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While the National Football League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, and National Hockey League are at the height of pro sports in North America, there are small leagues like Major League Soccer that are thriving. However, there are some sports leagues that came and went without any notice from the American public. Here are 11.
- United States Football League Starting in 1982, the USFL was an alternative to the widely popular NFL. The league managed to draft a few Heisman Trophy winners and future Pro Football Hall-of-Famers, but collapsed under a mountain of debt. The USFL called it quits in 1987.
- ABA (American Basketball Association) Founded in 1967, the ABA was where the fun was at in professional basketball. It introduced the three-point line, the All-Star Game Weekend, and the Slam Dunk contest. In fact, dunking was encouraged in the ABA, while it was forbidden in the NBA, at the time. To save some of its teams like the Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs, the ABA had to merge with the NBA to succeed. The ABA ended in 1976.
- North American Soccer League Soccer is not as big in the United States, as it is in the rest of the world, but in 1968, the North American Soccer League dared to reach the heights of the NFL and MBL. The league managed to lure aging soccer superstars like Brazil’s Pele, but ultimately couldn’t gain as many fans and followers as other sports leagues. It shut down in 1985.
- United States Professional Volleyball League While volleyball saw a surge in 2002, the United States Professional Volleyball League did not. It only lasted for a few months.
- SlamBall The sport is merely basketball with elements of hockey, but it added trampoline so players could get some serious hang time. While Slamball found a network with Spike TV and eventually CBS, it died on two separate occasions in 2002 to 2003 and 2007 to 2008.
- International Roller Derby League There was a point in American pop culture where roller derby was a big deal. In 1949, the International Roller Derby League was a very popular sport, but saw its demise in 1973 when the trend was on a downswing.
- AFL (American Football League) The American Football League was an alternative to the NFL during the 1960s. However, it eventually merged with the NFL when the league was on the verge of ending. The New England Patriots, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, and Denver Broncos are just a few of the AFL teams that are still around today in the NFL.
- National Bowling League While the Professional Bowling Association is the end-all-be-all of pro bowling, the National Bowling League tried to steal away some market share. Sadly, the league started in October 1961 and by December, the league called it quits.
- Roller Hockey International. Imagine hockey without the ice and you have Roller Hockey International. The league was born out the inline skating trend of the 90s, but never managed to be taken seriously as a real NHL competitor. It started in 1993, but folded six years later in 1999.
- Women’s American Football League Starting in 2001, the Women’s American Football League couldn’t find popularity in the United States and called it quits two years later in 2003.
- XFL The XFL is the poster child for defunct sports league. It started as a more extreme version of the NFL, it combined football with WWE pro wrestling theatricals. Vince McMahon learned a valuable lesson about pro sports, never to compete with the NFL. The XFL started in 2001 and ended in the same year.