The next steps in trying to get a Major League Soccer expansion team in El Paso are starting to take shape.
“We’re in the process now of beginning those conversations to move a stadium site and stadium financing plan along,” Alan Ledford, MountainStar Sports Group president told ABC-7. “It’s a very competitive situation. To be considered, we need to be putting our best step forward, and one of the ways to do that is move as expeditiously as possible.”
MountainStar Sports Group, which owns the Triple-A baseball team El Paso Chihuahuas, announced in mid-June that they have had "preliminary and positive discussions" with MLS about El Paso getting an expansion team.
The race to get an MLS team has been heating up the last few months:
- The San Antonio Scorpions revealed plans on Sept. 3 to expand their existing stadium from an 8,000-seat facility to an 18,000-seat facility in an effort to get an MLS expansion team.
- Some owners of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings and a UFC fighter are part of the group trying to get an expansion team in Sacramento. Sacramento Republic FC selected a stadium site in mid-September and revealed more investors this month.
- Las Vegas now has two different potential ownership groups trying to lure MLS to Las Vegas.
- Charlotte jumped in the scrum for an MLS team in mid-September with its USL PRO club changing hands.
“We are absolutely part of the conversation,” Ledford said. “The motivation of our ownership group is the same, if not higher. After going to the MLS All-Star Game in Portland (Aug. 6) our enthusiasm for this venture is very high and we think, while there’s plenty of competition, we have a significant amount to offer.”
Ledford said the success of Southwest University Park and the Chihuahuas has made a statement on many levels.
“And we think this community has a lot to offer that’s unique,” Ledford said.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in summer 2013 that the league intends to expand to 24 teams by 2020.
Since then, MLS has awarded expansion franchises to Orlando (2015), New York (2015), Atlanta (2017), and Miami.
The Miami ownership group, led by David Beckham, has been awarded a franchise to begin play in 2017 but they are having problems finding a place to build a stadium.
That leaves one market remaining for the 24-team threshold established by Garber.
ABC-7 asked Dan Courtemanche, MLS Executive Vice President of Communications, in July where El Paso stands in the process of getting a team in light of the news about Las Vegas officials having preliminary discussions with MLS to get a team.
"There are many cities interested in bringing a future Major League Soccer expansion team to their market, including El Paso," Courtemanche said in an email to ABC-7 July 22. "El Paso has a passionate soccer fan base, and we continue to monitor the market."
MountainStar Sports created a website, http://www.mlsinelp.com, in June where fans could sign up to show their support for MLS in the El Paso-Juarez-Las Cruces region.
Mlsinelp.com was updated so visitors could sign up for season ticket information or general updates.
The updated website had statements from two members of MountainStar's ownership group about bringing soccer to El Paso:
"Sports can serve as one of the most important bridges between our two countries. It transcends national beliefs and languages, and serves as a passionate reminder of what our two cities represent: a single community sharing economies and a common culture. There is no better sport than soccer to achieve this," Alejandra de la Vega Foster said on the website.
"El Paso has proven that it will support a major sports program. Our regional Chihuahua fans have set attendance records and helped the team reach numerous milestones. We know this passion and support will be demonstrated as well for Major League Soccer," Josh Hunt said on the website.
The website was changed in early September, shortly after it was updated, to remove the information that had been added to it.
- County Coliseum site to see changes: Soccer stadium a possibility? July 22, 2014
- Major League Soccer player, El Paso native Omar Salgado thinks MLS would be successful in El Paso June 20, 2014
- Chihuahuas ownership group pursuing Major League Soccer franchise June 17, 2014
- MLS commissioner: Stadium in Downtown preferred for all future MLS expansion franchises June 17, 2014
- Major League Soccer facts: How much teams are worth, attendance figures, and more June 16, 2014