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Professional Soccer Comes To Las Vegas

A new sports team takes the field in Las Vegas this month.

Las Vegas Lights FC -- the FC is for "football club" -- is a soccer team playing in the USL, one level below Major League Soccer.

Brett Lashbrook is the team's owner and CEO. 

Lashbrook spent several years working for Major League Soccer and with Orlando City SC, the professional soccer team that moved from the USL to MLS.

Lashbrook had family in Las Vegas and moved here to be closer to his mother while she had health issues. During that time, he had an epiphany -- of sorts -- about Las Vegas.

"As I was here for six, nine, 12 months, I quickly started to realize Las Vegas had something really special about it," he told State of Nevada. "It was the second largest city in the world without a professional soccer team."

He said his family decided to create a soccer team from the ground up in Las Vegas and found the perfect spot to play -- Cashman Field. The ballpark is currently to the Las Vegas 51s, but the baseball team is moving west to a new stadium in Summerlin in 2019. 

Lashbrook said the 10,000-seat stadium is perfect for soccer, and the lease allows them to change the stadium when the 51s move.

In soccer, each team has an identity: a name, style of play, fan experience that fans identify with that team. Lashbrook said the Lights' identity will be determined by fans.

"This team needs to be for the fans, by the fans, of the fans," he said.

The team name was chosen from about 1,000 suggestions submitted by fans, and the logo & colors were also chosen from fan submissions. Lashbrook also wants to make sure there are local players on the roster, going so far as to guarantee spaces for them. 

He also wants the fan experience to be for everyone, not just those who follow soccer avidly.

"We have this very international vibe to the experience, and I think that will be incredibly welcoming and incredibly easy for fans to get involved with," he said.

Lashbrook said seeing a soccer game at Cashman Field will be akin to seeing one in Mexico City, Madrid or London with flags waving, drums drumming and trumpets playing.

He also wants the style of play to reflect the community and he selected the coach with the same "go for goals" philosophy.

"I want our team to represent fast, up-tempo, fun, glitzy -- a little swagger of what Las Vegas is," Lashbrook said.

Lashbrook also sees the possibility of the Lights moving from USL to the MLS like Orlando City did. He said that it is a proven pathway for soccer clubs and Las Vegas just has to prove it is a soccer city.

While that is the long-term goal, for this first season, Lashbrook wants people to come out to the games. 

"It’s very simple: that people around the community give us a shot and they enjoy it," he said.

Their first match is Saturday. It's an exhibition game -- or in soccer parlance, a "friendly" -- against the MLS franchise Montreal Impact.

Brett Lashbrook, owner & CEO, Las Vegas Lights FC

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Casey Morell is the coordinating producer of Nevada Public Radio's flagship broadcast State of Nevada and one of the station's midday newscast announcers. (He's also been interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, whatever that's worth.)