Allow me to paint a picture for you of a city I have in my mind: located in the desert, very diverse residents, and is heavily influenced by Latino people and culture, where soccer is very popular among the city's residents, especially with the youth. Thinking of a city in Latin America, perhaps? While the city's characteristics I've listed may very well describe numerous cities in South America, this is not the city I had in mind. Let me add a few more details- a city that's world famous, never sleeps, and makes it's living off of gambling. Of course the city in question is the "sinful" city of Las Vegas, but certain characteristics I've listed of the city are promoted with a much greater effort than others.
I listed enthusiasm in soccer as a classic quality of Las Vegas, and why wouldn't I? Las Vegas hosts many annual tournaments that attract teams from literally all over the world, and the city hosts numerous youth, arena, and semi-professional teams, not to mention UNLV's teams or those from Vegas' high schools. Soccer in Las Vegas is very popular with boys and girls and while it may be stereotyped as solely a Hispanic sport, it's not limited to one demographic. With the recent successes of the United State's Men's and especially the Women's national teams in the FIFA World Cup, there's no doubt soccer's popularity will continue to rise in the US, and even more so in the Las Vegas area. So the facts are abundantly clear, but the point comes with the realization that for many, this is their first time hearing of this. This element reveals the success of the work done (or lack thereof) to promote soccer within the Las Vegas community. While soccer is growing fast in popularity with many of the city's residents, there are still far too many who are tuned out to the exciting events here and exceptional home-grown talent. Las Vegas took a major step in this endeavor when in 2015, the Cordish and Findlay companies lobbied the MLS to choose Las Vegas as the home for a new expansion franchise. While the league ultimately rejected Las Vegas as the new team's host, an underlying support for professional soccer was revealed, making Vegas all the more likely to be awarded a franchise in the future. We as a city look forward to the arrival of that day, as we are without any professional sports teams to root for and call our own, which begs the question why anyone would be opposed to this effort- without any hometown teams to compete with for publicity, sports-oriented attention would be aimed exclusively at the club, a prime investment opportunity.
Ultimately, I believe the frustratingly lackluster job done at promoting soccer in Las Vegas rests on two long-held (read: outdated) beliefs. The first being that, if the ultimate goal of any sport in a city is to build a professional team, then that becomes the thing we're all reaching for- however, leagues have repeatedly shied away from Las Vegas because of the concern that the mix of local gambling and professional sports fixes the outcome of games. No matter how untrue the link may be, professional organizations from all different sports have used this same reasoning in rejecting Las Vegas when asking for a team. This ultimately leads into the second reason with a question- if every sports league has rejected Las Vegas, why are other sports such as football and basketball so popular here? That second reason and outdated belief is that soccer will just never catch on in the United States- but this notion will soon prove to be untrue (if it hasn't been already) with the growing popularity of soccer among Americans, and especially so in a city more strongly connected with the sport.
It is only a matter of time before Las Vegas soccer becomes a more recognized staple of Las Vegas we know it to be underneath. As we eagerly await that day, the best we can do is support our fellow neighbors who play and coach in our vibrant community.