Cashman Field set to host MLS preseason game

While Las Vegas waits to see whether it will be a permanent member of the Major League Soccer family, one MLS team continues to maintain its relationship with the city.

For the third straight year, the Colorado Rapids will play a preseason game in Las Vegas in conjunction with the Mayor’s Cup youth tournament over President’s Day Weekend. The Rapids will face the San Jose Earthquakes on Feb. 15 at Cashman Field.

The official announcement is expected in the next couple of days, after the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority approves the agreement.

“We’re going to be back next month, and we’re looking forward to it,” Rapids president Tim Hinchey said Tuesday.

The Rapids played Chivas USA at Sam Boyd Stadium in 2013 and 2014. But with Chivas having been sold and suspended operations until 2017 and the Feb. 15 date at Sam Boyd Stadium unavailable because of the USA Sevens International Rugby tournament, there was speculation the MLS preseason game would not return to Las Vegas.

Hinchey said that wasn’t the case. The Rapids, who have a working relationship with the Downtown Las Vegas Soccer Club, had all intentions of returning to Southern Nevada in 2015.

“We love our annual visit to Vegas,” Hinchey said. “The Downtown Las Vegas Soccer Club is one of our partners, and anything we can do for our affiliate partners, we like to do it. We’re always treated well when we come to Vegas, and it just took a little longer to work out the logistics for this year’s game because of the way the dates fell.”

Hinchey said playing at Cashman Field, home of the Pacific Coast League’s 51s, will be a different experience than playing at Sam Boyd. But he said there are enough positives to make it work.

“It’s got natural grass instead of sod,” Hinchey said. “It won’t be as narrow as Sam Boyd. It’s closer to downtown. Yes, it’s a baseball stadium, but I’m sure it’ll suit our needs.”

Roger Tabor, president of the Downtown Las Vegas Soccer Club, supported the shift in venue.

“It’s taken 31 years for a soccer game to be played at Cashman Field,” he said. “When it was originally built, it was with also playing soccer there along with baseball. We think it’ll be a nice setting for the game.”

Hinchey said he didn’t think the attendance would have any impact on MLS’ decision to put an expansion franchise in Las Vegas. The league is expected to make a decision on its 24th and final expansion slot this spring.

Las Vegas, which last month gave approval to support a $200 million, 24,000-seat downtown stadium in partnership with local businessman Justin Findlay and the Cordish Group of Baltimore, is competing with Minneapolis and Sacramento, Calif., for the spot.

“We think Las Vegas is an extremely attractive market for soccer,” Hinchey said. “We’ve enjoyed our association with the city so far. But a preseason game and a regular-season schedule are two very different things.”

The two Rapids-Chivas games at Sam Boyd Stadium averaged about 8,000 in attendance each year. And with the game being scheduled for a Sunday, the hope is more of the 10,000-plus participants in the Mayor’s Cup will be able to attend.

The Rapids are coming off a disappointing season that saw them finish 8-18-8 and miss the playoffs.

“We’re expecting a much improved year,” Hinchey said. “Every time we take the pitch, we expect to compete, and it starts with the preseason.”

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

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