Golden Knights’ Bill Foley Pursuing MLS Franchise for Las Vegas

Posted on: June 6, 2019, 09:36h. 

Last updated on: June 6, 2019, 09:36h.

After the Golden Knights and the Raiders, could an MLS team be coming to Las Vegas? Golden Knights owner Bill Foley thinks so.

Bill Foley
Bill Foley believes that the Raiders’ stadium being built in Las Vegas could double up as the home of a future MSL franchise. But the City has plans for Cashman Field. (Image: Getty)

On Wednesday, Las Vegas City Council passed a resolution to begin talks with a developer to transform the downtown Cashman Field, home to the Las Vegas Lights, into an MLS-standard soccer stadium. Later that day, Foley told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that, separately, he also has his sights set on an MLS team, which he believes could use the under-construction Raiders stadium as its base.

“I’m very interested in this and we are working on making it happen,” Foley said. “I think we could be just as successful with soccer as we have been with hockey. We already have infrastructure and staffing in place to make it very successful in all areas.

“I believe the Raiders stadium in a controlled temperature environment would be the best venue, but if that didn’t work, I would consider (building) a soccer-specific stadium.”

Raiders owner Mark Davis has previously said that events like MLS would be at the “top of the list” when looking at ways to fill the forthcoming stadium when the Raiders aren’t using it.

Vegas Sports Hub Ambitions

This creates the intriguing prospect of two billionaires separately vying to bring MLS to Las Vegas, which is likely to make the league sit up and take notice.

The other billionaire in the equation is Seth Klarman, an investment banker who is backing the Cashman Field proposal. Should the deal go through, Klarman would purchase the Las Vegas Lights, a USL Championship team, and chase an MLS franchise.

“Godspeed,” said mayor Carolyn Goodman after the council voted unanimously to advance the Cashman project, LVRJ reported. “Bring it home.”

Goodman has been a longtime champion of bringing MLS to Las Vegas since before the Golden Knights were just a glint in Foley’s eye.

From zero major league teams to three in almost as many years would be an impressive result for Las Vegas. Now that the sports leagues’ distaste for gambling has dissipated, the city is waking up to the economic potential of becoming not just America’s gambling and entertainment center but also its sports hub.

Gambling on MLS

Is there an appetite for MLS in Las Vegas? There’s a steady bedrock of local soccer fans, largely drawn from the city’s sizeable Hispanic community. The Lights currently average around 7,600 fans per game.

The proposed stadium at Cashman Field would have capacity of 25,000 but interest both from locals and tourists would likely be boosted by MLS status.

And what about sports bettors? It’s difficult to know how many Americans bet on MLS because Nevada’s sports books report all soccer betting under one catch-all classification known as “other” – ie. all that is not football, basketball, or baseball.

But since viewing and attendance figures for soccer are on the rise in the US, especially among a younger demographic, it stands to reason that more people are betting on it too.

MLS is currently expanding, and has an ambition to reach 30 teams in the coming years. This year, Cincinnati will become the league’s 25th team, while Miami, Nashville, and Austin are scheduled to join in the next two seasons. Sacramento and St. Louis are tipped for two of the remaining three places, with the final spot likely going to one of Las Vegas, Charlotte, Detroit, or Phoenix.