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ABL player contracts, along with league and coaching hires, have "delayed" the league's expansion announcement, according to Bruce Berlet of the HARTFORD COURANT. But "it appears Nashville will be the ABL's 10th franchise," as ABL CEO Gary Cavalli visited the city twice "the past two weeks," and it "apparently" beat Tampa and St. Louis in the "expansion sweepstakes." Cavalli: "We've done a lot of careful analysis and it looks like we're going to Nashville." In other news, Cavalli said the league's third season "could begin" two weeks later (around November 1) to avoid the World Series and have "less time opposite" the NFL. Talks are also "continuing" with national TV networks about coverage next season (HARTFORD COURANT, 3/10). LEAGUE FINALS: The Long Beach StingRays and Columbus Quest are currently playing in the league finals, and Game One of the best-of-five drew a sellout crowd of 4,005 in Long Beach (DISPATCH, 3/9). After watching the game, columnist Bill Dwyre called the ABL "the best ticket bargain in pro sports at the moment" with pro athletes "actually playing hard all the time" (L.A. TIMES, 3/9). In S.F., Glenn Dickey wrote the ABL "is doing fine" in year two and said of the two leagues, the ABL is "the better alternative. It's run in the best interests of women's basketball, while the WNBA has a condescending, paternalistic approach. And the ABL has a better game" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/6).
While MLS's third season is set to kick off Sunday, league officials are "uncertain what to expect," according to Frank Dell'Apa of the BOSTON GLOBE. The expansion Miami Fusion will host the DC United in a game televised live on ABC, yet the Fusion "have sold only 1,000 season tickets and 7,000 tickets for the opener." MLS Commissioner Doug Logan: "I'm concerned. I'd prefer to go in with 15,000 advance sales. But we are a week away and we don't know the dynamics of the marketplace. We'll see. We learned about markets in other cities as we went along." Logan added that he has been "disappointed by the New York/New Jersey MetroStars' total of 4,000 season tickets." Logan: "I urged all of our teams to get an early start on season-ticket sales for this season, and some started last August. The MetroStars waited until December, which was disturbing, but some of that had to do with ongoing discussions about Giants Stadium." Dell'Apa calls this "a season for MLS to maintain some equilibrium." While competing against the World Cup in France, MLS "should concentrate on increasing attendance in questionable markets such as" K.C. and "be certain" the MLS Cup in Pasadena on October 25 is a "showpiece event" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/10). Logan said that the Revolution is tops in league season ticket sales with 5,500, while 35,000 season tickets have been sold league-wide (USA TODAY, 3/10). LOOK, UP ON THE BIG SCREEN: MLS is planning in-stadium doubleheaders with a World Cup game shown on the Jumbotron via a TV feed before a league game (N.Y. TIMES, 3/10).
NBA: In N.Y., Ian O'Connor writes under the header, "Trouble Brewing In NBA: Face Lockout, No Jordan." He writes that the NBA "is about to suffer a crisis of charisma" and as NBA Exec Dir Billy Hunter has "established himself as a worthy opponent" to NBA Commissioner David Stern, the union is "more galvanized than ever." The "marriage of employer and employee, a partnership built on trust, grows more frayed by the hour" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/10)....UNC junior/ACC Player of the Year Antawn Jamison said that an NBA work stoppage would impact his decision to turn pro a year early: "I don't want to sit out while the college season is going on" (Mult., 3/10). NHL: In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont wrote that with NHL VP/Operations Brian Burke likely leaving his post this summer, "names being bandied about" to succeed him include Isles GM Mike Milbury and former Canadiens GM Serge Savard. Dupont floats former Bruins Coach Terry O'Reilly for the post (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/8)....On ESPN, Michael Wilbon decried "thuggery" in the NHL and noted the Ducks' Paul Kariya may miss the rest of the season due to a concussion from a hit by the Blackhawks' Gary Suter, who was suspended for four games, Wilbon said, "What good is any league if it won't protect its No. 1 asset, its best players? ... One would hope that the NHL powers that be, who've allowed this ugly environment to exist, will wake up and listen up before anyone else is so seriously and needlessly injured" ("The Sports Reporters," 3/8)....In N.Y., Dave Anderson writes on "Hockey's Concussion Concern" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/10).
Title sponsorship of the WTA Tour is being offered for $25M over three years, which "may seem a bit pricey compared with" the three-year, $12M deal that departing sponsor Corel paid in rights fees, according to Terry Lefton of BRANDWEEK. Lefton: "But WTA rights broker, IMG, Cleveland, has repackaged the sponsorship in proportion with what it claims is a remarkable 11 billion impressions over a year's worth of TV broadcasts to more than 20 countries." The Tour has "increased in-game sponsor ID with the addition of sponsor- branded statistical and scoring updates, and an additional dedicated camera specifically designed to catch sponsor exposure vehicles. ... Also included is a grass roots program, the usual hospitality and tickets and the tour's close working relationship with its players." Virtual signage could also be added if the concept is "high" on a sponsor's list. Lefton adds the price is "likely to raise a few eyebrows." WTA Tour CEO Bart McGuire: "We have some really marketable athletes and I really feel ($25 million is) relatively inexpensive for a year-round property that is the most global of any women's sport" (BRANDWEEK, 3/9).