Just Wednesday the Orlando Predators folded and the Jacksonville Sharks announced their withdrawal from the Arena Football League with intentions to join a rival league. Friday the league lost two more teams to shrink to just five.
The rosters of the Portland Steel and LA KISS were placed into a dispersal draft Friday, effectively signalling the end of the two franchises without even a press release. The Steel had been run by the league without an owner in 2016 and with less owners left in the league, the cost to run the team would likely have been too burdensome on those remaining considering the AFL doesn't generate the revenues any of the five major leagues in the U.S. do. The LA KISS had been owned by Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons of the rock band KISS, but the team stopped answering phone calls or posting anything to social media in recent weeks and had been presumed dead.
Neither loss comes as a total shock, although the last team left in question may be. The Arizona Rattlers are perennial Arena Bowl contenders and one of the better supported teams in the league. They participated in the dispersal draft, drafting players from the four departed teams, but their status for the 2017 season may not be so certain either as reports state the team filed an application to join the Indoor Football League and was accepted. The team must now determine which league it will play in for the 2017 season.
The remaining four teams, excluding the Rattlers, seem to be committed to playing the 2017 season with eyes set on a brighter future. Three of the four are owned by either NBA or NHL ownership groups: Cleveland (Cavaliers), Tampa Bay (Lightning) and Washington (Capitals and Wizards). The Philadelphia Soul are the other remaining franchise.
The end of the Arena Football League is a thought that is going through the heads of many of its fans Wednesday as unfortunate news begins to spread out and adding to their fears.
The Orlando Predators have suspended operations and will no longer play in the league the team announced. Later in the day, the Jacksonville Sharks announced their intentions to move to a rival league, which one to be announced next week, and their departure from the AFL.
Even after losing two of its better attended markets, they may not be the last to go. The Portland Steel were propped up by the owners of the other teams in the 2016 season and the LA KISS are rumored to be folding as well. Chances may be better than not that neither team returns next year. And even with the Capitals/Wizards-owned Washington Valor set to kick off in 2017, that leaves the league with just five teams, its lowest total since 1989.
As of now, the league has just seven teams and may need to assure that a few more franchises can be secured this offseason if it is to survive.
Atlanta United FC will not play its first home game as a Major League Soccer team at Mercedes-Benz Stadium as originally planned. Instead, the club will play at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Georgia Tech until the new stadium is ready later in the season.
A college football stadium by trade, the venue that opened in 1913 has also hosted teams in the original North American Soccer League and in the Women's United Soccer Association. The venue currently holds approximately 55,000 and will have no problem handling crowds for the games, even as United already seems poised to rank among the league's best attended clubs.
Playing at temporary venues is not unheard of for expansion teams waiting for new stadiums to open. In fact, some form of temporary housing is commonplace. Minnesota United FC will spend at least one season at University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium, while New York City FC (2015) is still playing at Yankee Stadium, Orlando City SC (2015) is opening its new stadium next year, the Montreal Impact (2012) played at a former MLB and CFL stadium until Stade Saputo opened later in the season, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (2011) played at a temporarily-constructed stadium for most of their first season and the Philadelphia Union (2010) played their first two games at an NFL stadium. During that same time period, only the Portland Timbers (2011) opened at their permanent venue.