Where things stand with potential NBA and MLS expansion into Las Vegas

There appears to be no end in sight to Las Vegas’ emergence as a home to major professional league sports franchises. Once Major League Baseball arrives with the A’s relocation by 2027-that’s when the franchise’s planned stadium on the Strip is scheduled to be completed, though the team could play temporarily at the Las Vegas Ballpark sooner—the National Basketball Association and Major League Soccer could soon follow.

MLS was long considered closer to arriving here than the NBA, but the timelines might have flipped this year. The NBA has continued to intensify its commitment to Las Vegas with the expansion of the NBA Summer League, which commissioner Adam Silver recently referred to as the league’s “31st franchise,” and the upcoming In-Season Tournament. That new NBA event, which will include all 30 teams near the start of the regular season, will culminate at T-Mobile Arena with semifinals on December 7 and a championship game on December 9.

It’s all seen as a precursor to Las Vegas eventually landing its own NBA team, potentially before the end of the decade. Silver recently said it’s “not a secret” that the NBA is interested in bringing new franchises to Las Vegas and Seattle.

“It’s not a sure thing, but as I’ve said before. I think it’s natural that organizations grow over time,” Silver said during a Q&A session at the Associated Press Sports Editors convention during the Summer League.

The NBA’s current media rights deal expires in 2025, and league insiders have reported that expansion will become a focus once those new contracts are completed. During the Summer League earlier this month, The Athletic‘s Sam Amick reported that a new team being awarded to Las Vegas “seems more real than ever.”

Silver pointed out that the league wasn’t taking any meetings currently with prospective owners, but Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James has consistently lobbied to be a part of any Las Vegas group. “I would love to bring a team here at some point.” James said last year after the Lakers’ annual preseason game at T-Mobile Arena. “That would be amazing.”

A Las Vegas team would likely play at an arena planned for a site near Blue Diamond Road and Las Vegas Boulevard. Oak View Group plans to construct a venue on a 66 acre plot of land purchased for $100 million in 2022.

Oak View Group has shared $10 billion plans for the space that include a resort, an entertainment district and a “world class arena” with promises of the entire project being privately funded. The arena itself is slated to include 20,000 seats and come with a $1 billion price tag.

While Silver has described NBA expansion as “inevitable,” the MLS might offer a cautionary tale in terms of confidence that a team will ultimately land here. MLS commissioner Dan Garber did little to hide his interest in Las Vegas starting in 2019, eventually calling the area “the front-runner” to land the league’s 30th franchise.

But San Diego surged past Las Vegas this year, getting the nod as MLS’ newest team in May. The league will have added 12 teams in 10 years once San Diego begins play in 2025 and now plans to slow down. “We say we’re going to stop at 30, but the other major leagues are higher than that,” Garber said at the start of the current MLS season. “I would never say never in Major League Soccer.” A prospective Las Vegas MLS ownership group is in place, led by Milwaukee Bucks owner Wes Edens and English Premier League club Aston Villa owner Nassef Sawiris, and has even filed a trademark for the name “Las Vegas Villains” according to ESPN. But the prospect faces several other challenges.

New San Diego owner Mohamed Mansour will pay a $500 million expansion fee, up significantly from the $100 million paid by the New York City FC and the Orlando City SC clubs a decade ago. The MLS would also require the construction of a new stadium, which could cost around $500 million itself.

Las Vegas was considered the runner-up to San Diego for the 30th team, but even if the league decides to expand to 32, the city will have new competition. Garber has also mentioned Detroit; Phoenix, Sacramento, California; and Tampa, Florida as other potential MLS cities.

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Mike McNamara

Mike McNamara

A Las Vegas Realtor since 2008. Mike has a wide range of knowledge around all things Las Vegas.

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