Major League Soccer’s quest to expand has seen Sacramento fade from its previous position as a safe bet, which has opened the door for new contenders, and Las Vegas has taken advantage.
Sin City is gaining momentum as a potential MLS destination, and the recent news that a prospective ownership group had filed a trademark for the name Las Vegas Villains, presumably to be used as part of an MLS expansion bid, generated headlines last week.
There is more than one group trying to bring MLS to Las Vegas though, and sources tell SBI that one of the prominent ownership groups in the race for MLS expansion in Las Vegas has filed for a trademark of the name Las Vegas Heroes.
The Heroes group is led by Bill Foley, owner of the Vegas Golden Knights of the NHL, and Foley revealed back in 2019 that he had been in talks with MLS about an expansion team that would either play at the venue that is now Allegiant Stadium, or a potential new venue in Las Vegas.
“I’m very interested in this and we are working on making it happen,” Foley told the Las Vegas Review-Journal back in 2019. “I think soccer is the new football for many parents who don’t want their children playing (tackle football). I think we could be just as successful with soccer as we have been with hockey. We have all the infrastructure in place to make it very successful.”
In the two years since Foley’s statement, soccer has become more prominent in Las Vegas, with international matches being played in the city, including most recently the Gold Cup final, which was played in front of a sold-out ccrowd at Allegiant Stadium.
“That market, it continues to explode from a population growth perspective,” MLS commissioner Don Garber told ESPN last week. “We’ve seen the success of certainly the [Golden] Knights and big events. We tested a couple of events with the Gold Cup final. The Leagues Cup final will be there. The Gold Cup final sold out in minutes.
“Las Vegas is an interesting market,” Garber said. “We do want to secure our 30th team so that we can have a fully expanded league by the World Cup in 2026, so we’ll continue to focus on that market.”
Foley’s interest in MLS was established before the Villains group emerged more recently as a competitor, but now the two groups will be competing for what could wind up being Major League Soccer’s 30th team.
The Villains group includes billionaires Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris, co-owners of English Premier League club Aston Villa. Edens is also co-owner of recently-crowned NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks.
While the Villains group has garnered more publicity in recent weeks and months, the Heroes group is an equally strong contender, which would explain why Garber stopped short of calling the Villains group the frontrunner in the Las Vegas market.