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Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
February 19, 2024 - NBA G League (G League)


BASEBALL

Atlantic League: After playing only the 2023 season as the Lexington (KY) Counter Clocks, the new ownership of the independent Atlantic League team has changed the team's name back to the Lexington Legends. The Lexington Legends were an affiliated team in the South Atlantic League (2001-20) and joined the Atlantic League for the 2021 season. Prior ownership took over before the 2023 season and renamed the team the Lexington Counter Clocks. As the league's Lancaster (PA) Barnstormers team heads into its 20th season in 2024, the team has undergone a rebranding as the Lancaster Stormers.

Appalachian League: The summer-collegiate Appalachian League's new Huntington (WV) team will be called the Tri-State Coal Cats when the team starts play in the 2024 season. The team represents West Virginia, Southern Ohio and Northeast Kentucky. The Coal Cats replaces the league's Princeton (WV) Whistlepigs team that shut down after the 2023 season.

Pecos Spring League: The independent Pecos League has posted the schedule for the 2024 Pecos Spring League, which is a showcase for rookie and undrafted free agent players looking to sign with an independent team for the summer season. The schedule currently lists four teams (Houston Apollos, Weimar Hormingas, Colorado Springs Snow Sox and Waco Reserve) playing from March 5 through March 20, 2024, with all games played at a complex in Houston.

Southern League: The previously announced relocation of the Double-A Southern League's Mississippi Braves from Pearl (MS) to Columbus (GA) could be delayed. The team wants to start playing in Columbus for the 2025 season, but a delay by the city council in hiring a contractor for much-needed renovations to the local ballpark could mean the ballpark would not be ready as planned for the start of the 2025 season.

BASKETBALL

National Basketball Association Gatorade League (G-League): The NBA's Phoenix Suns, which was the last NBA team without an affiliated G-League team, have acquired the rights to operate a G-League franchise and a team will start play in the Phoenix metro area in the league's 2024-25 season. A name-the-team contest has started. With the addition of this new team, the league will grow to 32 teams-30 teams affiliated with NBA teams along with the non-affiliated G-League Ignite and Mexico City Capitanes teams. The Phoenix Suns had a previous G-League team called the Northern Arizona Suns (Prescott Valley) for four seasons (2016-20) before being sold to the NBA's Detroit Pistons and relocated to Grand Rapids (MI).

FOOTBALL

National Arena League: With only a month until the start of the 2024 season, the NAL has terminated the membership of the Fort Worth-based North Texas Bulls franchise for failure to pay league dues and to execute an arena lease for the 2024 season. The Bulls stated the team has separated from the NAL and indicates it will play some sort of season in 2024. The North Texas Bulls played in the 2021 season of the American Arena League and one game in the 2022 season of the American Football Association before joining the NAL for the 2024 season. The NAL notified the ownership of the Topeka Tropics franchise that its membership has been revoked for non-payment of league dues. The NAL stated it is in discussions with new ownership as it tries to keep a Topeka team part of the 2024 season. The Topeka Tropics spent the 2022 and 2023 seasons in the now-defunct Championship Indoor Football (CIF) and joined the NAL when the CIF disbanded after the 2023 season. Prior to the issues with North Texas and Topeka, the NAL had announced a schedule for eight teams to start the season on March 15, 2024.

Liga de Futbol Americano: Mexico's top professional American-style outdoor football league known as the LFA announced its 2024 season schedule will feature nine teams each playing an eight-game schedule from March 1 through May 5, 2024.

Spring Indoor Football: The new pro developmental SIF has posted the 2024 season schedule that will feature six teams playing four to five games from March 2 through March 30, 2024. Teams include the Pittsburgh Outlaws, Indianapolis Enforcers and Ohio Blitz (Lima) that were part of the fall-season United Indoor Football League, along with the Kentucky Herd Kings (Louisville), Ohio Legends (Columbus) and Second City Ronin (Lexington, KY).

HOCKEY

American Hockey League: The AHL's Providence (RI) Bruins played two games this weekend as the Providence Fighting Reds for the Rhode Island Comic Con weekend and as a tribute to the city's former minor league hockey team called the Providence Reds. The league's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (PA) Penguins played a game this weekend as the Pittston Tomatoes as part of a "Visit Lucerne County" promotion. Pittston is about midway between Scranton and Wilkes-Barre and home to the annual Pittston Tomato Festival.

Eastern Hockey League: After playing its first season in the Tier-III junior-level EHL, the Providence (RI) Hockey Club announced plans to add a developmental team in the EHL Premier league for the 2024-25 season.

United States Premier Hockey League: The USPHL's Tier-III Premier Conference announced the addition of a new six-team Canada Division for the 2024-25 season. The USPHL's Quebec-based College Universel Gatineau, which joined this season as a travel-only team playing as part of the New England Division, will be part of the new Canada Division along with the Quebec-based Somang Laurentides Lanaudiere Hockey, Montreal BlackVees and College Universel Sherbrooke, and the Ontario-based Hawkesbury Knights and Kingston Wranglers.

SOCCER

National Independent Soccer Association: The men's Division-III professional NISA announced its 2024 season will feature nine teams aligned in a five-team East Conference and a four-team West Conference. Last season, the league had nine teams aligned in a single-table format but the Flower City/ Salt City Union (Rochester/Auburn, NY), Albion San Diego, Gold Star FC Detroit and Chattanooga FC will not return. Gold Star FC will rebrand under new ownership for a return in 2025. Chattanooga FC moved to the MLS Next Pro league for 2024. The league has added four new teams called the Georgia Lions FC (Conyers), Capistrano FC, or Capo FC (San Juan Capistrano, CA), Irvine (CA) Zeta FC and the Phoenix-based Arizona Monsoon. East Conference teams will each play 24 games (20 inter-conference and 4 against West Conference teams) while the West Conference will each play 23 games (18-interconference and 5 against East Conference teams). The 2024 season will run from March 23 through September 2024.

USL League Two (United Soccer League): The men's pre-professional USL League Two announced teams called the Dothan United SC (Dothan, AL) and Athens United Soccer Association (Athens, GA) have been added for the 2024 season, which will feature 20 expansion teams and a total of 128 teams. The league also announced its 2024 alignment will feature a 27-team Central Conference with 4 regional divisions; a 40-team Eastern Conference with 5 divisions; a 30-team Southern Conference with 5 divisions; and a 31-team Western Conference with 4 divisions.

USL W-League (United Soccer League): The women's pre-professional W-League announced the Charlotte Eagles, which has a men's team in the pre-professional USL League Two, and the Athens United Soccer Association (Athens, GA), which will also add a new men's team in the 2024 pre-professional USL League Two, have been added for the 2024 season. The league also announced its 2024 alignment will feature 80 teams aligned in 4 conferences (Central, Eastern, Southern and Western) with each conference further aligned in 3 regional divisions.

National Women's Soccer League: As part of the league's vetting process for its 16th franchise expansion team, the NWSL commissioner stated the league has 59 groups in conversations and 11 of these groups have signed non-disclosure agreements. The NWSL is more interested in the quality of the ownership and facilities rather than simply a particular market. The NWSL wants the 16th team to start play in 2026 along with Boston, which was recently awarded the league's 15th franchise.

OTHER

Premier Lacrosse League: The tour-based professional field lacrosse PLL is holding an indoor pre-season PLL Championship Series in Springfield (VA) from February 15 through February 19 with four of its eight teams (Utah Archers, California Redwoods, Philadelphia Waterdogs and Boston Cannons). This round-robin tournament features teams playing an Olympic-style six-on-six version of field lacrosse rather than the league's outdoor ten-player version. As part of the event, the PLL held a women's professional lacrosse exhibition with a Team North and a Team South competing in an Unleashed All-Star Game.

Dan Krieger is the creator of the Weekly Sports League & Franchise Report, which has been tracking the changes in the sports world's leagues, teams, and nicknames since April 2007.


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