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Las Vegas expected to lose out to San Diego for MLS franchise

Updated May 16, 2023 - 10:46 pm

Las Vegas appears set to miss out on netting another major league professional sports team.

Major League Soccer is expected to announce Thursday that San Diego will be awarded the league’s 30th franchise, according to a report by the San Diego Union-Tribune on Tuesday.

In a news release, MLS said a news conference is set for Thursday at Snapdragon Stadium regarding the future of soccer in the city. Commissioner Don Garber is expected to attend.

The team, to be owned by the London-based Monsour Group and the San Diego area Sycuan tribe, would begin play in 2025 at the already operational Snapdragon Stadium. The ownership group is expected to pay an expansion fee of about $500 million.

This development would indicate that Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Wes Edens and his business partner Nassef Sawiris’ bid to bring an expansion team to Las Vegas has hit a roadblock.

Last year, MLS entered into an exclusive negotiating agreement with Edens and Sawiris to try to get a deal done for a Las Vegas team. The two billionaires moved to trademark the name Las Vegas Villains, which was noted to be for a professional sports franchise.

Las Vegas appeared to be the front-runner until billionaire Mohamed Monsour began talks with MLS last year about San Diego getting an expansion team.

Edens wasn’t available for comment Tuesday, according to a spokesperson.

Earlier this year, Garber said the league’s 30th team would be announced by the end of 2023 and that Las Vegas and San Diego were the front-runners.

Golden Knights owner Bill Foley was once in pursuit of landing an MLS team in Las Vegas, but instead acquired the Premier League’s AFC Bournemouth with his ownership group last year.

Last week, when asked about the push for MLS in Las Vegas, Foley said he didn’t have any direct insight on the latest happenings with Edens’ group, but added that it would be a big task for them to finalize a deal.

Along with the expansion fee, a soccer stadium would have needed to be built. Edens and Sawiris were looking at a plot of land on Las Vegas Boulevard and Warm Springs Road. That would have been next to the planned Brightline West high-speed train station on a separate portion of the land. Edens is co-CEO of Fortress Investment Group, which, through an affiliate, owns Brightline.

“You’ve got to commit to building another stadium,” Foley said. “The reality is that’s a $750 million to $800 million project — plus the franchise fee, plus the startup cost. Someone would have to really be committed to MLS to want to spend that kind of money on an expansion team.”

Having to build everything from scratch wasn’t the case for Foley when he landed the Knights in 2016 as an NHL expansion team. He paid the $500 million expansion fee, but T-Mobile Arena was available for the Knights.

“T-Mobile was already well underway with MGM and AEG, and we became partners in that,” Foley said. “We obviously built practice facilities and brought the Silver Knights here, but it was nowhere near what it’s going to take to bring an MLS team to Vegas.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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