With talks continuing with Aston Villa owners and sports entrepreneurs Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris over an MLS Las Vegas expansion team, Commissioner Don Garber say the league will likely take a pause on new teams for the time being.
This season sees the launch of Charlotte FC as the 28th MLS team, with St. Louis to follow in 2023 as the 29th team. Right now Las Vegas is the only option for a 30th team, with Garber commenting during his annual preseason press conference that he views MLS Las Vegas expansion as close and ready to be announced in the first third of 2022:
“It’s not fair to say Vegas is all but done. Expansion deals are complicated in any market. Going to a place that requires a soccer-specific stadium, you have to be sure that everything is aligned. Everything needs to be aligned with the community, fan base and politically. We are making a lot of progress. We hope to finalize something in the first third of the year. I could not be more excited about working with Wes [Edens].”
For Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Edens, the play would be a real-estate play as much as a soccer play. Edens’ Fortress Investment Group owns Brightline, which is planning a high-speed light-rail line between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, terminating at Las Vegas Boulevard and Warm Springs Road. Brightline controls the 110-acre site, considered prime real estate at the south end of the Strip, a few miles from McCarren and within easy access of Interstate 15 and the 215 Beltway. It was once coveted by the Oakland A’s as a ballpark site, but the plan now is for Brightline to use it for development and a 65,000-square-foot terminal—as well as potentially a new soccer stadium.
The addition of Las Vegas will put the league at 30 teams. Garber said this will be a good time for owners to catch their collective breaths before potentially moving to 32 teams. Phoenix and San Diego have been mentioned as future expansion markets, but they’ll need to wait until the league is ready to expand.
“We need to pause and have our 30 teams up and going. We can then decide if Major League Soccer is going to expand beyond 30 clubs. When we said we were going to have 28 teams, we never thought we’d go beyond that. As soccer becomes more popular, as more cities see opportunities with their fans and communities to host a first division MLS club, we have to process all of that and determine if MLS [will expand] in the future. There is no timetable for any decision on beyond 30 teams.”
Photo courtesy Charlotte FC.