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Vegas investment group eyeing piece of Columbus Crew

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Las Vegas and Columbus. You’re probably thinking there couldn’t be two more different American cities. They actually have a few things in common. While they both have plenty of party-happy college students and both love college football (though in Vegas, the folks love betting on it more than actually watching it), Vegas and Columbus could soon have their own soccer tie.

The investment group that has expressed interest in buying an expansion MLS franchise and placing it in Las Vegas is in talks with the Columbus Crew about buying a piece of the Crew, Tripp Mickle at the Sports Business Journal reported on Monday.

“It’s pretty close to being in the final stages,” said Paul Caligiuri (yes, that Paul Caligiuri), the group’s spokesman.

While Caligiuri wouldn’t say what percentage of the Crew the investment group was buying, the news of a sale of a piece of the Crew still has to raise worried eyebrows among Columbus fans.

Before Crew fans head toward team heardquarters with pitchforks and torches, they should wait until more is learned about this potential deal. Caliguiri does go on to state that the sale will have no impact on the group’s pursuit of an expansion team for Las Vegas.

Crew fans should hope not.

While we don’t know exactly what this group, led by California businessman Mark Noorzai, is up to it has to be at least a little unsettling that the group’s spokesman is Caligiuri, who is the same player who sued MLS so he could play for the Los Angeles Galaxy instead of the Columbus Crew, which he played for during the league’s inaugural 1996 season.

What do you think of this development? Are you a worried Crew fan? Are you an MLS fan who likes the idea of an expansion team moving to Las Vegas? Would you have a problem with someone moving the Columbus Crew to Las Vegas?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Re:

    I can’t see how the Crew would be moved unless a massive indoor stadium deal was also in place, which seems unlikely even in Las Vegas. The national economy is in the toilet and only getting worse and I can’t imagine too many investors are lining up to take on a monster like that.

    Posted by: John Leonard

    The investment group already is set up with the investors who are willing to drop some serious cash on a Las Vegas team. Finding investors is no issue whatsoever.



    Because anyone with a brain would know that moving one teams in this league, let alone one of the original teams, and a standard bearer, would be a stupid idea for a league trying to grow and establish itself.

    Posted by: Steve

    I actually agree with you Steve that moving one of the MLS originals is a bad idea if nothing else than because it is sad. However, it wouldn’t be the first time the league has done this (cough cough SJ to Houston). Luckily, for the SJ fans, they got a team back without too much time passing, but I think the league has shown that they are serious about teams meeting certain criteria and that may mean that no teams are safe (except LA of course) :).

  2. Salt Lake to be relocated???? – You are saying this about a week BEFORE they move into their brand new sss?

    Has to be the mindless post of the year nominee….

  3. It is funny to hear people anchoring their arguments to “history” when the league itself has only been around 12 years. If we look 50 years into the future we’ll see MANY MLS teams moving and around, as well they should. Allowing a free-market apporach to this will only help the league. Initial outrage will subside and the new city will not give two craps how they got their team. As long as the move is profitable I’m for it.


    I agree with others on this board. The city size is irrelivant. This country works on TV markets and they are based on metro areas ( and Columbus is #32 on that list. MLS can’t expand indeffinately or else the talent pool will be severely dilluted. Relocation is the only possible answer to the growing deamnd from wealthy investors for a team in their city. And it’s a very good thing. It means that their is a demand for this league.

    The MLS started by focusing on smaller markets where the competion for the sports entertainment dollar was low. But the league has now realized that soccer fans are NOT general american sports fans and revised their strategy to tap into existing soccer fanbases. Thus the DP and a greater focus on ethnic/cultural aspects of the game. So its a natural progession to move existing underperforming (profit-wise) teams to cities with larger soccer fan bases (meaning lots of immigrants). Eventually, Columbus, KC, and possibly even Salt Lake will be relocated to larger metro areas and it is a GOOD THING for the league.

  4. can somebody fill me in on the soccer market/situation in las vegas? i’m in the dark.

    also, since crew fans haven’t been showing up to watch columbus play this year, regardless of managment and past records, they almost deserve to loose their team.

    some pretty decent football is being played at crew stadium.

  5. Anyone who believes that the Calgiuri offer is not at least a pre-cursor to a potential Columbus hijacking — I mean “move” — is naive. Of course they are planning it. Does not mean they will, but I guaran-damn-tee they have plans to do it. Otherwise, making a money offer for a portion of teh team would be foolish.

  6. Jeff,

    If you need “frills” in stadium to go watch a soccer match I don’t know what to say to you. It’s about the quality on the field, not the stadium, and all I have to say is, have you seen the standings lately?

    I would love to know what team you follow Jeff that you you feel you have a right to criticize the Crew’s attendence.

    Sounds like a lot of hatred and jealousy is taking over this discussion instead of brains. Because anyone with a brain would know that moving one teams in this league, let alone one of the original teams, and a standard bearer, would be a stupid idea for a league trying to grow and establish itself.

  7. I can’t see how the Crew would be moved unless a massive indoor stadium deal was also in place, which seems unlikely even in Las Vegas. The national economy is in the toilet and only getting worse and I can’t imagine too many investors are lining up to take on a monster like that.

  8. Columbus is a USL city? Considering that they’ve been an MLS team since the league’s inception, and never had a USL team, that is a ridiculous statement.

    How does one define a “USL city” and an “MLS city”? Population? Average attendance? If so, I guess that makes Dallas (average attendance), Kansas City (population and average attendance), and New York (average attendance) “USL cities.”

    Or maybe it’s just an individual’s relative lack of knowledge about a particular city that makes it a “USL city”

  9. as a Fire fan, I would be dissappointed if there was a move of the Crew. Look, I’ll drop the gloves of verbal pugilism here that we normally have on as supporters of our respective teams and say that it would be CRIMINAL and detrimental for the sport to remove/move that team. Despite their troubles (real or perceived), I agree that as a founding member of the league, the Crew is part of MLS history. Look, if the franchise performs so poorly, or the finance is run so ineptly that it folds, that’s another story.

    Besides, who else in the midwest do we get to harass the crap outta? 😛 KC? yeah right. When the STL gets in (whenever that may be), there will be some great rivalries born–and then maybe we can unload KC into the West.

  10. If you look at only the population of a city (as opposed to the metropolitan area, which includes the suburbs), you’re missing far more important information. Columbus is the second smallest MLS market.

    Does that mean it was a bad decision? Hardly. Columbus made a lot of sense and had great attendance for a number of years. They need to prove they can do it again, but it’s not like they’ve always been a failure.

  11. “It’s bigger than DC, Boston, Seattle, or Denver. And that doesn’t include all the ‘burbs around Columbus (of which there are a LOT).”

    Sports franchises always look at metropolitan areas. The Columbus area is #32 in that ranking and is far smaller than DC, Boston, Seattle and Denver. It’s also the 32nd ranked tv market. Vegas isn’t much better, but it keeps drawing interest because of it’s ridiculous population growth.

    I’d love to say it only comes down to support, but the reality is that profitability will be the deciding factor (as Carlos pointed out above). ANY owner, Vegas-based or not, would begin to think about moving if the Crew keep failing to turn a profit while in a SSS.

  12. Relocation is missing link in all MLS expansion speculation. I can see Vagas or St Louis circumventing the expansion sweepstakes by capturing an existing franchise.

  13. Carlos, you couldn’t be more wrong when it comes to Columbus and corporate sponsorships. In fact, this season has seen the highest generation of coprorate sponsorships in the teams history – aside from the lagging stadium naming rights deal, which has been a sore subject for years.

  14. As an MLS fan, I don’t have a problem with the Crew being moved to Vegas. I often wondered how Sin City would support a major pro sport franchise and think they would do a good job of it – if done right. Plus, Columbus despite their small but loyal fanbase, are one of the biggest money losers in MLS, and I would think that they wouldn’t have a problem with finding sponsors and making money in Las Vegas. If I was a Crew fan, of course I would be pissed. And wonder why the Crew are being picked for a possible relocation when Chivas USA are wasting away in LA Clipperdom.

  15. DC is a poor example to choose when comparing population size of city (as it is borders are federally mandated not to exceed a specific point).

    When you include the surrounding areas of DC, where most people who work there live, its population rise to around 8 million, comprising a much larger metropolitan area than Columbus.

    Not that I am arguing that Columbus shouldn’t have a team, an argument which I also find ridiculous, just pointing out the straw man arguments people are throwing around all over the place in here.

  16. I am not a Columbus Crew fan, but my understanding is that the Crew still lose money each year despite being in a soccer specfici stadium because of an inability to generate sponorship money from the Columbus area. Profitability in a SSS has little to do with attendance as FC Dallas is in the black despite worse attendance.

    I would think the Vegas group’s investment is kind of a “kick the tire” thing. Lets say the Crew make a championship run, or even win it all, and the team is still losing money, they could then buy the rest of the team and move it to Las Vegas.

    If the Crew’s championship run results in more Columbus corporate sponsorshiops, then the Vegas group just go a good return on their investment.

    Not a bad deal either way for the Vegas Group.

  17. Las Vegas is just a bad idea, period.

    Vegas isn’t any different than other tourist heavy economic locations (New Orleans, San Antonio and Orlando), which barely have enough interet/$$$ from their service industry heavy economies to support one major league level sports team. And for Vegas, soccer is NOT that sport. Basketball (a high scoring, indoor game) would fit perfectly . . . but soccer? Please.

    IMHO, Vegas wouldn’t draw anymore fans than Columbus, FC Dallas, RBNY, Chivas or Kansas City. MLS doesn’t need another bad soccer market. But hey, if Las Vegas wants to throw their money away, let them go for it, but MLS would be stupid to add Chivas 2.0 to our league’s already crappy attendance in 5 markets.

    Personally, I think the Las Vegas group should do what they do best, gamble. they should bet on the odds for the next real MLS market. One in which MLS has serious investor interest and an actual history of soccer support; Portlnad, Montreal and Vancouver.

  18. Those who are saying Attendance in Columbus has been poor are just flat out wrong. Even with a piss poor team the last three years we drew numbers on par with the rest of the league. Not to mention teams around the league lie out their ass about attendance, hell I went up to NE for the game this weekend and they announced attendance at around 15,000. That was a crock of Sh*t it was pouring down rain and there we pry 8,000 there at most. The thought of moving the first team to build a SSS and a founding member of the league is almost sacrilegious. Not to mention would be a shake up to future investors who have to put down the cash for a SSS off their own.

    As for the “small market” school of thought, Columbus is the largest city in the state of Ohio and is the only major city in the state who has a population on the rise rather than decline. I.E. Cleveland and Cincy keep getting smaller while Columbus keeps getting bigger.

  19. if they move the team i will not watch anymore of mls!!! why take away a team that was the 1st team to have its own training facility and its own soccer specific stadium! we also heard about this earlier this year, since supposedly the crew cant get any1 to put their name on the stadium. whats wrong with keeping crew stadium? if theres any teams that should be re-located how about the 3 teams in california? or the 2 teams in texas? shoot even kansas city, everytime the wiz are on tv at home theres prolly about 500 people in the stands, ur telling me that columbus is not generating revenue? come on, their the best team in the league and the fans here in ohio have been lucky to have such a dominating buckeye football program. ohio state lost 1 game and then the next week at ohio stadium there were empty seats. why? cause fans here only care about wins. since the crew have been down and out for a few years so has their attendance, but take a look at this year’s attendence. its up from the past 3 seasons, why? cause the crew are winning! so if the crew continue to win, then the stands will continue to fill!!! PLEASE DONT TAKE MY CREW AWAY!!!

  20. “the Crew as a franchise definitely needs a shake up in the front office though.”

    What would you shake up about front office, and why? (not trying to be sarcastic or contrarian, I’m legitimately curious…)

    They’re in 1st place, and spent most of last year with a roster full of injuries

  21. I don’t think Caligiuri’s group is moving Columbus to Las Vegas, as he has implied they are not (and he would be a pretty idiotic human being to carry out a conspiracy against Columbus from a spat in the 90’s), I also think it is unlikely that a move would take place with the SSS there, and as John points out was a trendsetter for the MLS. I suppose you could argue you get championship caliber team (Crew as they are now) to start the “expansion” Vegas enterprise (a la Dynamo, but that was different circumstances), but man oh man, what a knife in the back to Columbus–a HUGE PR fiasco that I don’t think the MLS would recover from for a long time.

    I’ll bet that the Vegas group is just getting their foot in the door a bit more with the MLS, and making a stronger case to get a team there.

  22. Well, yeah, Dave, b/c you can drive from Richmond, VA to Boston, and never leave strip-malls and off-ramps…

    My point being that Columbus isn’t some podunk 1-cow town. It’s effectively a 1-team town, but that can be rectified…

  23. Columbus is in fact a bigger city than DC but if you think that it has a higher population in it’s metropolitan area than you are kidding yourself.

  24. Columbus is in fact a bigger city than DC but if you think that it has a higher population in it’s metropolitan area than you are kidding yourself.

  25. Actually, the question about “why put it in Columbus when there are bigger markets?” is downright silly and condescending. Attendance in Crewville hasn’t been great the past couple of years. That’s because the team mostly was lousy and the administration has been stupid. That said….

    –the Crew initially were won of the bright spots in MLS with fan support and attendence.

    –it was the Crew who really showed the value of a SSS (and major urban markets where real estate was more expensive and there were more multi-use stadia felt their teams could do just fine in a ….Meadowlands….Arrowhead….Rosebowl).

    Going with Columbus was a brilliant piece of MLS decision-making, just like going into Salt Lake City. Those cities that aren’t viewed a MEGA Markets (ala NYC or LA) have been quick to embrace the team, give it coverage and view it as major league. Now the reasons why Columbus hasn’t exactly torn up the league attendance-wise the past 4 years have almost nothing to do with the area and mostly to do with the team and management.

    Finally, when and FCD effectively draws about 5-6,000 fans for a game (that is what Steve Goff said they really had with announced attendance of 12,000), when RB has struggled to draw fans (and yes, I’ve heard all of the excuses), when NO team is MLS draws 50-60k on a semi-regular basis, it’s really quite presumptious for ANY set of fans to look down on one geographic area or another.

    And I’m not a Crew fan. Just calling it how I see it.

  26. bgnewf, they play in south Texas, don’t they?

    I could care less about this news but were I a Crew fan I’d be worried. MLS clubs just aren’t worth that much, relatively speaking. It seems very odd to me that a group targeting an entire expansion franchise would buy a only “piece” of another MLS club. I can’t really make sense out of it.

  27. No way should MLS ever move a team again…the Crew as a franchise definitely needs a shake up in the front office though. Hopefully this leads to the franchise being more viable as long as they stay committed to Columbus.

  28. I love love love the idea of a team in Vegas. However, I wouldn’t want them uprooting Columbus for it. If that is what it took for me to get a team in Vegas than I guess it would be preferable to not having one here, but Columbus has a history and it is sad to think of it losing that history (even if it isn’t a stellar one).

  29. Columbus is a bigger city than people realize ( )

    It’s bigger than DC, Boston, Seattle, or Denver. And that doesn’t include all the ‘burbs around Columbus (of which there are a LOT).

    It’s also dominated by 1 sports “franchise” and that’s Ohio State. The only sports there that are successful are those that don’t directly compete with OSU, like the Columbus Blue Jackets. The problem of Columbus isn’t the size of the market itself, it’s that Columbus as a city identifies itself with Ohio State, first and foremost (and often exclusively). There are plenty of people you can find at Ohio State soccer matches that won’t go near Crew Stadium, b/c they’re Ohio St fans, not b/c they’re soccer fans. I know, I’ve met them.

    Now, there are other issues – there’s no good public trans to the stdium, despite it being right in the middle of the city, and the state as a whole is completely in the tank for football. The local TV deal isn’t a good one, and not likely to improve any time soon.

    But Columbus as its own city, media market, and sports town isn’t the base of the problem. It’s converting those fans from scarlet-and-gray to black-and-gold.

  30. It says in the 2nd paragraph that they won;t move the team so I wouldn’t there was much to fear in that regard. If anything a new cash influx and new, owners interested in a shiny new toy might be in the club (and fans) best interest.

  31. i heard that they were planning on attaching the field to a hotel being built in LasVegas, assuming LV got a team (not taking columbus)….

    geez, as a fire fan i hope there is no talk of moving them from columbus… if so, give us STL…

  32. It’s a large enough market for an MLS team and with the location of the stadium, I’d imagine that the Crew were hoping they’d attract a large number of Ohio State students to games.

  33. HSG and AEG need to complete the scaleback to one team each, so I am all for a sale, but I don’t want to see anymore team relocations. Lets build some history here, folks.

  34. Question for those who have been following MLS since its early days? why did they think putting a team in Columbus, Ohio was a good idea? no offense to columbus residents but it’s not exactly a big market


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