Kevin Milliken is aware of Las Vegas’ ignominious history with soccer, but as commissioner of the Professional Arena Soccer League, he said his product shouldn’t be judged on previous attempts to place a team here.
He pointed out the league first built a minor league system in 1998, and didn’t add the major league until 10 years later. Las Vegas even has a minor league franchise, the Knights.
Now they have a PASL major league club, with the Las Vegas Legends introduced Tuesday as the league’s 15th member. The Legends will play at Orleans Arena.
"A lot of leagues start out big and bold," Milliken said. "I like to think of it as a table. You could have a table top, but if there are no legs underneath the table, how long is it going to stand up? We built the legs first."
Meir Cohen, president of Las Vegas Indoor Soccer, is the Legends’ president and general manager. Greg Howes, the second-leading scorer in Major Indoor Soccer League history, is the coach.
The 16-game season opens Nov. 1, with the preseason beginning Oct. 18.
"Las Vegas is a city of winners, and the Las Vegas Legends are going to be winners immediately," Cohen said.
Cohen was asked four years ago to add Las Vegas as an expansion team, but he didn’t feel the structure – from the front office to the coach to the players to the arena – was in place until now.
Citing the growing popularity of soccer in Las Vegas and the team’s intention to make the games affordable for families, Cohen said he hopes to regularly sell out the arena.
"We know the history of soccer here," Cohen said before rattling off the list of Las Vegas failures. "We are here to stay. We don’t want to be here for a short term. We’re not here to do one or two seasons."
The team will target Las Vegans to make up at least part of the roster. Players from the Knights, UNLV and upper-age junior soccer will get a look.
"We all dream of playing in our hometown," Howes said.
Howes knows, however, fans won’t turn out to watch a team that doesn’t win, no matter how loaded it is with locals.
Whether the franchise will have staying power is the larger question.
The last time a team and league announced they were coming to Las Vegas occurred in 2006, when the Toros and the National Alliance Soccer League staged a news conference.
That league and team, also scheduled to play games at Orleans Arena, lasted a week into the season.
"I think Meir’s got a built-in market," Milliken said. "He’s got a big database with his own soccer facility here in town just to start with, which a lot of people don’t have."
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.