Sports News

UFL eyeing overseas expansion in year two or three

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Only a few months away from beginning his U.S. football league’s inaugural season, the United Football League’s commissioner is already talking about overseas expansion.

Michael Huyghue, commissioner of the newly-formed United Football League (UFL), speaks at a news conference in San Francisco, California March 11, 2009. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

The UFL, set to begin play in October with four teams competing in seven cities, is eyeing teams in Europe for next year or the year after, Commissioner Michael Huyghue said.

“Foreign expansion for UFL very likely for year two or three,” he wrote in a Tuesday post on Twitter, a fast-growing micro-blogging service. “Some fantastic soccer stadiums that would work perfectly.”

UFL spokeswoman Rachel Gary confirmed Huyghue’s comments and that he is in Europe. She said the UFL is looking at expansion both overseas and in the United States over the next two years.

Huyghue previously said the league will expand by at least two to four teams in 2010, and the UFL has discussed putting a team in Mexico.

Huyghue, who wrote he had visited London, Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin and was on his way to Barcelona, Madrid and Italy, said there was strong interest in American football despite the failure of the National Football League’s European league.

The NFL, which has played regular-season games in Mexico and England, launched an American football league in Europe in 1991 but closed it in 2007.

The UFL in February announced plans to kick off its inaugural season with a smaller slate of teams -- it had initially targeted six to eight teams -- due to the U.S. recession.

Investors in the UFL include W.R. Hambrecht + Co CEO William Hambrecht; the former head of First Boston Corp, William Mayer; Google executive Tim Armstrong, and Paul Pelosi, the husband of Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The UFL is the latest in a series of leagues to compete against the NFL since the 1970s. Its predecessors -- the World Football League, the United States Football League and, most recently, the XFL -- all failed.

However, Huyghue and UFL officials have vowed not to overspend or set unrealistic expectations -- mistakes of past NFL rivals. Huyghue has said the UFL will complement the NFL and not try to compete for top players.

UFL games will air on Versus, a network owned by Comcast, and will take place primarily on Thursday evenings. The season will end with a championship game over Thanksgiving weekend in Las Vegas.

The initial UFL teams are in New York, Las Vegas, San Francisco and Orlando, Florida, although the first three clubs also will play individual games in Hartford, Connecticut, Los Angeles and Sacramento, California, respectively.

Reporting by Ben Klayman; Editing by Steve Orlofsky