(Reuters) – Las Vegas has emerged as the “frontrunner” over cities like Phoenix and San Diego to be home to the 30th Major League Soccer franchise, Commissioner Don Garber said on Tuesday.
The support the city has shown for expansion teams in other leagues is a big reason why he is optimistic about Sin City’s prospects, he said during his 2021 State of the League address.
“I am just blown away by what’s going on in Las Vegas,” he said.
“I’ve been in the sports business for a really long time, and I didn’t see it coming.”
Garber pointed to the success of the National Hockey League’s Vegas Golden Knights, which made the Stanley Cup finals in its first season in 2017-2018, and the National Football League’s Las Vegas Raiders, who relocated from Oakland in 2020.
“What Knights (owner) Bill (Foley) has done is remarkable. I think it’s one of the great expansion team launches in the history of professional sports,” Garber said.
“And what (owner) Mark (Davis) has done with the Raiders, both on the field and with Allegiant Stadium is spectacular.
“We’re very bullish about the market, and we’ll continue to plow forward.”
Garber pointed out that MLS has a “longstanding relationship” with Aston Villa and Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Wes Edens, and said conversations with him about setting up a team in Las Vegas are ongoing.
The construction of a “great” soccer stadium in Las Vegas would be a priority and he said the 30th team would not be in the league before the 2024 season.
“I can’t really comment on what our stadium plans are at this point because they’re still fluid, but hopefully sometime in the next couple months we’ll have more to talk about.”
(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Kim Coghill)