May 31 – Las Vegas will decide next week whether it will make a bid to be the 30th MLS franchise when its City Council meet to discuss a proposal for a downtown stadium.
Currently the MLS is a 24-team league. Inter Miami and Nashville will begin play in 2020 and Austin will become the 27th franchise in 2021. The two extra slots are good news for Sacramento and St. Louis ownership groups who had previously thought they were bidding against each other for the 28th unassigned and final franchise position.
An April announcement that the MLS would look to expand to 30 teams has sparked renewed interest from a number of cities and groups with soccer ambition and the potential to hit the MLS’s expansion criteria of a soccer-specific stadium and the $200 million+ buy in required.
Las Vegas have flirted with the MLS before in 2014 when a proposal for a $201 million stadium, of which the city of Las Vegas would pick up 76% of the cost and own the stadium, failed to get out the starting blocks.
But Vegas is a city that moves fast and since then has gone from having no major league sports in the city to having the Golden Knights NHL franchise and the imminent arrival of the NFL Raiders franchise who are currently having a $1.8 billion stadium built for them that they will share with UNLV’s football team and scheduled to open in 2020.
Since 2014 Vegas has also seen second tier USL representation with the Las Vegas Lights opening in the city.
A renewed look at an MLS franchise by Vegas city authorities revolves around a proposal to build a 62-acre mixed-used development on and around the location of Las Vegas Lights’ current Cashman Field stadium. The City decision revolves around whether to enter into a 180-day negotiating period with Renaissance Companies Inc. During this time the financial packages would be agreed.
Las Vegas Lights owner Brett Lashbrook told the Las Vegas Sun he has entered into a sale agreement for the team, contingent upon the city and developers finalising an agreement for the master plan, but did not disclose any details or the potential buyer.
“This is amazing for not just our team and our fans but the neighborhood and the city,” he said.
The decision to expand to 30 teams was made at an MLS Board of Governors meeting in April with the board rubber stamping proposals to advance the discussions with St. Louis and Sacramento.
The ownership groups have been asked to make formal presentations to the MLS leadership and the league’s Expansion Committee in the second quarter of 2019. These presentations will include: final stadium plan, commitments of corporate support, composition of ownership group, detailed economics on funding, strategic plans for fan development, commitments on player development, details on community programmes.
The 30th franchise may still be a few years in the making with MLS Commissioner Don Garber taking some of the heat out of the conversation in April saying: “I don’t know that we have a firm handle yet on what the final number of teams in the league ought to be. We of late have been in very positive discussions in Las Vegas and in Charlotte. We still believe Phoenix is a good market. We have been in discussions with Detroit. I will say that we are going to take our time on team 30.”
MLS Expansion Timeline
1996 MLS began play with with ten teams: Columbus Crew, D.C. United, New England Revolution, NY/NJ MetroStars, Tampa Bay Mutiny, Colorado Rapids, Dallas Burn, Kansas City Wiz, Los Angeles Galaxy and the San Jose Clash.
|1998||Chicago Fire, Miami Fusion|
|2005||Real Salt Lake, Chivas USA|
|2008||San Jose Earthquakes|
|2009||Seattle Sounders FC|
|2011||Portland Timbers, Vancouver Whitecaps FC|
|2015||Orlando City SC, New York City FC|
|2017||Atlanta United, Minnesota United FC|
|2018||Los Angeles Football Club|
|2020||Inter Miami CF, Nashville SC|
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