What happened with the indomitable city becoming the 29th MLS Expansion to join the league?
This city has been through some times when it comes to Major League Soccer. This all started in October of 2019 when Don Garber announced that Sacramento had put in a bid to join the league and were selected to be the 29th Expansion Club, with their debut season to be started in 2022. It should be also noted that lead investor Ron Burkle was behind the financial part as the club would also look into other investors as well, the thing that made this a whole sham was that none of the important documents were even signed and there wasn’t really a bid. This created so much disappointment within the soccer community of Sacramento but we also have to remember that at the end of the day, we are all humans. A future bid could be in the works with other lead investors but as of now it seems as if the Republic is focused on the USL.
This was club founded in 2012 with not much history. The only other sports teams that played in Sacramento Kings, who nearly moved out of state but last minute were saved, and the Sacramento Rivercats semi professional baseball team. Since the day I moved in Sacramento, every day there would be a soccer game at the near by park. I had a great feeling this city would have the potential to join such a prestige league based off the love for the sport the city had! I would always talk to some random people about Sacramento Republic and they would go on about how excited they were to join the Major League Soccer.
That all changed about 2 years later, when in February of 2021 lead investor Ron Burkle, who owns the professional hockey team Pittsburgh Penguins, pulled out of committing to bringing MLS to Sacramento. As it turned out he never even signed any documents or put a down payment for months. This honestly hit the city of Sacramento hard to its knee’s. The Mayor later came out and explained that his intentions weren’t to let this bud fail since they’ve already have everything else in place besides an investor. Those news brought a lot of relief to the fans but it was just the beginning of a downward spiral of failure. The reasons behind pulling out of the deal were because of COVID reasons, as well as family problems. Still, the city wasn’t about to just give up.
Months later, news broke out about a potential minority ownership group, which helped gain momentum for the team to join. The names above don’t surprise me as much knowing their history around Northern California, but they are still missing a key person to pull off the move to MLS. What they need is a billionaire to help out, so which one is it going to be? Enter Vivek Ranadivé, the owner of the Sacramento Kings, a professional basketball team who plays in the NBA. He could be a person of interest but it’s been months already and nothing has been done to complete the task. Than you got Angelo Tsakopoulis and Mark Friedman who’s been heavily linked to becoming the front runners to be the lead investors, just to be told no as well. So what’s the plan?
So what are Sacramento’s choices? Well Don Garber, the Commissioner for Major League Soccer, expressed his desire for Sacramento to join the league but now there isn’t much being done about it, I can tell you is that the city’s bid to join is now practically gone. With Las Vegas and San Diego becoming potential teams to join, Sacramento has their eyes set another quest. From what I’ve been reading and researching it seems as if the team is going to stay in the USL Championship, although I would want them to pursue at joining MLS Next Pro league(tier below MLS, mainly for MLS teams to develop and bridge the gap between the youth and professional league) I personally don’t think they’re going to go for it. A lot of fans have expressed their disappointment with not only their team but also with MLS, claiming it’s a monopolized league to “buy-in”, stating that USL is already if not close to the league standard. Other fans expresses disappointment with Ron Burkle, stating it’s like going to see a movie and being left outside your front house while the person who would’ve taken you ditched last minute. The heartbreak of the city is something that will dwell upon us people from Sacramento but we should always push on, no matter what the circumstances are.
The news about the newest stadium becoming a 20,000 seater changed to 14,000 instead. The Republic have given their homegrown players out to MLS teams like DC United and others as well, it seems like it’s not going to happen at all. While the dream to join the league is in limbo, what the team could do is be competitive this year rather than not qualifying for the playoffs last year. Consistency is key, but so is actually trying. With so many potential lead investors out in the world, there sure isn't any heads wanting to take part, and for that the dream of joining MLS is nothing else but over.