While the U.S. Soccer team was winning a 2-0 friendly over Azerbaijan on Tuesday, a match was playing out in Las Vegas that will stretch far longer than 90 minutes and change. Both the City of Las Vegas and UNLV are courting Major League Soccer with plans for luxurious stadiums in Symphony Park and near the UNLV campus, respectively, that could house the league’s 24th team.
Both have their selling points, but obscured in all the he promised, she promised, is a bigger question: Is Las Vegas the right place for a professional soccer team in the first place?
You could say no for all the usual reasons: Will a transient city rally behind and show up for a pro team outside the big four sports of football, baseball, basketball and hockey? Will brutally high summer temps make games miserable for fans and players alike (or force an expensive domed or retractable roof stadium)? Does Vegas even like soccer?
But perhaps, with the right facilities (and, yes, we’re talking dome, AC and all the trimmings), this could actually work. After all, unlike our divided loyalties when it comes to the NFL or MLB, most locals probably don’t identify with an MLS team from back home. And as a game-day destination, Vegas would attract visiting fans who might not be as enticed to head to a San Jose Earthquakes game or catch Chivas USA, one of two teams calling LA home (and the club with the lowest annual attendance in the league).
And as we saw at last year’s packed Súper Clásico match between Chivas de Guadalajara and Club América, we already have the makings of some international-style hooliganism. All we need now is the team.