MLS preseason game eyed as lead-in to Mayor’s Cup

Las Vegas won’t be getting its own Major League Soccer franchise anytime soon, but the seeds are being sown for the possibility that the nation’s premier league one day will come here.

Plans are being finalized for two MLS teams, the Colorado Rapids and Chivas USA, to play a preseason game Feb. 15 at Sam Boyd Stadium in conjunction with the Mayor’s Cup soccer tournament. Tickets are expected to go on sale Dec. 10 with advance prices $20 for adults and $10 for youths ages 16 and under.

It’s a chance for the city to begin a relationship with MLS, much like the 51s have with Major League Baseball with the annual Big League Weekend exhibition games at Cashman Field. Also, preseason games in the NBA and NHL have long been annual staples in Las Vegas.

“We’d like to make it an annual event for the entire community,” said Dan Lyle, executive vice president for USA Sevens Rugby, which is helping promote the event. “There’s a connection between soccer and rugby, and the people in the Las Vegas community were interested.”

About 400 teams are expected to play in the Mayor’s Cup, scheduled Feb. 15 to 18 for boys and girls from under-14 to under-19. Tournament director Sherry Alexander said the MLS preseason game is a perfect lead-in to the tournament.

“I think it’s an opportunity for all the players of all ages to see where their ultimate goal might be,” Alexander said. “It’s a great way to kick off Mayor’s Cup and we’re very excited about having MLS be part of our event.”

Both the Rapids and Chivas struggled during the recently concluded MLS regular season and missed the playoffs. Colorado was 11-19-4 while Chivas finished last in the Western Conference at 7-18-9. However, their presence in the preseason game makes them an attractive draw, as their parent club in Mexico has a strong following among members of Las Vegas’ Latino community.

Also crucial to the game’s success is keeping ticket prices affordable, Lyle said. “We want to make sure we didn’t price anyone out,” he said.

The game will come on the heels of the USA Sevens Rugby event at Sam Boyd Feb. 8 to 10. Lyle said his rugby staff will work with Alexander’s staff to make sure the MLS game runs smoothly.

“The infrastructure is there to see to it we have a successful event,” Lyle said. “It should be a smooth transition from rugby to soccer.”

Alexander hopes a successful preseason game keeps Las Vegas on the radar for a possible MLS franchise.

“I remember when we had the (North American Soccer League’s) Quicksilvers and it was a great time,” Alexander said. “Who wouldn’t want to see a pro team here?”

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

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