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August 21, 2014

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Investor: Las Vegas still ideal for MLS expansion team

Beyond the Sun

Major League Soccer has recently expanded into Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, and Mark Noorzai believes those were excellent calls.

That he’s been trying to bring an expansion club to Las Vegas for more than three years, he said, doesn’t conflict with the moves MLS has made in the Northwest.

“I think (MLS commissioner) Don Garber picked the right cities with the right ownership groups,” said Noorzai, a California businessman who has specialized in the technology industry. “I’m optimistic that MLS will continue to grow in these difficult economic times.”

The Northwest was the center of attention in American soccer last week.

Wednesday, Vancouver was tabbed as MLS’s 17th team. Thursday, 32,522 crammed into Qwest Field in Seattle to watch the Sounders win their league debut. Friday, Portland was named as the 18th team.

Both Vancouver and Portland will begin play in 2011.

MLS has talked about expanding to 20 teams, with St. Louis, Miami and other fringe cities on the candidate list, but it isn’t certain whether that could take place by 2012.

Noorzai, who has been negotiating for months for a minority ownership position in the Columbus Crew, started the Las Vegas Sports & Entertainment Group three years ago. He said he hasn’t slowed down, despite the economy and investor fears, in trying to include Las Vegas on the MLS landscape.

“This is a long-term endeavor,” Noorzai said from Camarillo, Calif. “Long-term projects require not just perseverance and hard work, but endurance.

“Times couldn’t be better for what we want to do. Times couldn’t be better for working on a franchise for Las Vegas. The real estate is reasonable, the banking, the resources … and the opportunity couldn’t be better.”

The ongoing challenge hasn’t dissipated Noorzai’s bullishness on bringing a pro soccer franchise to Las Vegas.

“I’m very bullish,” Noorzai said. “Vegas will always be Vegas. The value of that asset has never changed. That won’t change. I still believe Las Vegas will be the market of markets for MLS.”

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