Major League Soccer has entered into exclusive talks with Aston Villa co-owners Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris about securing the rights to bring an MLS expansion team to Las Vegas, it was announced on Friday.
The news first appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
The discussions will include market analysis, the planning for state-of-the-art practice facility, corporate offices and stadium. Sources have told ESPN that plans for the stadium include a capacity of around 25,000 seats, as well as the capability of playing indoors, which commissioner Don Garber said was a requirement for placing a team in Las Vegas. All told, the entire cost of the stadium, expansion fee and other startup costs could approach $1 billion.
If the talks are successful, MLS's 30th team will be jointly owned by Edens -- who also co-owns current NBA champions the Milwaukee Bucks -- and Sawiris. Edens is also the co-CEO of Fortress Investment Group while Sawiris serves as executive chairman of NNS Sarl. Edens and Sawiris were behind a group who filed in June to trademark the name "Las Vegas Villains" tied to a professional soccer franchise.
"As we witnessed at this summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup, at Leagues Cup and other marquee soccer matches in Las Vegas throughout the years, the city has a passionate soccer fan base, and we believe it could be a terrific MLS market," Garber said in a statement. "We look forward to finalizing our agreement with Wes and Nassef."
The news of bringing an expansion team has been expected ever since Sacramento fell out of the running after primary investor Ron Burkle decided not to move forward with the project. Phoenix and San Diego were also considered. Garber has previously stated that the team wouldn't begin play prior to 2023.
"As one of the world's premier sports and entertainment markets with a fast-growing and diverse community, Las Vegas is the ideal home for an MLS expansion team," Edens and Sawiris said in a joint statement. "We believe that the rising popularity of soccer and development of talent in the United States puts the MLS on a path to becoming one of the top leagues in the world. This is an important step to build on our relationship with the MLS. We're optimistic we'll reach a final agreement soon to bring a world-class franchise and significant economic and cultural benefits to the greater Las Vegas community."