CHICAGO, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- Before it grows, the Arena Football League announced Wednesday it had decided to contract.
On the eve of adding two new teams and two years prior to another expansion, the AFL announced the elimination of four teams for the 2002 season.
The Florida Bobcats, Milwaukee Mustangs, Houston ThunderBears and Oklahoma Wranglers were affected by the decision.
Their players will be included in an upcoming dispersal draft and league officials also plan to make an announcement regarding a new divisional alignment.
"We have been working for the last 12 months to purchase or acquire the right to purchase several of our teams," AFL commissioner David Baker said. "This confirms our intention to rise to major league status, and it opens the door for NFL owners."
"There was very constructive debate on this issue, but it is clearly the right business decision for the continued growth of the AFL," said Los Angeles Avengers owner Casey Wasserman.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will field one of two AFL expansion teams in 2002. His Dallas Desperados will be joined by a team in Atlanta. Four more teams are expected to join the indoor league in 2003 and the AFL hopes to have teams based in Washington, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Nashville, Jacksonville and San Francisco over the next several years.
"I am very excited about the prospects that this decision will have," Baker said. "Within three years, we will have a total of eight NFL owners fielding Arena Football teams, and we are in discussions with eight others who have an interest in owning an AFL team."