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David Beckham makes pitch to bring soccer to Las Vegas

Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis wasn’t the only prominent sports figure who made a pitch to the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee on Thursday morning.

Soccer legend David Beckham and Davis teamed to push forward plans to build a $1.4 billion, 65,000-seat stadium that could ultimately bring the Raiders to Las Vegas.

Beckham was in attendance to provide a different perspective on the use of the stadium, which is being proposed by Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Majestic Realty. Beckham has a business and promotional relationship with Las Vegas Sands’ properties in China.

The former Manchester United standout made the committee aware of the possibility of bringing European soccer clubs to Sin City for summer exhibition matches that could fill up the stadium and turn into weeklong festivities.

“To bring a great organization like the Raiders is incredible, but it’s bigger than that,” Beckham said. “It’s about the MLS (Major League Soccer) coming here, it’s about bringing in the biggest European teams like Manchester United.”

Tim Leiweke, the former president and chief executive of AEG, took it a step further by telling Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, who is part of the committee, that the stadium could bring a MLS franchise to the city. Goodman has long wanted the MLS in Las Vegas.

“Major League Soccer and the mayor know this better than anyone. She’s been pursuing it for a very long time, God bless you,” Leiweke said. “You’ve had one issue here: a stadium. This resolves that issue. And there is a qualified, quantified ownership group that’s prepared to step up and help you chase an MLS franchise.

“You’re not the only one out there. As (MLS) Commissioner (Don) Garber will tell you, there are a lot of cities now chasing those last four franchises. But with your stadium, with this ownership group and with the might and support of the Raiders, you will never have a greater opportunity to have an MLS team.”

The American soccer league is looking to expand to 28 teams by the end of the decade. MLS stands at 20 teams after adding Orlando City SC and New York City FC this season. The league expands to 24 in the next few years with guarantees to Minnesota, Atlanta and a second team in Los Angeles.

The MLS is making progress on bringing an expansion team to Miami, of which Beckham and Leiweke are owners.

Sacramento, St. Louis, Detroit, San Diego, San Antonio, Cincinnati and Austin, Texas, have expressed interest in getting one of the final four bids for a franchise.

“Las Vegas Mayor Goodman has always been a strong supporter of bringing a Major League Soccer expansion team to the city,” said Dan Courtemanche, the MLS executive vice president of communications. “We will continue to monitor Las Vegas as a possible MLS expansion market in the future.

“The interest in Major League Soccer expansion is at an all-time high. The demand for more teams is another strong indicator of the league’s continued growth and overall interest in our sport.”

A prospective ownership group has yet to approach the league office with a plan to bring MLS to Las Vegas, according to Courtemanche.

Goodman jokingly asked Beckham during the meeting to join her in getting an MLS team to Sin City. Beckham made it clear he was committed to Miami.

Beckham’s Miami team is on hold until it finds a stadium. The former Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder recently found land for his stadium after two years of failed attempts.

“Great things take time, and I’m starting to realize that, especially over the last few years since we announced our ideas in Miami,” Beckham told the SNTIC. “So I understand that it takes time. What you have at the end of it is something that is so special.”

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Contact Gilbert Manzano at gmanzano@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0492. Follow him on Twitter: @gmanzano24

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