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Las Vegas front-runner for new soccer team, MLS commish says

Updated December 7, 2021 - 5:01 pm

Las Vegas is the front-runner to land Major League Soccer’s 30th franchise, MLS Commissioner Don Garber said Tuesday.

During his State of the League address, Garber simply said “yes” when asked if Las Vegas was in the lead to be the league’s next team.

Garber said talks are still ongoing and include not only Las Vegas, but also Phoenix and San Diego. He said the city they choose should be announced within the next 10 months.

“We’re making progress as has been announced, or as has been leaked in Las Vegas,” Garber said. “We’re excited about the market as are all the other leagues here in North America.”

A group earlier this year headed by billionaire businessmen Wes Edens and Nassef Sawris filed to trademark Las Vegas Villains, tied to a professional soccer club. Garber said they’re working with Edens on the Las Vegas possibility. Golden Knights owner Bill Foley recently said he has withdrawn his pursuit of a team.

“Wes is a guy that we all have longstanding relationships with by the way he had looked at other MLS clubs over the years,” Garber said. “We’ll continue those discussions and continue to try to get something done with our 30th team … within the next 10 months.”

The success that the NHL’s Golden Knights and NFL’s Raiders have had in Las Vegas is not being overlooked, Garber said.

“What has been done with the Knights, what Bill (Foley) has done has been remarkable. I think it’s one of the great expansion team launches in the history of professional sports,” Garber said.

“What Mark (Davis) has done with the Raiders, both on the field and what he’s done with Allegiant (Stadium), is just spectacular. We’re very bullish about the market. We’ll continue to plow forward.”

The Oakland Athletics’ possible relocation to Las Vegas will have no impact on the league’s decision on where its 30th club will end up, Garber said.

Garber declined to detail specifics about what a Las Vegas MLS stadium could include, but said he envisions they could model it on what the Raiders built.

“In Las Vegas you could conceivably see a soccer stadium that looks like a mini version of Allegiant (Stadium),” Garber said.

As far as timing, Garber said he doesn’t envision the league’s 30th club beginning to play in the league in the next couple of years.

“We have not yet determined when that 30th team would start playing,” Garber said. “The 30th team will not be in by 2023. That’s something everybody should be aware of.”

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and her husband, former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, have been vocal for more than two decades about their support of pro sports teams landing in the Las Vegas Valley. Following the news of Las Vegas being the lead contender for the MLS expansion club, Carolyn Goodman said they would welcome them with open arms.

“Boy, would we love that expansion team here in Las Vegas,” Goodman said in a text message Tuesday afternoon.

Although Las Vegas is the odds-on favorite to land the MLS expansion team, it appears the team might not land in Mayor Goodman’s city of Las Vegas jurisdiction.

Golden Knights owner Bill Foley noted in October that Edens’ group was looking to build the stadium on 110 acres of land on Las Vegas Boulevard and Warm Springs Road, near where the planned Brightline high-speed train station is planned.

Edens is the co-founder of Fortress Investment Group, which owns Brightline and the plot of land located in unincorporated Clark County.

If Las Vegas wins the next MLS franchise, Garber noted the journey has been long for Southern Nevada.

“Lamar Hunt (founding investor in MLS) in the earliest days in Major League Soccer, in its founding years, met with Oscar Goodman about Major League Soccer,” Garber said. “We’re talking 26 years ago.

”I’ve met with both Oscar and Carolyn Goodman many times over the years. We had number of different goes, looking at Vegas for 5, 6, 7, 8 years. This is the approach we feel the most confident in.”

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

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