American Professional Football Association
Before it was called the NFL, the major pro football league was the American Professional Football Association, which began play in 1920. As the league (and sport) struggled to gain traction, the league faced major financial problems. One team folded after the first season, and four teams that joined in 1921 lasted only a year…or less. The original New York Giants played two games before folding. The Buffalo-based Tonanwanda Kardex was out of the APFL after a single game.
Canadian Football League
In the early ’90s, the Canadian Football League made a play at international expansion with the placement of seven teams in the United States, specifically in cities that didn’t have an NFL team but where football was very popular. While the two-year experiment was successful in some places (the Baltimore Stallions won the CFL championship, the Grey Cup), it wasn’t in all the rest. In fact, the San Antonio Texans (which moved from Sacramento) folded before any games were played in Texas.
American Basketball Association
The American Basketball Association competed with the NBA for fans from 1967 to 1976 before the entire operation went out of business. (A few teams, such as the Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs, joined the NBA.) Financial instability led to countless team moves and foldings, but the San Diego Sail and Utah Stars are unique cases, even for the ABA. They bowed out of the league midway through the season. Another team, the Baltimore Claws, ran out of money before the season started.
World Hockey Association
The World Hockey Association was like the ABA of hockey, and of a similar vintage. And like the ABA, it lasted less than a decade and what was left of the league at the end of its 1972 to 1979 run was absorbed by the competition (the Edmonton Oilers were once a WHA team, for example). One of the initial 12 WHA teams was supposed to be the Calgary Broncos, but they moved to Cleveland and were renamed the Crusaders before they played any games. After just two years in Cleveland, the team moved again, this time to St. Paul, Minnesota. The newly renamed Fighting Saints lasted less than a season.