Patience is a virtue, just ask Sacramento Republic.
According to the Sacramento Bee, Sacramento representatives and Major League Soccer officials have agreed “to the framework of a deal” that would grant the Californian capital an MLS expansion franchise in 2022, ending years of laborious work to bring top-flight soccer to Sacramento.
The team, which is expected to maintain their name and brand, issued a statement regarding the status of the negotiations shortly after the report surfaced:
“We appreciate the great excitement and anticipation in our community about Sacramento’s bid to join Major League Soccer,” the statement read. “As we have stated all along, we are working tirelessly to finalize an agreement to bring MLS to a city and a fanbase that deserves it. We respect the league’s expansion process and will not be providing any additional comment at this time.”
Since their introduction to the North American soccer landscape in 2014, with record crowds, a clear identity on and off the field and a championship behind them, it was crystal-clear Republic were MLS ready then.
League commissioner, Don Garber, who echoed the thoughts of many, and his pupils, however, never acted on their words, striking deals with Cincinnati, Miami, Nashville, Austin, and St. Louis amidst the clamor of Sacramento joining the league.
With billionaire Ron Burkle, partner Matt Alvarez, and local businessman Kevin Neagle all in the ownership fold since the beginning of the year, Sacramento’s legitimacy has taken a much-needed boost – with talks between the team and the league advancing uninterruptedly since April. Over the past two weeks, the deal has never been closer to the finish line.
The ownership group is required to commit to lavish financial undertakings, with the expansion fee bumped to $200 million recently – all in addition to land purchases, the construction of a 20,000-plus seat stadium in the city’s Railyards, and team-wide operational expenses. There is a “contingency deal in place” for the group to buy 31 acres of land for the $250 million stadium as soon as the expansion is made official.
A green light from the league would make Sacramento the league’s 29th team, and the state’s fourth, joining the likes of LA Galaxy, LAFC and San Jose Earthquakes, who they’ve established a budding rivalry with dating back to the club’s first-ever game in 2014.
“While the deal is not finalized, we are working hard and I’ve never been more confident that we will bring (MLS to Sacramento),” Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who has been an influential contributor to the project, tweeted Friday.
The wait is almost over.