SBD/August 3, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Attendance For Vegas Soccer Match Could Help Prove Market's Viability For MLS

Real Madrid's friendly in Las Vegas may serve as a harbinger for an expansion team
Organizers of Sunday's World Football Challenge match between La Liga club Real Madrid and Liga MX club Santos Laguna “believe the game is a referendum on whether Las Vegas is prepared to embrace professional soccer again -- specifically as an expansion location” for MLS, according to Steve Carp of the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL. Organizers are "charging World Cup prices for a ‘friendly’ match -- $71 for the least expensive seat, with the average ticket a hefty $146.” Justice Entertainment Group President & COO Daren Libonati, whose group is involved in promoting the event locally, said that if fans “support Sunday's game despite the expensive tickets, it will show MLS officials that Las Vegas is a serious player.” Libonati said, "It can open the door to getting MLS, no question. If they see the fans are coming out for this, it will leave a positive impression on them when it comes time to expand." CAA Sports agent Charlie Stillitano, whose agency is staging the WFC, said that the “high prices are due to the cost of bringing Real Madrid out West and the small size of Sam Boyd Stadium.” Stillitano said, "We're comfortable with the advance sales, and we're hoping to sell it out Sunday. We've gone into cities where MLS used our events as a barometer of the interest in soccer and has followed by putting teams in those markets." MLS President Mark Abbott said, "No one game determines whether a city is considered for expansion. ... But if it comes up short of a sellout, that doesn't mean Las Vegas is crossed off the list." Abbott said of Las Vegas, "I think it's a very intriguing market. It's a very diverse community; it's an international city." Carp notes the “most pressing concern is a facility.” Abbott said that MLS is “closely monitoring the various proposed stadium projects" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 8/3).
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