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 Appalachian League

Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
June 10, 2024 - Appalachian League (ApL)


Atlantic League: The Gastonia (NC) Baseball Club of the independent Atlantic League played a series this week (June 6-June 9) as the Gastonia Bolognia, which is the second of eight potential names the team will use for "What If" games this season to test fan reaction as it selects a permanent name for the 2025 season. The team also announced the Gastonia Ghost Peppers will be the team's name for the "What If #4" series this summer (August 2-August 4).

Appalachian League: The summer-collegiate Appy League, which operates under the Major League Baseball and USA Baseball Prospect Development Pipeline, started its 2024 season this week and again has ten teams aligned in a five-team East and five-team West. The Princeton (WV) Whistlepigs team shut down after the 2023 season and a new team called the Tri-State Coal Cats (Huntington, WV) replaced the Whistlepigs in the East. Each team will play a 48-game schedule through July 2024. As the league's Bristol State Liners wait for a new ballpark to be built in Bristol (TN) to replace Devault Stadium in Bristol (VA), the team will play all 24 home games on the road at other Appy League ballparks.

Empire Baseball League: The independent EBL started its 2024 season this weekend with four New York State-based teams from last season called the Saranac Lake Surge, Malone Border Hounds, Tupper Lake Riverpigs and North Country Thunderbirds, formerly the Plattsburgh Thunderbirds. A fifth travel-only team called the Japan Islanders from last season is not returning for the 2024 season. Each EBL team will play a 36-game schedule through July 17, 2024.

Major League Baseball Draft League: The MLB Draft League started the first part of its 2024 split-season schedule that features the same six teams as last season and again aligned in a single-table format. The first part is for draft-eligible amateur players leading up to the MLB draft with teams playing 35 games through July 13. After the MLB draft, the second part will feature players who have exhausted their amateur eligibility with teams playing 45 games from July 18 through September 4. The 2024 teams include the Frederick (MD) Keys, Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Niles, OH), State College (PA) Spikes, Trenton (NJ) Thunder, West Virginia Black Bears (Morgantown) and Williamsport (PA) Crosscutters. The head of the Trenton Thunder, which lost its Major League affiliation in the Double-A Eastern League and joined the Draft League in 2021, is still looking to again become a Major League affiliate in the future.


National Basketball Association: Prior to the start of the NBA's championship series this week, the NBA commissioner stated the league will begin exploring possible expansion from 30 to 32 teams. Seattle and Las Vegas have been mentioned as frontrunners in the past but are not guaranteed. The commissioner also stated the league would like to consider future expansion outside of the United States. Mexico City has been mentioned as a possibility and groups in Vancouver and Montreal have expressed interest in an NBA expansion team.

Unrivaled Basketball League: The proposed new women's professional 3-on-3 Unrivaled basketball league has confirmed its start in January 2025 as an off-season alternative for current WNBA players. The league was started by two current WNBA players as another option for top players to play domestically during the WNBA's off-season. The Unrivaled league will include six teams playing all games at a single location in Miami. Team names will be announced this summer.

Women's Professional Basketball Association: The women's developmental WPBA, which is based in the Bay Area of California and assists players looking for opportunities to play overseas, started its third season last weekend and again has eight teams. Each team will play an eight-game schedule with all teams competing at one location on eight Saturdays through July 2024.


Canadian Football League: The CFL started its 2024 season this week with the same nine teams as last season and again aligned in a five-team West Division and a four-team East Division. Each team will play an 18-games schedule through October 26, 2024. The Charlottetown (Prince Edward Island) city council stated it does not want to move forward with a group trying to build a 25,000-seat stadium in the city for a proposed CFL expansion team to be called the Atlantic Moose.

International Football Alliance: The proposed new 11-man outdoor minor professional IFA, which plans to start play in the spring of 2025 with teams based in Mexico and the United States, recently announced its eighth team will be based in San Antonio. The other teams based in the United States include the Las Vegas Kings, Dallas Pioneros, Tampa Bay Tornadoes and Alabama Beavers (Huntsville). The IFA's Mexican teams include the Chihuahua Rebelión, Cancun Sharks and Tequileros de Jalisco (Guadalajara).


ECHL: The professional AA-level ECHL announced its 2024-25 season schedule that will feature 29 teams aligned in an Eastern Conference with a seven-team North Division and a seven-team South Division, and a Western Conference with a seven-team Central Division and an eight-team Mountain Division. The ECHL had 28 teams last season but the Newfoundland Growlers (St. John's) were dropped at the end of the season and did not return, while two expansion teams called the Bloomington (IL) Bison and the Tahoe Knight Monsters (Stateline, NV) were added. Bloomington was placed in the Central, the Wheeling (WV) Nailers moved from the Central to the North to replace Newfoundland, and Tahoe was added to the Mountain. Each team will play 72 games from October 18, 2024, through April 13, 2025.

Federal Prospects Hockey League: The Perkin Hockey Group, which owns the Baton Rouge (LA) Zydeco team in the minor professional FPHL, is bringing an expansion team called the Monroe (LA) Moccasins to the FPHL for the 2024-25 season. A team by the same name played four seasons (1997-2001) as part of the former Western Professional Hockey League (WPHL) but it was not included in the merger of the WPHL with the former Central Hockey League for the 2001-02 season. The Perkin Hockey Group wants to bring professional hockey to other cities in Louisiana and is also trying to bring a future National Hockey League expansion team to New Orleans.

National Hockey League: The owner of the NHL's new Salt Lake City-based Utah team, formerly the Arizona Coyotes, announced 6 potential team names as finalists for fan voting from the original list of 20 names. The nicknames are up for a second round of fan voting through June 20 and include the Utah Blizzard, Utah Hockey Club (Utah HC), Utah Mammoth, Utah Outlaws, Utah Venom and Utah Yeti. The team will start simply as "Utah" with the team's official name to be announced during the 2024-25 season.

United States Premier Hockey League: The Minnesota Moose (Blaine), which played the past four seasons (2020-24) in the Tier-III junior-level USPHL Premier Conference, is moving to Spooner (WI) where the team will be renamed the Northwest Express for the 2024-25 season. Spooner was home to a previous USPHL team called the Wisconsin Muskies for one season (2017-18) and is the current home of the Wisconsin Lumberjacks in the Junior-A Canadian Junior Hockey League's Superior International Junior Hockey League. A different Blaine-based Minnesota Moose team will play in the 2024-25 season as part of the Tier-III North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL) after the relocation and rebranding of the NA3HL's Oregon (WI) Tradesmen team.


Northern Super League: Canada's proposed new women's professional NSL announced its Toronto team will be called AFC Toronto (Association Football Club Toronto) when the league starts play in 2025 with six teams. The NSL evolved from the "Project 8" organization where the Toronto team was originally listed as the AFC Toronto City.

Major League Soccer: The Indianapolis City-County Council approved the creation of a new tax district for a downtown professional sports development area that is to include a new MLS-style soccer stadium for a proposed MLS expansion team. The Indianapolis mayor supported this tax district over another downtown site where the owner of the Indy Eleven from the Division-II USL Championship is trying to build an MLS-style soccer stadium for the Indy Eleven and a possible future MLS team.

National Futsal Premier League: The amateur-level NFPL recently completed its 2024 season with eight men's teams aligned in four-team Midwest and Southwest divisions. Each team was scheduled to play nine games from December 3, 2023, through April 27, 2024.


Athletes Unlimited Softball League: The women's Athletes Unlimited, which operates single-location short-season professional competitions in softball, volleyball, lacrosse and basketball, announced it will start a traditional women's softball league under the AUSL name starting in May 2025. The AUSL will have at least four teams each playing a 30-game season. The AUSL will play a tour-based schedule in 2025 featuring six to eight cities but it will become a city-based league starting in 2026. The existing five-week Athletes Unlimited Pro Softball competition held annually in Rosemont (IL) during July and August will continue to operate after the AUSL season and it will be renamed the AUSL Champions Cup in 2025. The Athletes Unlimited Pro Softball recently signed a five-year lease extension at the Rosemont complex. The AUSL will be announcing the schedule, locations and teams for the new league in the near future.

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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