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May 22, 2019

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MLS commissioner: League in talks with Las Vegas over expansion franchise

Commissioner

Alex Gallardo / AP

Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber speaks at a news conference in Los Angeles, Thursday, April 18, 2019. Sacramento and St. Louis have been invited to submit formal bids for franchises as MLS’ Board of Governors formally unveiled plans Thursday to expand to 30 teams.

Las Vegas is very much in the mix for a future Major League Soccer expansion franchise.

That’s according to MLS Commissioner Don Garber, who spoke at length Thursday about the league’s plans to add new franchises in the coming years.

While speaking to members of the media after an MLS Board of Governors meeting Thursday in Los Angeles, Garber confirmed that the two newest expansion teams are likely to be granted to Sacramento and St. Louis.

The league currently has 24 clubs with new franchises in Nashville, Miami and Austin, Texas, set to begin play in 2020 and 2021. Assuming Sacramento and St. Louis do receive franchises, that would leave MLS one club short of 30.

“We voted to expand the league to 30 clubs (on Thursday),” Garber said in a news release from MLS. “Although the board did not select any particular markets today, they did authorize our office to exclusively advance our discussions with (potential) ownership groups in St. Louis and in Sacramento.”

When asked about a location for a possible 30th franchise, Garber mentioned Las Vegas as a possible landing spot.

“I don't know that we have a firm handle yet on what the final number of teams in the league ought to be,” Garber said. “We of late have been in very positive discussions in Las Vegas and in Charlotte. We still believe Phoenix is a good market. We have been in discussions with Detroit. I will say that we are going to take our time on team 30.”

Las Vegas was on the MLS radar for a possible expansion franchise as recently as 2015, though a potential deal for a new soccer stadium fell through.

Brett Lashbrook, owner of the Las Vegas Lights FC club, which plays in the United Soccer League, has said publicly that he believes if the Lights are successful, it could translate into MLS having a renewed interest in Las Vegas.