SBD/July 3, 2013/Franchises

Oklahoma City Awarded USL Team; Ownership Hopes For MLS Within 10 Years

Allgood (r) believes OKC can eventually be home to an MLS franchise
USL President Tim Holt on Tuesday officially awarded a franchise to Oklahoma City, and ownership group Prodigal LLC believes that with "its experience combined with rabid fan support of the USL team, within the next eight to 10 years it could be on a level to get an MLS team in Oklahoma City," according to Rhiannon Walker of the OKLAHOMAN. Part of Prodigal's attraction to USL PRO was its "recent joint venture" with MLS. USL PRO in '13 began "a multiyear partnership with MLS to strengthen the competition in both leagues." Prodigal Senior Exec VP/New Business Development John Allgood said, "There is a demographic of fan that wants soccer in Oklahoma City, and ... we're going to be on the right path to get an MLS team." He added, "Four of the five teams that have gone in the MLS have come from a USL PRO franchise, and there's a formal agreement that allows that to happen. So we think, and I know the Greater Oklahoma City Sports Consortium ... they feel like that USL PRO is the best opportunity to get to an MLS franchise." Walker notes the "relationship between Prodigal and the USL has been three years in the making." Prodigal "also runs" the AHL Oklahoma City Barons. Prodigal in the next few months will "begin looking into an affiliation partnership with" MLS franchises FC Dallas, Dynamo and Sporting KC. Prodigal is "currently in negotiations with several interested groups for a venue." The venue would "need to hold at least 3,000 patrons, but Prodigal is hoping to house between 7,000 and 8,000 fans" (OKLAHOMAN, 7/3).

TEST RUN: In Las Vegas, Paul Delos Santos noted the two "fiercest rivals in Mexican soccer will play at Sam Boyd Stadium this week in a game that is expected to draw 20,000 fans -- and, more importantly, show whether Las Vegas can muster enough enthusiasm to host its own" MLS team. There is a "strong fan base in Las Vegas, due partly to a Hispanic community that embraces soccer." But even though the league "recently expanded to 20 teams, there have been no discussions of a team coming to Las Vegas." When it comes to "sanctioning new teams, MLS focuses on three major factors: How fans in a prospective league city respond -- in ticket sales and TV ratings -- to exhibition contests, the interest of an ownership group savvy in sports entertainment and the quality of a venue." Las Vegas has "struggled to find owners interested in bringing a team to the city, as professional franchises are high-risk ventures." As for building a soccer stadium, "no such proposal has surfaced in Las Vegas." Two proposed arena project developers have "expressed interest in hosting an MLS team." ESPN Deportes Las Vegas Program Dir Alvaro Puentes said that he "had no doubt the city could support a franchise." Puentes said that the "local Hispanic community would provide the core fan base that a team would need to take root here." Nevada has the "14th largest Hispanic population in the country." Puentes: "We are ready for an MLS team in town" (LAS VEGAS SUN, 7/1).
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