Speaking at his annual state of the league address, Garber said MLS was “making progress” in the city and was in discussions with a group led by businessman Wes Edens, the co-founder of Fortress Investment and co-owner of National Basketball Association (NBA) champions the Milwaukee Bucks, as well as the Premier League’s Aston Villa.
“We’re excited about the market, as are all the other leagues in North America,” said Garber. “Wes is a guy we have long-standing relationships with, he had looked at other MLS clubs over the years.
“We’ll continue those discussions and continue to try and get something done with our 30th team within the next ten months.”
Las Vegas has already seen a rise in professional sports teams in recent years. The National Hockey League’s (NHL) Vegas Golden Knights were established in 2017, while the National Football League’s (NFL) Raiders relocated last year from Oakland to Allegiant Stadium and Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Athletics could still follow.
Though Las Vegas and Edens are in pole position to secure a franchise, other cities are not out of contention yet.
“I want to point out that we’re still in discussions with other markets, both Phoenix and San Diego,” Garber continued. “Interest in Major League Soccer continues to grow.”
The timeline for a new franchise entering the league will not be determined until a market is selected. Garber has ruled out anything before 2023. This is primarily due to that being the first year of the expanded Leagues Cup between MLS and Mexico’s Liga MX, which was initially announced to have 48 teams. MLS is currently set to have 29 clubs and Liga MX currently has 18.
“We have not yet determined when that 30th team will start playing,” Garber said. “The 30th team will not be in by 2023 [for Leagues Cup]. That’s something everybody should be aware of.”
Garber also gave an update on the sale of Real Salt Lake. The franchise has been seeking a buyer since last year following a racism scandal involving current owner Dell Loy Hansen, who announced he would sell the team following a league investigation into his language and conduct.
MLS took over the sales process from Hansen in January after he failed to find a buyer. Last month, according to Sportico, Salt Lake were nearing a takeover by an investment group led by David Blitzer, the co-owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils.
“We continue to be engaged in discussions with potential owners,” said Garber. “I’m hopeful we’ll be able to get something closed. We had a timetable to get that done by the end of the year, we’ll see if that’s achievable. If not, I’m hopeful we’ll get something done soon.”
MLS also remains in negotiations with broadcasters over a new media rights deal. The league’s current contracts are up after the 2022 season, but Garber is optimistic an agreement will be reached in the first three months of next year.
“We have been out in the market with an unprecedented package of rights that include every MLS game, whether it be local, national, international, out-of-market, linear or streaming,” he said.
“There will be more details to come, and I have every expectation that our new media rights agreements will be finalised during the first quarter of 2022.”
Garber added: “And obviously, we are in the market with the rights for the recently announced Leagues Cup, our joint venture with Liga MX, that begins in the summer of 2023.”