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Garber: Las Vegas the favorite for 30th MLS expansion spot

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The race for the 30th MLS expansion team has a clear leader now, and while we may not know for a while which market will secure the spot, what is clear is that the league is looking West, only one of the markets that previously held down the role of expansion favorite.

Talks between MLS and prospective ownership groups in Las Vegas are “making progress”, Don Garber confirmed in his State of the League Address on Tuesday. Garber acknowledged that Las Vegas is the current frontrunner, though not the only market in contention for the league’s 30th expansion spot.

In addition to Las Vegas, MLS is also “still in discussion with other markets” including Phoenix and San Diego, Garber confirmed. Phoenix also has a USL side and would be seeking first-time involvement in the top-tier league while San Diego recently announced a new NWSL expansion side, the San Diego Wave.

One market that was not mentioned by Garber was Sacramento, which has plummeted out of the expansion picture due to the city’s inability to secure an ownership group with enough financial muscle having had prospective investors pull out of the project.

The billionaire tandem of Wes Edens and Nassef Sawris filed to trademark for a soccer team named the Las Vegas Villains earlier in 2021 and Garber confirmed the league is working with Edens on the Las Vegas possibility. Bill Foley, owner of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights had been interested in joining the MLS expansion race, but recently confirmed that he has withdrawn from consideration.

Las Vegas has become a sports boomtown in recent years, with the NFL’s Raiders relocating to Las Vegas and opening a state-of-the-art stadium. The NHL’s Vegas Knights have also been a success.

“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. I didn’t see it coming.”

Garber acknowledged that the league has examined expansion in Las Vegas for many years. He said the league met in its early years with former Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman about possible expansion.

“We’re very bullish about the market and we’ll continue to plow forward,” Garber said. “I can’t really comment on what our stadium plans are at this point because there’s still fluid. But you know, hopefully sometime in the next couple of months, we’ll have more to talk about.”

Comments

  1. At some point we GOTTA take the training wheels off MLS and let the big dogs spend. Atlanta would love to spend. Seattle would love to spend. You’d think Vegas would love to spend. The LA teams would both love to spend. My solution has been simple for awhile: let teams sell their DP spots for the year for cold hard cash…which they can then apply towards their own salary caps.

    Some teams wanna spend and spend big. Fine. Let them. But make them finance the small-market teams that can’t.

    Example: if a team decides to sell all three of its DP slots for, say, two million a pop, they’d then have approximately $11 million to spend on its roster. (5 million base cap + 6 million for the three slots.) The team (or teams) that bought those slots could then spend whatever it wanted for designated players in those slots…if a team bought 8 spots they could conceivably field a starting lineup of 11 world-class DP’s…but at that $2 million a pop it’d cost them $16 million from a standing start just to get to that point…which they’d have to pay to other squads, in turn making those stronger as well.

    You’d see an interesting mix of DP-heavy squads, and teams with none whatsoever that just had balanced – and much deeper – rosters laden with players in the $300-$500K range. Which buys you a really, really good roster that goes 20+ guys deep.

    Instantly, it’s going to be a better league…that still retains some parity and offers paths to large-and-small-market squads.

    Reply
    • I started advocating for something like this about half a dozen years ago. Maybe if we keep pushing for it they will eventually see the light. The way it is now with DP money, temporary allocation, salary cap, etc. it’s so ridiculously complicated. At the least they should allow teams to use DP and temporary allocation for the salary cap and spend how they wish. And, if a team wants, keep one DP slot and use money from the other two in a mix and match. Best would be to just raise the salary cap to a reasonable amount without all these stupid regulations. It’s like they wanted to give more employment opportunities to accountants. As to this article, I’d love to see a franchise in San Diego since it is one of the best soccer areas in the county. During the last World Cup, San Diego had the highest viewership per capita of just about any major US city, plus we can draw from Tijuana. Also, although not mentioned in the article, we also have a USL team. Finally, the local university, San Diego State, will have a brand new stadium that seats 33,000 that will be finished next year. They could easily share with an MLS team.

      Reply
      • I don’t mind complicated, personally. I do care about product and the reason I suggested to do it this way is simple: it balances out the big and little clubs. If you wanna spend on big-name, world class players, this offers a pathway to do it…but the downside is the big spenders will likely wind up with 8-10 DP’s, another couple guys in that sub-million range whose contracts got bought down with TAM…and then some scraps for subs, which means they’ll be affected a lot more by International breaks and injuries. The small-market squads in turn would have probably 20+ guys, as I mentioned, in the $300-$500K range, so they’d have a deeper squad with a bunch of guys making around the same amount of money. So the big-market squads would have star power and a talent edge in their starting 11’s…while the small-market squads would have depth, continuity, and probably way less in terms of locker-room drama. I still think it’d end up keeping a fair bit of parity and well-run small-market squads that scout and shop smart and coach them well could end up with really solid rosters of very good if largely unknown players.
        MLS is hitting 30 teams with the addition of Vegas and shows no sign of slowing down. I definitely think it’s time for the league to up its game, particularly with the World Cup coming in ’26. An upgraded league would be enormously poised to reap huge rewards because if the quality is there with all eyeballs upon it, MLS could finally find itself in a position to join the “Big 5” as an elite league, which has always been the goal, yes?

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