When you're an organization that has been using expansion fees as a significant part of your financial model -- and even MLS's most ardent supporters have to admit that -- it should come as little surprise that whenever a city expresses interest, the league make some attempt to encourage that interest. So, it should come as little surprise that MLS Commissioner Don Garber apparently reached out to Las Vegas last week after developer Chris Milam unveiled plans for a sports complex that would potentially include a MLS stadium.
How seriously MLS is considering Las Vegas is very much another issue. Garber has reportedly made similar contacts with potential ownership groups in Minnesota and Orlando, as well as having very well documented discussions with at least two groups in New York City. There's really no reason to think that if someone in Sioux City, Iowa offered to build a $400 million stadium and plunk down $50 million for the expansion fee that Garber wouldn't be calling them as well.
As Garber very well knows, the more interest there is in becoming MLS team No. 20, the more the league can charge for expansion fees. The Montreal Impact reportedly paid somewhere between $40-$50 million in 2010 to become team No. 19. Some rumors have suggested MLS is seeking as much as $100 million for team No. 20, which is expected to be the final expansion team for several years.
It's also possible that an existing team could move to Las Vegas. In 2008, a group was reportedly looking into buying the Columbus Crew and moving them to Las Vegas, but that eventually fell through when the stock market crashed. The Crew are probably still the best candidate for relocation, as they are struggling mightily at the gate and have already started making noise about wanting to upgrade their now out-dated soccer-specific stadium.
If MLS could work in Las Vegas, it would probably be in a situation like this. Milam recently purchased the Triple-A Las Vegas 51's and has already said he plans to build a three-stadium complex in which to house them. Milam is trying get the complex built across Las Vegas Boulevard from the Mandalay Bay, which would make it very accessible to both tourists and locals alike. Milam is hoping to put a NBA team in the third venue.