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Lights FC, Golden Knights Make Major Splash

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 04/26/18, 9:24PM EDT


Las Vegas native Thomas thrilled by city’s burgeoning sporting scene

Las Vegas Lights FC honored its NHL counterparts the Vegas Golden Knights prior to its most recent outing at Cashman Field on April 14. | Photo courtesy L.E. Baskow / Las Vegas Lights FC

LAS VEGAS – Twelve months ago, the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights had yet to take the ice, and both the USL’s Las Vegas Lights FC and the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces had yet even be introduced by their respective leagues.

Nowadays, though, the manner sports fans in the entertainment capital of the world have embraced their professional teams can’t be denied. The Golden Knights open their Western Conference Second Round series against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night at T-Mobile Arena after finishing top of the Pacific Division during an incredible expansion season that saw the club welcome almost three-quarters of a million fans through its doors during the regular season.

Lights FC has also made an impressive start to its inaugural season sitting undefeated through four games, while bringing in an average attendance of 8,358 to Cashman Field ahead of Friday night’s game against San Antonio FC (11 p.m. ET | Match Center | ESPN3) that puts it fifth in the USL this season.

For Las Vegas native and Lights FC player Matt Thomas, the way the city has reacted to its new arrivals has made the teams must-see events for the city’s numerous sports fans.

“Growing up here, we had pretty much no sports teams,” said Thomas. “Then out of nowhere, we have hockey, pro soccer, and to be a part of that is pretty incredible. I haven't [been to any Golden Knights games]. I need to. It feels now like you need to get in there and experience that first hand.”

Las Vegas native Matt Thomas made history by scoring the first goal in Lights FC just 70 seconds into its inaugural contest. | Photo courtesy L.E. Baskow / Las Vegas Lights FC

Thomas produced one of the most memorable moments of Las Vegas’ inaugural USL season in its first game of the season, scoring the first official goal in club history just 70 seconds into its clash with fellow expansion club Fresno FC.

Having appeared in all four games of the season so far, starting in three, Thomas is hoping the club can continue its positive start to the season and emulate the first-year success that’s been produced by the Golden Knights. A place in the playoffs is certainly on the club’s radar, and Thomas is hoping to achieve some of the recognition the city’s hockey players have through their endeavors.

“The Vegas guys have definitely seen [the type of support the Golden Knights get],” said Thomas. “I don't know if everyone else has, but we have. They're treated like kings here. We're trying to be like that.”

While Lights FC and the Golden Knights are already making their mark in the city, the Aces are next in line as they make their WNBA debut next month at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. Lights FC welcomed Las Vegas guard Moriah Jefferson as a guest to its last outing on April 14 against Sacramento Republic FC, with the Aces set to host their home opener on May 27 against the Seattle Storm. 

On top of the city’s three current teams, the city will also see the NFL’s Oakland Raiders arrive in the city ahead of the 2020 season. That has Thomas proud as a native of the city and of the belief that the presence of the four teams will provide a different perception of Las Vegas on a national level.

“You look at every other city, and they all seem to have big-time sports teams,” he said. “L.A., Chicago, New York. Now that we have it, for everyone in the city to get behind it and support it is cool.”

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