UFL to launch play with four franchises

CHICAGO -- The United Football League said Monday it will kick off play in October with a smaller slate of teams than planned due to the recession.

The four teams, which will play in seven cities in the
inaugural season, is short of the six-to-eight the smaller
rival of the NFL had hoped to open with,
and league executives blamed the economy.

"The combination of the recession and the recent troubles
on Wall Street left many investors unable to make the
commitment we required for overall financial stability," the
UFL said in a statement. "There is no question that the economy has played a role in
our decision-making and will continue to do so for the
unforeseen future."

The initial UFL teams include New York/Hartford,
Conn.; Las Vegas/Los Angeles; San Francisco/Sacramento;
and Orlando, Florida, the UFL said.

The six-week season will culminate with a championship game
tentatively scheduled for Thanksgiving weekend in Las Vegas.

The new league said its players will train in Casa Grande, Ariz., where a $20 million complex is being built for both
city and UFL use. It will begin signing players in July.

It is a difficult time to launch a league, as even the NFL,
Major League Baseball and the NBA have been hurt by the recession. Women's Professional Soccer
also plans to start play this year.

UFL investors, who are putting a combined $30 million into
the league, include well-known investment banker Bill Hambrecht
and Google Inc. executive Tim Armstrong, as well as
Paul Pelosi, the husband of Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the
U.S. House of Representatives.

Missing from the lineup is billionaire Mark Cuban, who was
originally listed in 2007 as a potential owner. Cuban, who owns
the Dallas Mavericks, was charged last year by federal
regulators with insider trading.

The UFL, which plans average ticket prices of $20, said it
was negotiating lease agreements for the teams with stadium
operators, as well as a broadcast agreement to nationally
televise a game each week.

Details of those agreements will be announced when
the deals are finalized, but the league previously told Reuters it was
negotiating with Major League Soccer teams about using their

The UFL's plans already have been scaled back as it had
initially hoped to begin play last year.

It also originally had planned to open with eight teams in
markets where the NFL did not have teams, starting play in
August. It had planned for each owner to put up $30 million for
a half-interest in a team with the UFL owning the other half.

In May 2008, UFL commissioner Michael Huyghue told Reuters
owners would initially put up $60 million and had been told to
expect losses of $25 million to $30 million a year for the
first three years, with profits to follow in the third to fifth