UPDATE: El Paso Contender for Major League Soccer team

Updated: Monday, June 16 2014, 09:18 PM MDT
UPDATE: El Paso Contender for Major League Soccer team story image

By: Genevieve Curtis

EL PASO, Texas - 
Adding Major League Soccer in El Paso is a possibility, according to an announcement from the owners of the El Paso Chihuahuas.

The announcement was made Monday morning.

MountainStar Sports Group announced it has had preliminary and positive discussions with Major League Soccer regarding the possibility of adding El Paso as an expansion market for the league.

Alan Ledford, president of MountainStar Sports Group, said, "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."

In 2013 Garber announced the leagues' expansion plan is to increase the number of teams to 24 by 2020.
El Paso is a contender to become home to one of those teams. 

Ledford said two MLS representatives attended the El Paso Chihuahua’s Opening Day at Southwest University Park.
“They were very impressed,” said Ledford. “The fact that the region has been so supportive of Triple-A baseball, the Chihuahuas and its new venue. The fact that that experience has been such a positive one,” said Ledford.
The borderland could be an ideal location for an MLS team; soccer is an intrinsic part of the community and culture, as well as home to radical soccer fans on both sides of the border.
“Ciudad Juarez is just blocks away where soccer is the undisputed No. 1 sport throughout the country,” said Ledford.

The booming borderland region has also peaked the interest of MLS.
“I think it’s also caught the attention of Major League Soccer that El Paso is a community, is a region that is on the rise,” said Ledford.
El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser said he supports MountainStar's efforts to get MLS to consider the city for an expansion team. "I have had several meetings with members of the ownership group and made it clear that they have my support, as long as the process is transparent and inclusive."
When it comes to where an a soccer stadium could possibly be located, that’s seems to be one ball that’s still in the air.
“It’s early on in the process,” said Leeser.
But a 2012 study by the city of El Paso determined the best location for an MLS stadium is south of Paisano near the bus depot and railroad yard.
Ledford also said it was too early in the process to talk about locations for the stadium. But he said it was clear what MLS is looking for when it comes to new stadiums. 
According to Ledford, MLS prefers stadiums that are soccer specific, and have the capacity to hold between 18,000 and 20,000 fans.
“It certainly make sense that generally... the stadium is located near the border, near the bridges as it possibly can be, those are all discussions that have not been had in any level of detail,” said Ledford.
Downtown would be the optimal location to be within walking distance of the international bridges. The 2012 city study said the Paisano location was ideal because of its “proximity to the border and market potentials.”
At a press conference Leeser said if the stadium required a serious financial investment from the city he would want to take that to the voters. 
In 2012 voters approved the quality of life bonds, which included $180 million that could be designated for a soccer stadium or “multipurpose arena.”
Leeser added that he believes El Paso is ideally suited for MLS. 

"As a city, we can show Major League Soccer that we will bring unique attributes to the league and can compete very effectively, both geographically and economically, with anybody. In my view, we would be a great market for MLS. I think our community will get engaged in this process and MLS will know that we mean business." 

Ledford said that MLS has strict criteria that a region, or market, must meet to be considered as a viable expansion candidate. 

"One of the key components that MLS looks for when considering an expansion city is the community support the prospective team would have in that area and what the city or region does to demonstrate that support," Ledford said. "This is a highly competitive process. El Paso, Juarez and Las Cruces would have to collectively put its best foot forward in demonstrating that it truly wants a Major League Soccer team, as well as show how the region would support it." 
El Paso will face stiff competition from cities like San Antonio, Austin, Miami, San Diego and Atlanta, which are all looking to score their own MLS team. It will take enthusiasm and commitment from the community to help attract MLS to the region.

MountainStar Sports Group feels that one of the first things El Paso and the region can do is support the exhibition match between Club Deportivo Guadalajara, known as the Chivas, and the Brazilian team Cruzeiro Esporte Clube, scheduled for July 6 in the Sun Bowl. "They'll be looking carefully at attendance, the game experience and crowd behavior; they want to see if El Paso, Juarez, and Las Cruces fans are passionate about the game of soccer played at the highest level," said Ledford.

Ledford said that MountainStar Sports Group is not affiliated with the exhibition game, but they will be lending as much support as possible. "This is our second chance to shine in the eyes of MLS," said Ledford. "We need to let Major League Soccer see, firsthand, that the El Paso/Juarez area will support a professional sports team at the level of MLS." Ledford also said, "There are many cities aggressively vying for an MLS team and this will be another opportunity for the region to show its true character. And, based on its amazing support for the Chihuahuas and Triple-baseball, on July 6 I think MLS will be very pleased."

Ledford said the first chance MLS had to see El Paso was at the El Paso Chihuahuas Opening Night game at Southwest University Park. "MLS had two representatives here that day," said Ledford. "I can tell you that the full ballpark, the sponsorships and business support, and the fan's amazing enthusiasm -- all of it impressed MLS. They saw that the region will support a professional team of this caliber, and that the city stepped up and built a beautiful, first-class ballpark. All of this is critically important in the selection process for MLS." Ledford added, "From my perspective, Triple-A baseball was the first step for the El Paso/Juarez region. Now we can begin the work to capitalize on that success."
County Judge Veronica Escobar also voiced her support. In a statement release by MountainStar Sports group Escobar said, "MountainStar Sports Group and I have had positive discussions regarding El Paso's opportunity to get an MLS expansion team," said Escobar. "This is a great chance for us to take the next step as a vibrant, growing city and county. We've seen what has happened recently with Minor League Baseball and the great support of this community, and now we have an opportunity to take advantage of that success. It's rare that any city has a chance to seriously be considered as an MLS market, and I think this region will get behind an effort to bring an MLS team here. I will strongly support that effort."

UPDATE: El Paso Contender for Major League Soccer team
comments powered by Disqus

El Paso Times Headlines

Proposed immigration detention shelter would be near Clint
CLINT, Texas (AP) - Authorities are considering a bid to build a shelter in West Texas that would be the largest in the U.S. to hold unaccompanied children who enter the country illegally.
City Rep. Lily Limon wants holiday lights at J.P. Shawver Park
City Rep. Lily Limón is thinking about Christmas in July. During a budget workshop last week, Limón said she wants to begin planning for a winter holiday display and event at J.P. Shawver Park in the Lower Valley.
Share your memories of Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Nolan Richardson
Do you have a favorite story or photo to share of Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Nolan Richardson?
MLB: El Paso Chihuahuas pitcher Jason Lane to make fill-in start with Padres
ATLANTA -- Ian Kennedy will miss his scheduled start Monday against the Braves with soreness in his left oblique, though the team is confident that he will avoid the disabled list and will only miss this one start.
New school, new year: Mission Ridge Elementary welcomes students
Luis Hernandez walked quickly this morning behind his mother as they crossed the unpaved sidewalk to his new school - Mission Ridge Elementary.
SISD: School year begins with new Mission Ridge Elementary School in Sparks area
Starting a new school year at a new campus is like opening a new box of crayons said Principal Rosy Vega-Barrio of Mission Ridge Elementary School.
›› Photos: Mission Ridge Elementary School
Family, dogs suffer from smoke inhalation in East El Paso house fire
Firefighters extinguished an East El Paso garage fire, treated a family for smoke inhalation and burns and gave a dog CPR on Sunday.
Chat with El Paso City Manager Tommy Gonzalez postponed
Update: The chat with City Manager Tommy Gonzalez has been postponed. The chat will be rescheduled at a later date.
Traffic update: Traffic call on Loop 375 South and Bob Hope
8:45 a.m.: Police are responding to a traffic related call on Loop 375 South at the Bob Hope exit ramp.
19-year-old El Pasoan dies in Hudspeth County crash
A 19-year-old El Pasoan died in a two-vehicle crash on Sunday night in Hudspeth County.
Triple-A Baseball: Goebbert, Wisler fuel Chihuahuas win
Jake Goebbert insists he loves playing for the El Paso Chihuahuas, that he's more interested in approaching the game correctly than thinking about how quickly he can get back to San Diego.
Israeli strikes on Gaza, rocket fire, break lull
JERUSALEM (AP) - Israeli jets struck three sites in Gaza on Monday after a rocket was launched at Israel, the military said, disrupting a relative lull in the war-torn territory at the start of a major Muslim holiday.
KFOX Weather: Partly cloudy with a 30% of thunderstorms
Today: Partly cloudy with a 30% of thunderstorms. El Paso 96/73. Las Cruces 94/70. Southeast winds 5 to 15 mph.
Two men accused of dismembering Juárez woman
Two men have been arrested for allegedly killing and dismembering a Juárez woman last month, Chihuahua state prosecutors said.
Iron Focus: 4th Brigade trains for combat in Fort Bliss desert
MCGREGOR RANGE COMPLEX, N.M. >> Fort Bliss' 4th Brigade has been out in the field in the installation's vast training area for the past two weeks - sweating, camping, training, honing their soldier skills and getting ready for a new Army assignment.
›› Photos: Iron Focus - 4th Brigade training
KFOX14 El Paso - Links Mentioned Get the latest web resources mentioned on KFOX14 News!