- Wes Edens and Naseef Sawiris have entered into an ‘exclusive negotiation agreement’ with the MLS for an expansion team in the Las Vegas Valley.
- Edens owns the NBA Milwaukee Bucks and Aston Villa of the English Premier League.
- In December, MLS president Don Garber indicated that Las Vegas was the ‘front runner’ for the league’s next team.
It wasn’t that long ago that the National Football League wouldn’t let the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority buy a commercial spot for the Super Bowl. By this point, Las Vegas was no longer the gambling capital of the world but had been transformed into ‘America’s Playground’. The ad wouldn’t promote gaming–just the city as a vacation destination. That didn’t matter to the NFL.
Times have changed dramatically and on a number of levels. The NFL not only has a team in Las Vegas but is doing everything possible to monetize sports betting. The National Hockey League beat them to town and the Vegas Golden Knights reached the Stanley Cup Finals in their debut season. The NBA would love to get a team in Las Vegas and there’s still a chance that the MLB Oakland Athletics could relocate to Southern Nevada. Las Vegas is clearly a viable town for pro sports and that hasn’t been lost on Major League Soccer–in fact, they’ve got the inside track to becoming the next league to have a team in the 702. The concept of a MLS team in Las Vegas has been teased for years but has really gained traction in the past couple of months. In December, MLS president Don Garber indicated that Las Vegas was the ‘front runner’ for the league’s next expansion team.
On January 20, the Las Vegas soccer team took another step closer to becoming reality when billionaires Wes Edens and Naseef Sawiris entered into an exclusive negotiating agreement with Major League Soccer for the purpose of bringing an expansion team to Southern Nevada. The two men have plenty of pro sports experience–they jointly own Aston Villa of the English Premier League and Edens is a co-owner of the NBA Milwaukee Bucks. Here’s what the two men said in a statement after the negotiating agreement was announced:
“As one of the world’s premier sports and entertainment markets with a fast-growing and diverse community, Las Vegas is the ideal home for an MLS expansion team. We believe that the rising popularity of soccer and development of talent in the United States puts the MLS on a path to becoming one of the top leagues in the world. This is an important step to build on our relationship with the MLS. We’re optimistic we’ll reach a final agreement soon to bring a world-class franchise and significant economic and cultural benefits to the greater Las Vegas community.”
No argument here–despite Nevada politicians and regulators doing everything possible to run the SIlver State’s gaming industry into the ground in hopes of protecting their financial benefactors from competition, Las Vegas continues to thrive. It remains one of the best places on the planet to live and work. It’s a great place for a MLS team. As of yet, there are no more concrete developments about the team itself but Edens did offer some insight into what could be forthcoming in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He hopes to have the team up and running ‘long before’ the 2026 World Cup. The plan is to build a soccer specific stadium but he’s amiable to using a temporary venue in the short term:
“There’s definitely a possibility that we could have some kind of bridge to it. It takes a couple of years to build a stadium if you’re all set to go. We’ve got a lot of work to do to get to that place. We are very eager to start as soon as we can.”
The most obvious short term solution would be Allegiant Stadium, aka the home venue of the Las Vegas Raiders. There has been some talk about using the Las Vegas Ballpark minor league baseball stadium in Summerlin as a temporary venue though it would likely be too small. As for the permanent stadium, one location that has been talked about repeatedly is a parcel that Edens owns at the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Warm Springs Road. Edens isn’t ready to go ‘on record’ with any specific plans though he did talk to the LVRJ in general terms about it:
“If you look at the MLS stadiums that have been built around the country… they all seem to be in that sweet spot of 25,000-30,000 people. Big enough where you get the vibrancy of a home crowd and yet small enough to feel intimate and you feel a big part of the game and on the pitch. We don’t have finalized plans for a stadium yet, but I suspect it will end up in that range.”
“I have some views of where to put it (stadium) in Las Vegas but now we’re going to do the work with an open mind and try to find the best possible circumstance, because it’s not just the stadium, it’s also the development that is around it that is very important.”
In addition to the precedent of a 25,000 to 30,000 capacity for a MLS stadium it would also be a good fit to host other events that are too small for Allegiant Stadium but too large for other venues. Edens elaborated on his previous statements about Las Vegas–he’s since had conversations with Vegas Golden Knights’ owner Bill Foley and Las Vegas Raiders’ owner Mark Davis:
“I think Las Vegas is, in my opinion, maybe the best market in the entire United States. We have obviously spent quite a bit of time there in the last four or five years on the train project (Brightline West’s high-speed rail between Las Vegas and Southern California) and the more time I spent there, the more I believe in the future of it as a city and as a city for sports and entertainment.”
One major consideration for the venue will be whether it is an open air facility, a covered ‘dome’ type structure or–most likely–a convertible roof venue. The MLS regular season typically runs from February through October with the playoffs ending in November. While the summer months in Las Vegas are always hot and dry the rest of the year runs the gamut. The spring and fall months usually offer beautiful weather that could be perfect for outdoor play.