Las Vegas Lights FC is an American professional soccer team based in Las Vegas, Nevada, that plays in the USL Championship. The team made its debut in 2018 and plays its home games at Cashman Field.
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After the 1976 season, the Las Vegas Quicksilvers of the North American Soccer League relocated to Las Vegas and became the city’s first professional soccer team. When the club moved to Las Vegas Stadium for the 1977 season, the average attendance was 7,092, but the following year, the team returned to San Diego.
In 1979, the American Soccer League’s Las Vegas Seagulls played a single season at Las Vegas Stadium (then known as the Las Vegas Silver Bowl) before being forced to fold by the league due to financial difficulties. The city also hosted the FIFA World Cup draw in December 1993 and was considered multiple times for a Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise, but the league opted not to take the city on.
Many club and national soccer exhibitions were held in the city in the early 2010s, notably the 2012 World Football Challenge match between Real Madrid and Santos Laguna, which gathered a record-breaking 29,152 fans in attendance in the state of Florida. 2014 saw the first serious consideration of an MLS stadium proposal at Symphony Park in Downtown Las Vegas by Findlay Sports and Entertainment and the Cordish Company. This decision by MLS in February 2015 put an end to plans for a public-funded downtown stadium in Las Vegas.
It failed to meet the league’s deadline for expansion applications in February 2017 despite its best efforts, failing to submit a proposal. As far back as April of last year, Brett Lashbrook formally proposed to the Las Vegas City Manager that a USL expansion team play their home games at Cashman Field beginning in 2018. It was announced in mid-August that USL would make an official announcement following City Council approval of the lease for Cashman Field in July.
It was announced on August 11, 2017, that Las Vegas would join the United Soccer League in 2018 as an expansion team. On August 29, Las Vegas Lights FC released its official name and crest, the latter of which was unveiled in late October.
Since taking over as the squad’s head coach in November, Chelis has promised to put together a team that would delight fans. In December, the Lights launched their first scouting camps and signed numerous Mexican players through Chels’ contacts. A sellout crowd of 10,387 watched the team lose 2–0 to the Montreal Impact in the first preseason game. Players struggled despite the language barrier during the team’s three preseason matches against the MLS, losing all three, but the team’s cohesion was hampered by the signing of Mexican players.
The team signed Freddy Adu, a former MLS teenage phenom who made his preseason debut against his first club, D.C. United. The team’s first regular season game was against Fresno FC on March 17, 2018, in Fresno, California, and they won 3–2. The Lights and Reno 1868 FC tied 1–1 in front of 9,019 fans on March 24 in their first home regular season encounter. To reach the third round of the 2018 U.S. Open Cup, the Lights have to defeat FC Tucson, a team from Arizona. Losses in August and September cost the Lights the chance to compete in the USL Playoffs. On September 18, Chelis stated that he was leaving the team after a string of bad performances and an eight-match suspension for misconduct with a spectator. Manager Isidro Sánchez was fired on October 14 after the team finished the season with 8 wins, 19 loses, and 7 ties.
Eric Wynalda, a former Atlanta Silverbacks player and coach, was hired on October 17 as manager and technical director. Las Vegas FC, Club Vegas, Viva Vegas, and Las Vegas Action were among of the other choices for the name before an online poll chose the Lights on August 29, 2017. Neon lights and signage abound on the Las Vegas Strip and in Downtown Las Vegas, hence the name. The club’s crest, a neon-bordered rendition of the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign, echoes the neon theme. In addition to the pink star and neon-written words, the crest includes a neon-written motto.
The city’s traditional seal inspired the team’s blue, yellow, and pink colors, which were chosen by the supporters. Sponsors Zappos and Findlay Toyota are featured on the team’s BLK-made shirts. The art director of Zappos developed the team’s home jersey, which is mostly black with neon trim in the team’s colors. To be used in goal celebrations, the confetti-covered underside features an emoji smiling face that can be lifted up and over players’ heads. This year’s away jersey features a white base with light blue and yellow embellishments, and it was introduced with players decked out in body paint to match.
Until 2018, the Las Vegas 51s, a minor league baseball team, played their home games at Cashman Field, a stadium in Downtown Las Vegas. It has a total seating capacity of 9,334 in addition to standing room. In comparison to other former baseball grounds, Cashman Field’s layout is better suitable for soccer. The field is square and the seats are close to the field for soccer because the center field is at a straight angle and the foul region behind first and third base is same distance. The stadium previously held two preseason MLS games, one in 2016 and one in 2017, between the LA Galaxy and the San Jose Earthquakes. Cashman Field is the property of the Lights, who have a 15-year contract with the city that runs out in 2032.
Las Vegas 51s (renamed the Las Vegas Aviators) moved to Summerlin in 2019, leaving the Lights as the only tenant at Cashman Field. With a goal of converting it into a soccer-specific arena, The Light began work on the stadium’s lock rooms and offices before the 2019 season. For an MLS expansion team, Las Vegas’ city administration has also begun looking into ideas for a larger, soccer-specific stadium in downtown Las Vegas.
Founded by Brett Lashbrook, a former consultant to USL and MLS clubs in Florida, and the team’s current general manager, Las Vegas Soccer, LLC, owns the Lights. Lashbrook was up in Las Vegas and worked for Orlando City SC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies throughout their transition from the USL to MLS. Steve Pastorino, a former marketing director for the Chicago Fire and Oakland Athletics, is the team’s vice president of corporate partnerships. While serving as head coach and technical director, Chelis earned a losing record and missed 12 games due to suspension.
He departed the club in September 2018 after the team’s losing streak and suspension totals. Until he was fired in October of last year, his son and assistant coach, Isidro Sánchez, took over. However, the Lights’ record improved but they missed out on the playoffs when Eric Wynalda was named as their new head coach. For an unexplained infraction of league rules, Wynalda was sacked by the Lights on June 17, 2020, as the USL prepared to restart play in the wake of the pandemic. Later that month, Frank Yallop, a former MLS coach, was named temporary head coach. First professional sports club in the United States to be sponsored by a regulated marijuana shop was the Lights in April 2018. Nuwu has a sign in Cashman Field advertising its downtown store, which is two blocks from the stadium, as part of the agreement. Later, the club announced a collaboration with William Hill to enable in-game betting via an unique mobile app, as well as free $5 bets for each house win.
Dolly and Dotty, two llama mascots, have been employed by the Lights to entice fans with their unique promotions and gimmicks. For tailgating and pre-game activities, including team photographs, the llamas were donated by sponsors Zappos. One incident occurred with only two minutes left before kickoff when a llama urinated on the field. Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley caricatures are depicted as Cash the Soccer Rocker, who rides a Harley around the stadium on his way to cheers from the crowds. Out of a pool of $30,000 donated to the squad by the Plaza Hotel & Casino, the players receive casino chips for regular season home victories in which they score three or more goals. After stating that he wanted his club to be “a fast, lively soccer party,” owner Brett Lashbrook encouraged his fans to utilize flags and smoke bombs during games.
When the team hosts “cash drop” antics, helicopters or other means are used to dump money on the field for supporters to grab. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) looked into an incident involving a helicopter in September 2019 because of possible incorrect altitude control. Before home games, the Lights give out “pink scarves” to locals who have done something kind for the city. Mayor Carolyn Goodman was the recipient of the pink scarf at her inauguration. The Silver State Cup is a friendly competition between the team and Reno 1868 FC, the other USL team in Nevada. Before their first meeting in March 2018, fans of the two teams took part in an online poll to name their rivalry.