season and become home to the Fort Wayne FC of the Division-III USL League One. The club would operate a pre-professional team in the USL League Two for the 2021 and 2022 seasons before making the jump to the USL League One.
Major Arena Soccer League 2: The MASL2 has started its 2020-21 season with two four-team invitational tournaments. The Wichita-based Heartland Invitational featured the Omaha Kings, FC Amarillo Bombers, Colorado Inferno (Colorado Springs) and Wichita Wings II each playing three games over the January 22 weekend. The Colorado Springs-based Rocky Mountain Invitational featured the Omaha Kings, FC Amarillo Bombers, Colorado Inferno and the Alliance FC (Colorado Springs) of the Premier Arena Soccer League each playing three games last weekend. The MASL2 announced the Chicago Mustangs have come under new ownership and returned to the league after sitting out last season.
Tewaaraton Lacrosse League: The men's TLL has been formed as a new Canadian U-22 Junior-A indoor lacrosse league for the 2021 spring-summer season. The Six Nation Arrows (Ohsweken, Ontario) team has left the Ontario Junior-A Lacrosse League for the TLL. The TLL also announced a team called the Burlington (Ontario) Blackhawks has joined. The TLL will play by National Lacrosse League rules. The OJALL stated it will still have a Six Nations team in 2021 to replace the Arrows.
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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