The United Football League (UFL) was a professional American football league based in the United States that began play in October 2009 and played four seasons, the most recent being cut short in October 2012. The small league, which never had more than five teams playing at one time, played most of its games in markets where the National Football League (NFL) had no current presence. Unlike most alternative professional football leagues since the 1980s, the UFL played all of its games in the traditional fall season, competing directly with the NFL, college football, and high school football.
The UFL occupied the second tier of professional football in the United States, behind the National Football League. The UFL primarily consisted of players who had previously played for an NFL team. Although the league had no connection with the NFL, and had never intended to foster any such connection, some speculated that it could have become a minor or "developmental" league for the NFL, including the UFL's own commissioner.
Early news reports had speculated that based on the UFL's initial plan the league would become a "competitor" to the NFL. The UFL seemed poised to capitalize on fan disgust with the NFL should the established league lock out its players prior to the 2011−12 season. The thought was that the NFL would fail to reach an agreement with the NFL players' union after the end of their collective bargaining agreement. This would have led to the 2011−12 NFL season being delayed or cancelled, leaving the UFL the only pro football available. The NFL did lock out their players, but the situation was resolved in July 2011, before the start of the NFL season. This negated any benefits the UFL might have hoped to reap from the labor dispute.
The league was beset by frequent operational interruptions, stemming from systemic financial shortfalls, especially from summer 2011 onward. The United Football League announced on October 20, 2012, that it was ceasing operations immediately, after four weeks of play. The official line from the league was that they intended to resume operations and complete the unfinished 2012 schedule at an unspecified time in spring 2013, then revert to a fall schedule in fall 2013 without a full off-season. This announcement, however, was met with widespread skepticism from both within and outside the league, skepticism that was proven to be warranted as the league never returned.
Over the course of the league's history, the Las Vegas Locomotives were the most successful team, winning two of the three championships, appearing in (but losing) the third, and having a perfect record for the season at the time of the cessation of operations.