Sacramento Republic FC

Sacramento Republic

Report: Sacramento finally gets MLS expansion franchise

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After years of trying, it appears that Major League Soccer is finally heading to Sacramento.

Sacramento Republic FC have long been one of the best runs franchises in the lower leagues in the United States of America and both city officials and their new ownership group have backed this push to join MLS.

It seemed certain that Sacramento would get a team in 2016 and 2017, but they’ve been left behind as plenty of other cities have been awarded expansion franchises.

A report from the Sacramento Bee states that the franchise will be announced on Monday in a ceremony in downtown Sacramento.

“Sources said league officials will hold a press conference in downtown Monday followed by a fan event in the afternoon, celebrating the franchise award. The announcement will mark the successful conclusion of a laborious five-year effort by Sacramento community leaders and various investors to secure a franchise in MLS.”

New majority owners LA billionaire Ron Burkle (who also owns the Pittsburgh Penguins) and Hollywood producer Matt Alvarez joined Sacramento businessman Kevin Nagle this spring to get the finances in line for a new soccer-specific stadium and to pay the expansion fee which is close to $200 million.

Sacramento released a statement on the speculation, after Burkle, Alvarez and Nagle had been working closely with MLS in recent months to iron out the details of arriving in North America’s top-flight.

“We share the great excitement and anticipation in our community about Sacramento’s bid to join Major League Soccer. We will continue to respect the MLS expansion process and remain confident about the future of our club and our city. We look forward to sharing more information in the days ahead.”

Nagle and Warren Smith set up Sacramento Republic FC, who began play in the United Soccer Leagues in 2014, and have built an impressive fanbase.

Burkle and Alvarez were the final pieces of the jigsaw as their cash investment will allow the construction of a $250 million 20,000 capacity stadium long planned in the Railyards district of downtown Sacramento, while the city will also add funding to the effort as they add their second major league franchise.

Sacramento Republic will have an instant rival in MLS too, as the San Jose Earthquakes are located just 120 miles south-west.

With St. Louis awarded an expansion franchise in August and to begin play in 2022, MLS is now up to 29 teams with Nashville and Miami joining for the 2020 season, plus Austin FC arriving in 2021.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber seems keen to get the number of teams to 30, with Charlotte, Phoenix, Detroit and Las Vegas all pushing hard to become the 30th franchise in the coming years.

Sacramento’s journey to MLS has been a long one, but now they are about to celebrate.

Sacramento, St. Louis emerge as MLS expansion favorites

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Soccer fans in Sacramento and St. Louis will be getting pretty excited right about now.

Both cities are in the frame to get an expansion side in Major League Soccer, according to MLS Commissioner Don Garber.

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Garber has said both Sacramento and STL have “the strongest bids by far” and ahead of the Board of Governor’s meeting in LA next month the expansion picture will be discussed heavily.

The commish also committed himself to making an announcement before the end of 2019 on the next expansion franchise, and “very likely much sooner than that.”

In an interview with the Sacramento Bee, Garber said that Sacramento and St. Louis are way ahead of the other expansion hopefuls but wouldn’t confirm which city is in the lead to get the 28th MLS franchise.

“Both are strong bids, both are great markets, both of them have worked very hard at the political leadership level and very much so at the ownership level, and certainly in each market fans have shown an enormous level of support,” Garber said.

Garber went on to speak of the admiration he has for the new wealthy investors that Sacramento Republic FC have lined up, Ron Burkle and Matt Alvarez, with the former the owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL. Brought in by club chairman Kevin Nagle, Burkle and Alvarez have agreed to purchase Sacramento Republic FC if the MLS bid is successful.

For many years, Sacramento were the frontrunners in the MLS expansion race given their impressive crowds in the USL and having a $300 million soccer-specific stadium lined up to be built on the Railyards site in downtown. But from an ownership point of view they were just missing some big investors, as Cincinnati, Nashville and Austin jumped ahead of them. Now, they have the owners they need.

As for St. Louis, their chances of getting a franchise have increased substantially after their MLS bid also received new backing from the prominent Taylor family, who own the Enterprise rental car company. They have revived a bid for a downtown stadium which would be primarily funded privately, and STL’s soccer heritage is clear for everyone to see. St. Louis FC are also having decent success in the USL and their part-owner, Jim Kavanaugh, is involved in their bid as the USL team would become the reserve side if an MLS side arrives in STL.

Adding teams in both Sacramento and St. Louis would also link up plenty of MLS cities nearby, something MLS is keen to do as creating local rivalries has been crucial to the recent success of the league.

With MLS previously planning to only expand to 28 teams, it is also quite clear that it will readjust that number and somewhere close to 30-32 would now be a good number of teams for the expanding league.

Teams 28 and 29 look like being Sacramento and St. Louis, with the likes of Phoenix, Detroit and Las Vegas scrapping it out for the next few spots.

MLS Commissioner to visit Sacramento, talk MLS expansion

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MLS Commissioner Don Garber is heading to Sacramento in April to discuss the California capital’s chances of getting an MLS expansion franchise.

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The league and club announced the trip on Thursday, as Sacramento Republic FC will host Garber and Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott on Apr. 14 to discuss their plans to enter MLS.

Republic’s managing partner, Kevin Nagle, will tour the MLS executives around the proposed new MLS stadium for Sacramento incorporated in the Railyards district.

Back in December Garber announced plans to expand MLS to 28 teams and with 20 teams currently in the league, plus Atlanta United, Minnesota, LAFC and Miami set to arrive in the coming years, that only leaves four spots open.

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Sacramento Republic have been a roaring success throughout their first two years as a club in the USL Pro. They have set USL attendance records in each campaign after averaging crowds of 11,293 in the 2014 regular season and then in 2015 broke that record with an average of 11,329 at Booney Field.

Adding to that thriving fanbase is the fact that Mayor Kevin Johnson fully supports the club and the Sacramento City Council has already approved the $224 million plans to build a 25,000 capacity MLS stadium if they get the green light from Garber and Co.

Over the past two years Sacramento has added a huge number of investors as part owners in the club, with Sacramento Professional Soccer, LLC owning the club and fronted by Warren Smith. Investors include owners of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers and the NBA’s Sacramento Kings and their model of including a large pool of owners is hugely similar to the approach taken by new MLS club Los Angeles FC who will join the league in 2018.

So, how do we rate Sacramento’s chances? They seem pretty good.

The fact that Garber is going their to visit is a really good sign and unlike other potential expansion cities like San Antonio, St. Louis and Las Vegas, the City of Sacramento has already signed off a new soccer-specific stadium to host Sacramento Republic. That has always been a deal-breaker for MLS, having a stadium ready to roll, but even in recent years we’ve seen in Vancouver, Montreal, Orlando and New York City FC they are willing to allow teams to enter the league before their new soccer-specific venue is ready. Sacramento say the stadium could be ready for the 2018 MLS season.

Sacramento’s fanbase seems reminiscent of Orlando City’s in the USL and it would be beneficial to add another California team to compete with the San Jose Earthquakes and both the LA Galaxy and LAFC. With Miami (David Beckham is getting there, slowly) and Atlanta arriving in the Eastern Conference soon, MLS needs to even things up so searching for new clubs out west now seems to be a priority for Garber. Sacramento, at least right now, ticks all the right boxes.

Now, the all-important expansion fee will need to be negotiated and knowing how much Sacramento wants into MLS, Garber is likely to ask in excess of the $100 million. It is reported that LAFC paid $110 million to get into MLS, which is the highest expansion fee in history.

PHOTOS: Sacramento release beautiful stadium plans; continue MLS push

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Sacramento Republic are doing it right.

After releasing stunning new designs for a new downtown stadium on Tuesday, the USL outfit are motoring ahead with their plans to one day arrive in Major League Soccer.

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It was also announced over the past 24 hours that the City Council had unanimously voted to finance the 25,000 capacity stadium, as the $226 million facility would be funded jointly by the public and private sectors. More details on the plans can be found here on the official club website.

The stadium will be built at The Railyards in downtown Sacramento but it will only come to fruition if an MLS franchise is awarded to capital city of California.

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With MLS not committing itself to any more expansion franchises past Los Angeles FC, Atlanta United, Minnesota United and potentially David Beckham’s franchise in Miami which are all set to arrive between now and 2019, Sacramento could have to wait some time to see this incredible stadium become a reality.

That said, if Beckham’s stadium plans in Miami continue to stall, the strong ownership group of Sacramento Republic (which includes owners of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings) will be ready to pounce. With Sacramento’s USL side averaging crowds of over 10,000 in each of their first two seasons as a club, the potential for a strong MLS fanbase is clearly prevalent.

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Take a look at the beautiful images below as the club, the Mayor of Sacramento Kevin Johnson, fans and local Councillors are “all in” to get this stadium built.

Source: Sacramento Republic
Source: Sacramento Republic
Source: Sacramento Republic
Source: Sacramento Republic
Source: Sacramento Republic
Source: Sacramento Republic
Sacramento Republic
Source: Sacramento Republic

New Republic FC owner should continue Sacramento’s meteoric rise in expansion conversation

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Witness the competition for one of Major League Soccer’s last expansion slots: new stadium renderings in Las Vegas; a rebuttal from San Antonio; the continued strength of Minnesota’s options. As quickly as competitors are driving up that next expansion fee, they’re also adding to the depth of their bids, be it with new stadiums, heightened lobbying, or new, more influential investors.

Today, Sacramento has added the third option. Selling his controlling stake in the team he founded, Republic FC’s Warren Smith is giving way to Kevin Nagle, a part-time owner of the Sacramento Kings who now has a controlling interest in the Republic. Smith will stay on as club president, while Nagle becomes the leading figure in the nascent team’s quest for first division soccer.

“Kevin’s leadership and investment in Republic FC positions (gives) us as one of the top ownership groups in the sport,” said Republic FC President Warren Smith, via a statement posted to the club’s website. “His success, credibility and financial wherewithal provide us the capability to succeed with our MLS bid.”

Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, described by the Sacramento Bee as a close friend and ally of Nagle, also praised the move.

“This is a big win for Republic FC and our efforts to secure an MLS franchise,” Johnson said. A former NBA point guard, Johnson worked with Nagle to keep the Kings in Sacramento in the face of a last year’s threatened relocation to Seattle.

The relationship may be why today’s announcement is seen as a step forward in Sacramento’s question for Major League Soccer. From the Bee:

The announcement that Nagle owns the Republic was seen as a necessary step to underscore the seriousness of Sacramento’s bid to join MLS. Nagle and Johnson have spoken in general terms of formulating a privately financed stadium that could host an MLS team. One site could be in the currently vacant downtown rail yards.

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Kevin Nagle, the founder and former CEO of Envision Pharmaceutical Holdings, will lead Republic FC’s quest to win a place in Major League Soccer.

“I love Sacramento – its community, resilience and potential,” Nagle said in the Republics, statement. “Early on, I admired Republic FC’s success and efforts to galvanize this region; its bid for MLS is not only about sports, but also a shared vision for Sacramento. I am honored to work side-by-side with Mayor Kevin Johnson and Republic FC President Warren Smith to procure MLS for Sacramento and demonstrate why this region is built for MLS.”

With Nagle in place and Johnson on board, Sacramento’s meteoric rising into the MLS conversation should continue. While there are some concerns about the bid — lack of prolonged history; nearly losing its NBA team last year; being too close to the sun — there are a number of positives coming into play, included the team’s record attendance in USL Pro.

Averaging 11,842 per game in the third tier, the Republic’s success is undeniable. And solid ownership has always been a vital component of an MLS expansion bid. Looking across the landscape, few other locations offer the same collection of benefits as California’s capital.

As somebody who has spent much of my life in Central California (albeit, not Sacramento), I’m torn. Of the many times I’ve visited Sacramento, exactly zero recommended the city for potential MLS success. Be it in its history, demographics, or the geography/environment of the region, Sacramento seems to bear few similarities to the markets that are now fueling Major League Soccer.

But thanks to Smith, that narrative is quickly changing. The huge fan base is reminiscent of the Cascadia teams that have joined the league over the last six years. The ownership group may become reminiscent of Joey Saputo (Montréal) or Phil Rawlins (Orlando City), though we’ll need more time to judge. And although Sacramento’s summer weather presents a challenge, it’s not one that can’t be overcome.

Whatever negatives we spitballed about Sacramento may find a different perspective, particularly in light of the rest of Major League Soccer’s options. If the league were stopping at 20 franchises, the city may be a hard sell. Expand that field to 24, and all of a sudden Sacramento has a lot to offer.