Hope on Turf

The 100 athletes crammed into a corner of Summerlin’s Las Vegas Indoor Soccer had little in common except fútbol and the Las Vegas Legends T-shirts they’d acquired moments before.

“You guys are part of history,” Meir Cohen, the man who owns both the facility and the team, told them. “In a few years you’ll be able to say, ‘I was part of it’—whether you make it or not.”

History, in this case, was the first of four tryouts for the Legends, an expansion team in the Professional Arena Soccer League. The team’s season will span 16 games, half of them to be played at the Orleans Arena beginning Nov. 1.

Within minutes of Cohen’s speech, players began rotating through the tryout’s stages: running, jumping and playing 30-minute games. “You can sense the excitement,” Cohen kept saying to anyone near. “There’s a lot of hunger here.”

True to the game’s global nature, the languages spoken included Portuguese, Bulgarian, Spanish and Hebrew. Candidates zooming up and down the field and slamming into walls on the sidelines included a player who had laced up for pro teams in Kosovo and Turkey.

Legends coach Greg Howes played in Major League Soccer and made it to the final cut for the 2006 U.S. World Cup team. He sees similarities between Las Vegas and Seattle, where he has played, when it comes to a public clamoring for soccer. He says people already stop him in supermarkets, asking when the season will start. He also points to June’s historic Real Madrid-Santos Laguna game at Sam Boyd Stadium, which had an announced crowd of almost 30,000 fans.

Soccer’s moment, he says, has finally come.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a better time.”