Major League Soccer's continuing expansion became increasingly focused on Las Vegas on Tuesday when league commissioner Don Garber identified the rising pro sports market as likely to become the 30th MLS franchise.
In his annual State of the League address preceding Saturday's MLS Cup, Garber confirmed that "we're excited about the market, as are all the other leagues here in North America," and that "we're making progress" with prospective owners.
MLS has added seven teams in the past five seasons and has already added Charlotte for 2022 and St. Louis for 2023 to reach 29 teams on its way to a 30-team league. While Garber said the 30th team would not be ready to take the field by 2023, he said "an announcement could come within the next 10 months."
San Diego and Phoenix were also mentioned as potential MLS markets, but Garber pointed out that prospective Las Vegas owners Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris have a long-standing relationship with the league.
"We're very bullish about the market and we'll continue to plow forward," Garber said.
With the loosening of sports gambling laws around the country, the Las Vegas Strip has become a draw for major sports leagues in the U.S., with the NHL expanding into Las Vegas with the Golden Knights in 2017, the WNBA with the Aces in 2018, and the NFL's Raiders completing a long-term courtship with the completion of Allegiant Stadium last year. Also, the Oakland A's have openly explored a possible move to Las Vegas.
"I am just blown away by what's going on in Las Vegas, and I've been in the sports business for a really long time," Garber said. "I didn't see it coming.
He added that the league has no current plans to expand beyond 30 teams.
NYCFC, which entered the league in the 2015 season, will be making its first appearance in MLS Cup, facing the Portland Timbers, which will be making its third MLS Cup appearance in just 11 seasons since joining as an expansion team.
--Field Level Media