By ALAN SNEL
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and her husband, Oscar, the former mayor, have dreamed of an NBA team or NFL franchise or even a Major League Soccer club setting up shop in downtown Las Vegas.
But in the end, a minor league soccer team at Cashman Field — where the soccer club will share the venue with the Triple A 51s — is the best sports team fit for downtown.
The Las Vegas City Council is expected next week to approve a lease to allow a United Soccer League (USL) team to play at Cashman next year.
“The USL is thrilled with the tremendous progress and grateful for the hard work by the City of Las Vegas to bring professional soccer to downtown,” USL President Jake Edwards said in a statement on the United Soccer League website.
“We received a very strong application from the ownership group led by Brett Lashbrook and his family, and are optimistic the City Council will approve the lease agreement for Cashman Field next week,” Edwards said.
“A professional club in Las Vegas further strengthens the league’s presence on the West Coast, creating regional rivalries that drive fan passion for the game,” he said.
Lashbrook has lots of soccer management experience. He worked for Major League Soccer and also was the former chief operating officer for the Orlando City soccer club.
Only two years ago, Mayor Goodman suffered a soccer team defeat when Major League Soccer rejected the city’s request to have a MLS team in downtown.
The Findlay family, which owns car dealerships in Nevada, had joined forces with Maryland-based developer Cordish Cos. to propose a $200 million subsidized soccer stadium with the city in Symphony Park. But political discord marred the stadium subsidy proposal and MLS did not choose Las Vegas as an expansion team host city in 2015.
Goodman told LVSportsBiz.com Friday that MLS Commissioner Don Garber advised Las Vegas to go with a USL team as a step towards winning a possible major-league soccer team down the road.
“All the pieces have fallen into place. It’s so right for the community. This makes so much sense,” Goodman said. “This is the right way to go.”
The soccer team item on Wednesday’s city council agenda calls for the city to pay the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) $50,000 annually for the USL club to play at Cashman Field. Agenda documents show the city will also pay the LVCVA $6,000 per game for soccer games there.
The city can drop out of the lease deal if Major League Soccer awards Las Vegas a team.
51s President Don Logan told LVSportsBiz that he didn’t expect it would be a problem for the Triple A club — a New York Mets affiliate — to share the Cashman turf with the soccer team because the soccer club will not practice there.
Logan said the USL team will only play two or three games per month, on average, at Cashman Field — and he didn’t think that amount of use would be an issue.
Logan noted the Reno baseball park also plays host to a Triple A team and a USL club.
Other teams are also joining the USL. Besides Las Vegas, Nashville SC and Fresno, Calif. will join the league for 2018. Birmingham, Ala. is the first team set to be announced for 2019. There’s also a USL team in Reno.
The USL’s 30 teams are split into two conferences – Eastern and Western. Each team plays 32 games over 30 weeks for the 2017 season.
Contact LVSportsBiz.com founder/writer Alan Snel at asnel@LVSportsBiz.com