Las Vegas closing in on MLS franchise; Aston Villa owners involved

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Las Vegas has emerged as the front-runner for the 30th MLS franchise.

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The Nevada city has seen several ownership groups try to bring MLS to Sin City over the years but this seems like the closest they’ve ever been, as the co-owners of Aston Villa are involved in the bid.

Speaking at the 2021 State of the League address, MLS Commissioner Don Garber revealed that Las Vegas is at the front of the queue to be the next expansion franchise in MLS. When asked if that was the case he simply said: “Yes.”

That would take the league to 30 teams, and it would see Vegas jump ahead of Sacramento, Phoenix and San Diego to become the next MLS franchise.

What is the latest update?

Here is what Garber said when asked about Vegas and if Aston Villa’s co-owner Wes Edens (who is also the co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA) is making progress about bringing MLS to Las Vegas.

“We’re making progress in Las Vegas,” Garber said. “As has been announced, or has been leaked, in Las Vegas. We’re excited about the market, as are all the other [sports] leagues here in North America… Wes is a guy we all have a long-standing relationships with. He has looked at other MLS clubs over the years. We will continue those discussions and continue to try get something done with our 30th team within the next 10 months. We have not yet determined when that 30th team will start playing, but the 30th team will not be in by 2023. We hope to have to be able to have some great news as it relates to our facility plans in Las Vegas.

“I want to point out that we are still in discussions with other markets, both Phoenix and San Diego. The interest in Major League Soccer continues to grow. The value investors look at when they’re determining how to engage with professional soccer, or even professional sports overall, it is at an all-time high. News to come out in the next 12 months but a lot of progress being made.”

Garber added on Vegas: “We are very bullish on the market and we will continue to plough forward. Hopefully some time in the next couple of months we will have more to talk about.”

Per a subsequent report from Sports Business said Edens and the co-owner of Aston Villa, Nassef Sawiris, are the leading players behind the proposed MLS team in Las Vegas and they would begin play in 2024, at the earliest and plan to build a soccer-specific stadium in Las Vegas as part of the deal.

And yes, the “Las Vegas Villains” name was trademarked back in June by a company owned by Edens, as the billionaire businessman is also the co-owner of an investment group hoping to build a high-speed railway line from Southern California to Las Vegas in the coming years.

What are the other options?

According to our NBC affiliate in Las Vegas, Edens and Sawiris are one of several ownership groups who have been bidding to bring MLS to Las Vegas.

Here’s a little more:

“Other groups that have shared interest in pursuing an MLS franchise include Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley and Renaissance Companies, which has proposed building a new stadium at Cashman Center.”

Of course, the Las Vegas Lights of the USL Championship are the current pro soccer team in Vegas but this MLS ownership group is in a whole other league.

Getting the correct ownership group to get behind an MLS franchise in Vegas was always issue for the league, and they were always high on our rankings for an MLS expansion franchise. It now appears the correct owners have been found.

A good fit?

This really would be the perfect fit for MLS moving forward.

Las Vegas has a huge tourist influx, it falls in line with new MLS teams being placed in destination cities such as Nashville and Austin, and the success of holding the Gold Cup final in Vegas in the summer showcased its growing reputation as a sports crazy city.

With the Las Vegas Golden Knights arriving in the NHL in recent years, plus the MLB’s Oakland Athletics potentially relocating to follow in the footsteps of the Las Vegas Raiders of the NFL, all signs point towards an MLS team heading to Vegas to further bolster its growing sports portfolio.

Financially, this is just too good of an opportunity to turn down for MLS.

Imagine this: the year is 2030. Jack Grealish leads out the Las Vegas Villains for their Western Conference final, as head coach Steven Gerrard stands on the sidelines. A sea of claret and blue jerseys can be seen everywhere amid the dazzling lights of the Las Vegas Strip.