Major League Soccer (MLS) has ended Las Vegas’ hopes of securing an expansion franchise in 2017 or 2018, leaving Minneapolis and Sacramento in contention for the league’s 24th team.
MLS commissioner Don Garber informed Las Vegas officials of the league’s decision in a letter to Mayor Carolyn Goodman on Thursday. “Given the timing of our expansion rollout and the uncertainty as to when we might be able to move forward in Las Vegas, we are no longer considering Las Vegas as an expansion market until after 2018,” Garber wrote.
The decision appears to end the proposed development of a $200m (€176.4m), 24,000-seat stadium for the Symphony Park area of Las Vegas. In December, Las Vegas City Council voted in favour of a subsidy deal with a development partner seeking to bring a MLS team to play at the facility. Under the agreement, private funding from a group headed by Findlay Sports & Entertainment and the Cordish Companies would have covered roughly $143m of the stadium project, while the city contributed $25m in bonds and another $31m in infrastructure funding.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper said a master development agreement up for a City Council vote on Wednesday stipulates that if Las Vegas isn’t picked for an MLS team, either the city or the stadium developer can terminate the stadium deal. City Manager Betsy Fretwell said the agreement is clear that a soccer stadium “absolutely would not” go forward without an MLS “commitment” to the city.
Earlier this week, Goodman said she wouldn’t rule out moving ahead with a publicly subsidised multi-use stadium even if voters reject subsidies for a soccer venue. December’s voted proved divisive as Councilman Bob Beers successfully sued his own city to get the stadium subsidy on the June city election ballot, allowing voters a chance to determine its fate.
Las Vegas is also currently pursuing an NHL ice hockey franchise and Goodman has signalled her intention to continue efforts to attract major league sports. She said in a statement: “Of course I am disappointed that the MLS did not select Las Vegas for an expansion team in the 2017 or 2018 seasons. I still believe our city would be the perfect location for a major league team, and I am saddened that we miss out on the opportunity to gain $450m in downtown investment and job creation.
“A team coming here would have been the catalyst for other developments in the downtown. I hope the MLS will still consider Las Vegas for a team beyond 2018, and that the league’s decision will not be a negative influence on other major league franchises coming to our city.”
MLS will expand to 20 teams this year with the addition of New York City FC and Orlando City FC, followed by a franchise in Atlanta and a second Los Angeles-based team to replace the defunct Chivas USA in 2017. Garber has stated he wants 24 teams in MLS by the end of the decade and the league has held talks with potential ownership groups from Minneapolis and Sacramento.
The Miami Beckham United group needs to secure a stadium deal before it can win final approval for an MLS franchise, having confirmed its intention to launch an expansion team by 2017 in February 2014.
In his letter, Garber added that Las Vegas could be a “vibrant and successful market” for a future MLS team “given the right circumstances.”