Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report
by Dan Krieger
February 22, 2021 - Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL)
Frontier League: The independent Frontier League announced its 2021 season schedule that will feature 16 teams each playing 96 games from late May to mid-September. Prior to its 2020 season, which was not played due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, five teams from the Can-Am League were merged into the league to create a seven-team Midwestern Division and a seven-team Can-Am Division. Two expansion teams called the Ottawa Titans and the Tri-City ValleyCats (Troy, NY), which joined from the New York-Penn League that was eliminated by Major League Baseball, have since been added for the 2021 season. The league's 16 teams are now aligned into a Midwestern Conference with four-team Central and West divisions and a Can-Am Conference with four-team Atlantic and Northeast divisions.
Atlantic League: The independent Atlantic League announced the Lexington (KY) Legends have joined as the seventh team for the upcoming 2021 season. The Legends had been an affiliated team since 2001 in the low Class-A South Atlantic League until recently losing its affiliation as part the Minor League Baseball restructuring.
Appalachian League: The Bluefield (WV) team in the new ten-team summer-collegiate version of the Appalachian League announced it will be called the Bluefield Ridge Runners when the league starts its inaugural season in 2021. The Bluefield Blue Jays was the name of the city's team in the former advanced Rookie-level Appalachian League, which was recently converted to a summer-collegiate league under Major League Baseball's Prospect Development Pipeline. All ten teams in the previous version of the league were owned by MLB clubs. Those markets will all move to the new league under new nicknames.
Coast Plain League: The new Spartanburg (SC) team added for the 2021 season of the summer-collegiate CPL will be known as the Spartanburgers. Other nickname finalists were Sluggers and Conductors.
Prospect League: The summer-collegiate Prospect League recently announced its 2021 schedule that will feature 16 teams. Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), the league did not play a 2020 season that was to feature 12 teams and include the relocated O'Fallon (MO) Owls from Hannibal (MO). Since then, the league has added the Alton (IL) River Dragons and Johnstown (PA) Millrats, along with two previously affiliated Class-A Midwest League teams called the Burlington (IA) Bees and Clinton (IA) LumberKings. Also, the DuPage Pistol Shrimp moved from Lisle (IL) to Peru (IL) as the Illinois Valley Pistol Shrimp.
Canadian Elite Basketball League: The seven-team semi-pro CEBL will not expand for its 2021 season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but the league is working on a lease agreement to bring a team to the Montreal area for the 2022 season. The CEBL, which owns all seven teams, has long-range plans to become a 12-team coast-to-coast league with teams located in most of the major Canadian markets. Traditionally, the CEBL plays its season from May through August.
Women's Universal Basketball Association: The semi-pro WUBA, which just completed the National League portion of its 2020-21 season in December with 12 teams aligned in Eastern (Atlanta), Western (Oakland) and Heartland (Houston) conferences, will add a four-team Northern Conference (Canada) for the next season. Teams will include the MCC Toronto Basket, York Sharks, Mississauga Dragons and Scarborough Bucks. The rookie-level and non-professional National League is a prequel to the WUBA Super League, which will start in May as a summertime off-season league for international players.
East Coast Basketball League: The semi-pro ECBL, which had to cancel most of its 19-team 2020 season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, started its 2021 season this weekend with 27 teams. Of the 19 teams from last season, the ECBL lost the Augusta (GA) Eagles and Carolina Show Time (Orangeburg, SC) and added ten teams for 2021. In addition to the North Carolina Capitals (Wake Forest), Garden City Magic (August, GA) and Coastal Elite Pirates (Myrtle Beach, SC), the league added a new seven-team Mid-Atlantic Conference consisting of seven American Basketball Association teams called the Fredericksburg (VA) Grizzlies, Hub City Hogs (Hagerstown, MD), Philadelphia Cannons, Philly Raiders, Plaistow (NH) Shockers, Western Mass Zombies (Springfield) and the Red Rose Thunder, which operated last season as the Ephrata (PA) Thunder. The ECBL regular season runs through May 2021.
Canadian Football League: After cancelling its entire 2020 season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the CFL is committed to returning to play in 2021. The league would like to start in June with an 18-game schedule per team, but current restrictions might force a shorter schedule, possible starting in August. The CFL needs the revenue generated by having fans in attendance.
Indoor Football League: The 12-team IFL announced the start of its 2021 season has been pushed back from March 28 to May 14, although 4 teams will start their seasons on the weekend of April 23. The delay was caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions in the various IFL markets.
National Arena League: The owner of the NAL's Wheeling-based West Virginia Roughriders team, which is up for sale and sitting out the 2021 season, wants the team to play at least three independent exhibition games in Wheeling this summer.
ECHL: The ECHL's recently announced 2022-23 expansion team for Savannah (GA) has started a name-the-team contest.
Professional Women's Hockey Players Association: The National Hockey League's Chicago Blackhawks will host and help market a PWHPA Dream Gap Tour event next month (March 6 and 7). The NHL's New York Rangers will host a tour event next weekend, while the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs have partnered with the PWHPA to host a future tour event. The PWHPA is trying to create a professional women's hockey league that pays a living wage to players.
Liga MX: Mexico's top professional 18-team Liga MX started the closing portion (Clausura) of its 2020-21 two-part Apertura/Clausura season last month with the same 18 teams. Each team will play 17 games through May 4, 2021. Each Liga MX team operates a women's team in the 18-team Liga MX Femenil, which also started play last month in its Clausura season with each team playing a 17-game schedule through May 3, 2021. None of the Liga MX or Liga MX Femenil games are being played before fans.
National Independent Soccer Association: The Tier-III professional NISA plans to add another level to its soccer pyramid in 2021 with the new NISA Nation, which will be a full-year league providing amateur teams independent clubs with a path to professional status in the NISA pro league. Last year, the NISA announced affiliations with several regional amateur soccer leagues (Gulf Coast Premier League, Midwest Premier League, Eastern Premier League and Mountain Premier League), so the NISA Nation will be slotted between the NISA pro league and these affiliated leagues and it will include teams from these amateur leagues that are looking to eventually become NISA pro league teams.
National Premier Soccer League: Although only a few West Region teams in the men's elite-level NPSL played some early-season games before play was stopped in March 2020, the league plans to return to play in May 2021. Since play was stopped, the NPSL has announced the addition of several new 2021 teams: the Contra Costa FC (Concord/Walnut, CA), Arkansas Wolves (Little Rock), Georgia Storm (Carrollton), Appalachian FC (Boone, NC), Joy St. Louis Park (MN), Irving FC (TX), Florida Roots Futbol Club (Panama City), Southern States SC (Hattiesburg, MS) and Panathinaikos Chicago. The NPSL also held a five-team NPSL U-19 pilot season with each team playing eight to nine games from September through November 2020.
USL League Two (United Soccer League): The St. Louis Scott (MO) Gallagher club announced plans to place a men's team in the 2021 season of the pre-professional USL League Two. Another St. Louis area USL League Two team called the St. Louis Lions, based in suburban St. Charles County, announced it will sit out the 2021 season due to uncertainties from the coronavirus (COVID-19), but will return in 2022.
Major Arena Soccer League: Since only seven MASL teams are playing this season and only five teams are able to host games due to coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions, the MASL held a Sunshine Series this weekend in Lakeland (FL) with six games played by four teamsâthe Ontario (CA) Fury, Tacoma Stars, San Diego Sockers and Lakeland's Florida Tropics. These same teams will play 5 games as part of the league's 12-game March schedule in a similar tournament-style event in Ontario (CA) next month. The MASL regular season will end next month with the other seven games being hosted by either the Kansas City Comets, St. Louis Ambush or Dallas Sidekicks.
Athletes Unlimited Softball League: Athletes Unlimited is in the planning stages for the second season of its women's professional softball league that will again feature four teams playing all games at the Parkway Bank Sports Complex the Chicago suburb of Rosemont (IL) starting August 28, 2021. Athletes Unlimited plans to start its new women's professional volleyball league next weekend and a women's professional lacrosse league this summer.
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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