El Paso Is A Serious Contender For Final MLS Expansion Team
While soccer fans from all over the world are watching the World Cup, MountainStar Sports Group announced that they are working hard to bring professional soccer to El Paso. The same ownership team responsible for Triple-A baseball and a new $75 million ballpark in downtown El Paso issued a press release on Monday describing their preliminary conversations with Major League Soccer. Their goal is to be awarded an expansion franchise that could play their home games in the Sun City. MLS has already made it known that they will expand their league to five additional cities and 24 total teams by 2020. Orlando (2015), New York City (2015), Atlanta (2017), and Miami (pending a final stadium plan) are confirmed, leaving one spot open.
El Paso joins a list of hopeful cities that also include Minneapolis, Sacramento, Austin, San Antonio, San Diego, and St. Louis. However, now that the Chihuahuas’ ownership group, Mayor Oscar Leeser, and County Judge Veronica Escobar have gone public with their intentions to support an expansion MLS team, it clearly puts El Paso in the conversation for the final franchise. Alan Ledford, president of MountainStar Sports Group revealed that his ownership group has already begun the courting process of an MLS franchise.
“The ownership group has had several very good meetings with MLS, including meeting on two occasions with Don Garber, the League’s commissioner. This is the first step in a very long process, and we will continue to pursue all avenues available to urge MLS to consider the El Paso region as a viable expansion market.” Ledford added, “The ownership group is committed to furthering its pursuit and purchase of a Major League Soccer team for El Paso and the region, but strong and consistent support from the community as well as from El Paso’s public officials and the business leadership is critical to this endeavor.”
There are still plenty of questions, including where the team would likely play their home games. Like the Pacific Coast League, MLS commissioner Dan Garber prefers all expansion cities to play in a downtown stadium. The most logical option is to build a new state-of-the-art soccer only stadium in downtown El Paso. The 18,000-22,000 seat facility could be located near the downtown International Bridge and be the perfect complement to Southwest University Park.
A good litmus test for El Paso’s potential to win the final MLS expansion franchise will be on July 6th when Chivas Guadalajara battles a Brazilian club team. The exhibition game is being promoted by Soccer United Marketing, which is an affiliate of MLS. The appearance of the famed Mexican Premiere League team is a huge opportunity for El Paso to show MLS that they are serious about supporting professional soccer. If the match draws a large crowd and the reviews are positive, El Paso could be one giant step closer to joining MLS in the next five years