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 Northwest League

Weekly Sports League and Franchise Report

by Dan Krieger
June 17, 2024 - Northwest League (NWL)


BASEBALL

Northwest League: The Eugene (OR) Emeralds of the High-A Northwest League stated they will start looking for a new home after voters failed to approve an additional bond to help fund a new ballpark. The team is under pressure to find a new home since its current ballpark does not meet new ballpark standards established by Major League Baseball for its affiliates in Minor League Baseball. Team officials have gone outside of Oregon to visit locations that have shown an interest in the team, but stated relocation would not happen for two-and-a-half to four years.

International League: The Worcester WooSox of the Triple-A International League played a game last week (June 9) as a tribute to the city's former team called the Worcester Worcesters, which played three seasons (1880-82) in the National League and was unofficially referred to as the Ruby Legs. When the Pawtucket Red Sox moved to Worcester for the 2021 season, "Ruby Legs" was one of the nicknames under consideration for the International League team.

Independent League Baseball: The summer-collegiate ILB recently started its 2024 season with eight teams-five league members and three unaffiliated travel-only teams. Of the six league members from last season, the Badlands Big Sticks (Dickinson, ND) moved to the Northwoods League. Of the two travel-only teams from last season, the Sawtooth Sockeyes did not return while the Plainsmen Baseball and Bison Baseball teams were added as 2024 unaffiliated travel-only teams.

Prospect League: The summer-collegiate Prospect League recently started its 2024 season growing from 17 to 18 teams aligned in an Eastern Conference with a four-team Northeast Division and a five-team Central Division, and a Westen Conference with a four-team Northwest Division and a five-team South Division. In the off-season, the Dubois County Bombers (Huntingburg, IN) and the Full Count Rhythm (Hendersonville, TN) joined the Prospect League from last season's summer-collegiate Ohio Valley League with the Bombers purchasing the Prospect League's West Virginia Miners (Beckley) team, which sat out the 2023 season, and the Rhythm purchasing the 2023 Prospect League's Quincy (IL) Gems team.

Mid-America League: The new summer-collegiate MAL recently started its inaugural 2024 season with six teams. Five of the teams called the Abilene (TX) Flying Bison, Fort Smith (AR) Marshals, Piney Woods Timberhogs (White Oak, TX), Sherman (TX) Sandcats and Texarkana (TX) Rhinos are new, while the Joplin (MO) Outlaws were a previous member of the summer-collegiate MINK League.

West Coast League: The summer-collegiate WCL recently started its 2024 season with the same 16 teams aligned in eight-team North and South divisions. The WCL teams are based in Oregon (4), Washington (6), British Columbia (5) and Alberta (1).

Western Canadian Baseball League: The WCBL, which is a college wood bat league with teams based in Alberta and Saskatchewan and mostly comprised of collegiate players, recently started its 2024 season with 12 teams aligned in six-team East and West divisions. The league had ten teams last season but it added the new Saskatoon Berries expansion team to the East, and the Edmonton Prospects returned to the West after sitting out the 2023 season.

BASKETBALL

American Basketball Association: The men's semi-pro ABA announced teams called the Goldsboro (NC) Wings and Jackson (TN) Boom have joined the league for the 2024-25 season.

BIG3 League: The tour-based professional 3-on-3 BIG3 basketball league started its 2024 season this weekend with the same 12 teams as last season. The 2024 season features all 12 teams playing at eight weekend tour stops in Oakland, Tampa, Baltimore, Newark, Anaheim, Portland (OR), Cincinnati, and San Antonio followed by playoff events in Nashville and Boston. This will be the last season with centrally operated teams. Next season, each of the 12 BIG3 teams will be under individual ownership as they transition to representing home markets. Los Angeles and Miami will be the first BIG3 home markets.

Independent Professional Women's Basketball League: The IPWBL starts its 2024 season this month and has expanded to 13 teams aligned in a seven-team Midwest Region and a six-team Southern Region. One of the IPWBL's new teams is the Kansas City Crossover, which was part of last season's four-team Global Women's Basketball Association (GWBA). Another GWBA team called the Wisconsin Glo (Oshkosh) was scheduled to be part of the IPWBL but has since dropped out for 2024 due to arena issues. The GWBA has not provided any updates on its 2024 season and appears to be idle this summer.

FOOTBALL

American Indoor Football: The AIF held its 2024 championship game this week after completing its regular season with only four active teams-the Columbus (GA) Lions, Corpus Christi Tritons, Harrisburg Stampede and Amarillo Venom. The AIF had big plans for its rebirth in 2024 and hoped to have eight to nine teams. During planning for the 2024 season, the AIF had announced teams called the West Virginia Miners (Wheeling) and River City Rage (Council Bluffs, IA) but the Miners left the AIF and became the Wheeling Miners in the American Arena League 2, while the River City Rage (Council Bluffs, IA) dropped out of the 2024 season and was to relocate and become the Coralville (IA) Chaos in 2025. The AIF's original 2024 schedule had seven teams but one of those teams called the Albany (GA) Flint Rivergators could not find a home arena and was removed, so the season started with six teams. During the 2024 season, the Mississippi Raiders (Batesville) were expelled after forfeiting their first game due to unsafe field conditions at their arena. The AIF's Cedar Rapids River Kings dropped out of the 2024 season after playing only two league games.

National Arena League: The NAL held its 2024 championship game this weekend after completing its regular season with five active teams-the Carolina Cobras (Greensboro, NC), Colorado Spartans (Loveland), Omaha Beef, Sioux City (IA) Bandits and Idaho Horsemen (Nampa). Of the seven teams from last season only the Carolina Cobras returned in 2024. Both the Albany (NY) Empire and Fayetteville (NC) Mustangs dropped out during 2023 and did not return. The Jacksonville Sharks and San Antonio Gunslingers moved to the Indoor Football League. The Orlando Predators and Odessa-based West Texas Warbirds, reborn as the West Texas Desert Hawks, moved to the new Arena Football League. The NAL added seven teams: the new Colorado Spartans; the Idaho Horsemen from the 2023 American West Football Conference; a former 2021 American Arena League called the North Texas Bulls (Fort Worth); the Omaha Beef, Sioux City Bandits and Topeka Tropics from the 2023 Champions Indoor Football (CIF); and the Oklahoma Flying Aces (Enid), a CIF team that was dormant in 2023. The NAL planned to operate with eight teams in 2024 but started with six teams when the North Texas Bulls and Topeka Tropics were both dropped a month before the 2024 season. After playing only four road games, the Oklahoma Aces suspended operations midway through the NAL's 2024 season.

HOCKEY

Alberta Junior Hockey League: The AJHL, which is one of nine Junior-A leagues under the Canadian Junior Hockey League, announced its 2024-25 season will feature 12 teams aligned in six-team divisions called the Viterra AJHL North and Viterra AJHL South. The AJHL started its 2023-24 season with 16 teams aligned in a single-table format but 5 teams defected to the independent British Columbia Hockey League midway through the season and the AJHL finished the season with 11 teams. An expansion team called the Devon (Alberta) Xtreme was added to bring the league to 12 teams for 2024-25.

Federal Prospects Hockey League: The minor professional FPHL announced it will play four neutral-site regular-season games in Topeka (KS) in January and February 2025 as the league tests the market for a possible future team. The FPHL continues to target additional new markets as it grows from 11 to 14 teams for its 15th season in 2024-25.

Ontario Hockey League: The major-junior OHL approved the relocation of the Mississauga Steelheads to the CAA Centre in Brampton, about 15 miles to the north, where the team will play as the Brampton Steelheads starting with the 2024-25 season.

Ontario Junior Hockey League: The OJHL, which is one of nine Junior-A leagues under the Canadian Junior Hockey League, recently approved the relocation of the Brantford 99ers team to the town of King, about 80 miles northeast, where the team will play as the King Rebellion starting with the 2024-25 season.

SOCCER

Northern Super League: Canada's proposed new women's professional NSL announced its Halifax (Nova Scotia) team will be called the Halifax Tides FC when the league starts play in 2025 with six teams. The NSL evolved from the "Project 8" organization where the Halifax team was originally listed as the Atlantic Women's FC. So far, the NSL's named teams include the Halifax Tides FC, AFC Toronto and the Calgary Wild FC, while teams announced for Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal are still to be named.

National Women's Soccer League: The 14-team Division-I professional NWSL has identified Boston as the location for its 15th team to be added for the 2026 season and wants to announce the location for a 16th team by the end of this year. Cincinnati, Cleveland and Minneapolis/St. Paul are reported to be the top three candidates. The men's FC Cincinnati team of Major League Soccer is behind the effort for an NWSL team. A group called Cleveland Professional Soccer, which was recently awarded a men's MLS NEXT Pro franchise, has submitted a bid for an NWSL franchise. The women's Minnesota Aurora team in the pre-professional USL W-League has also submitted a bid to bring an NWSL team to Minneapolis/St. Paul. Groups in Atlanta, Nashville, Jacksonville and Denver have also expressed interest in an NWSL team.

OTHER

Northwoods Softball League: The new women's NSL summer-collegiate softball league, which is operated by the men's summer-collegiate baseball league called the Northwoods League, started its inaugural 2024 season this weekend with four teams called the Madison (WI) Night Mares, La Crosse (WI) Steam, Mankato (MN) Habaneros and Minot (ND) Honeybees. Each team will play a 40-game schedule through August 8, 2024.

U.S. Association of Rugby League (USARL): The elite amateur-level USARL, which is the governing body for the l3-player "rugby league" version of the sport, recently started its 2024 season with four affiliated leagues that include 18 men's teams and 7 women's teams playing their regular seasons through August 2024. The Pacific Coast Rugby League (PCRL) has a six-team Men's Division and a four-team Women's Division. The Utah Rugby League Association (URLA) has only a four-team Men's Division. The Florida Rugby League (FRL) features a four-team Men's Division and two women's teams. The Rugby League United (RLU) features a four-team Men's Division and one women's team. The champions from the western leagues (PCRL and URLA) and the champions from the eastern leagues (FRL and RLU) will play to determine the West and East champions to compete in the USARL National Championship.

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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