Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report
by Dan Krieger
March 1, 2021 - Atlantic League (AtL)
Atlantic League: The independent Atlantic League announced the Charleston-based West Virginia Power has come under new ownership and joined the league as the eighth team for the 2021 season. The West Virginia Power was an affiliated team in the low Class-A South Atlantic League, but lost its affiliation as part of the recent restructuring of Minor League Baseball. The eight-team league has been realigned into four-team North and South divisions.
Pecos League: The independent Pecos League announced the 2021 season schedule for its eight-team Mountain Division that will have each team playing a 62-game schedule from early June to early August. The teams will be aligned into four-team Mountain North and Mountain South divisions. The league has yet to announce the final teams and schedule for its California-based Pacific Division.
Liga Mexicana de Beisbol: The Triple-A level LMB or Mexican Baseball League, which is Mexico's highest-level of professional baseball, recently announced its 18 teams will each play a shortened 66-game schedule from May 20 to August 5, 2021. The league has grown from 16 teams with the addition of expansion teams called the Veracruz Aguilas and Guadalajara Mariachis for the 2021 season. The LMB now has two nine-team divisions with Veracruz added to the South and Guadalajara to the North.
Futures Collegiate Baseball League: The Burlington-based Vermont Lake Monsters have come under new ownership and will join the summer-collegiate FCBL for the 2021 season. The team had been part of the affiliated short-season Class-A New York-Penn League (NYPL), but was not offered an affiliation when the NYPL was shut down during the recent restructuring of Minor League Baseball.
Canadian Elite Basketball League: The seven-team professional CEBL announced this week its 2021 season schedule will feature each team playing a 14-game schedule from early June to mid-August rather than a 20-game schedule normally starting in May. The league cannot play past August due to the number of international players who will need to return to their regular teams in September. Entering its third season, the CEBL played a two-week series of games at one location last season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). The CEBL also announced a director of operations in Montreal where an eighth team is being planned for the 2022 season.
Women's American Basketball Association: The WABA recently announced new teams called the New England Trailblazers and the South Phoenix Legacy have been added to the league.
American Basketball Association: The semi-pro ABA announced the Columbia (SC) Rams will be added for the 2021-22 season. The team formerly operated as the Charlotte Rams for some games in the 2017-18 season.
National Basketball League of Canada: Owners in the eight-team NBL-Canada are supposed to meet next week to determine the fate of its 2020-21 season. The NBL-Canada season usually runs from late December through April, but the league announced March 12, 2021 as a tentative start date for this season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The league needs the revenue from fan attendance, but that does not look possible with a mid-March start due to ongoing coronavirus restrictions.
Champions Indoor Football: The CIF's Amarillo Venom and Odessa-based West Texas Warbirds have exercised the league's option for teams to sit out this season without penalty due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Therefore, the CIF will operate with only six teams: the Oklahoma City Flying Aces (Enid), Omaha Beef, Salina (KS) Liberty, Sioux City (IA) Bandits, Wichita Force and the new Wyoming Mustangs (Gillette). The 2021 regular season will run from March 27 through June 26.
ECHL: The ECHL's Brampton Beast (Ontario, Canada) announced the team has withdrawn its league membership and will cease operations due to the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19). The Beast was one of several ECHL teams that had decided to sit out the 2020-21 season due to the coronavirus. The Brampton Beast started play in the 2013-14 season as part of the Central Hockey League (CHL) and joined the ECHL the following season when the CHL folded.
United States Premier Hockey League: The junior-level USPHL announced the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights will operate Tier-III teams in the USPHL Premier Division and Elite Division for the 2021-22 season. The USPHL Premier Division's expansion team for Hershey (PA) will be called the Hershey Cubs when it starts play in the 2021-22 season.
Quebec Major Junior Hockey League: Officials in the province of New Brunswick have given the 18-team QMJHL permission for the league's three New Brunswick teams (Acadie-Bathurst, Moncton Wildcats and Saint John Sea Dogs) in the six-team Maritimes Division to resume play against each other starting on March 8. The New Brunswick teams had been idle since mid-November, while the three other Maritimes Divisions teams restarted play during the last week of January.
Western Hockey League: The major-junior WHL announced the schedule for its five-team U.S. Division will start March 18 with each team playing a 24-game schedule. The division's four Washington-based teamsâthe Spokane Chiefs, Everett Silvertips, Seattle Thunderbirds (Kent) and Tri-City Americans (Kennewick)âwill host games without fans. The Portland (OR) Winterhawks, the only team outside of Washington, will start off playing home games in Kent (WA) due to health restrictions in Oregon.
Major League Soccer: MLS announced its Sacramento expansion team that was to begin play in 2023 is on hold after the team's major investor, who was planning to move the Sacramento Republic FC of the Division-II USL Championship up to MLS, decided not to go forward with acquisition of an MLS expansion team due to the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This investor was also behind financing of a new 21,000-seat downtown stadium for the MLS team, but projected costs had increased and it has not yet broken ground. If MLS cannot find new investors in Sacramento, it might have to look elsewhere for its 30th team. The USL Championship team will continue to play in Sacramento.
National Independent Soccer Association: The owner of the new Chicago expansion team in the men's Tier-III professional NISA announced the team will be called the Chicago House AC (Athletic Club) when it starts play in August. The nickname is inspired by the Chicago house style of music.
United Soccer League â Women's Pro-Am League: The USL has named a director of women's soccer operations as the USL is reported to be working on creation of a new women's pro-am league, possibly at a level below the National Women's Soccer League. The men's Division-III National Independent Soccer Association and the pro-am United Women's Soccer recently announced plans to create a new women's professional league.
United Women's Soccer: The pro-am UWS announced three more new teams for 2021. The FC Buffalo Women will join the East Conference, the Chicago KICS FC will join the Midwest Conference, and the Austin-based CTX Hornets will move up from the UWS League Two in the Southwest Conference. In the UWS League Two (U20 to U23 players), the Baltimore-based Coppermine SC has joined the Mid-Atlantic Conference, the Fort Lauderdale-based Sunrise FC has joined the Sunshine Conference, and the Aztec SC (Topfield, MA) and South Shore Select (Hingham, MA) have joined the New England Conference.
USL League Two (United Soccer League): The pre-professional USL League Two announced its 2021 season will have a flexible start with 9 of the 12 regional divisions beginning play in the first week of May. The league will have 82 teams this season including 15 new teams. One of the new teams recently added is the Kings Hammer (Cincinnati) in the Great Lakes Division. The Evergreen FC (Leesburg, VA) was renamed the Northern Virginia FC and West Virginia Alliance (Charleston) is now called the West Virginia United.
National Lacrosse League: The professional indoor NLL's announced the sale of the New England Black Wolves (Uncasville, CT) to a group that will move the team to Albany (NY) for the 2021-22 season. The new Albany team has already announced a name-the-team contest. The Black Wolves joined the NLL for the 2014-15 season with the relocation of the Philadelphia Wings to the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville. Albany had a former NLL team called the Albany Attack that joined as an expansion team and played four seasons (2000-03) before relocating to San Jose.
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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