After a five-year, rollercoaster effort, Sacramento Republic FC has finally been formally confirmed as Major League Soccer’s 29th expansion team. The current United Soccer League Championship club will join MLS in 2022.
The team will play in a new $300m, 20,100-seat soccer-specific stadium in the downtown Railyards District of California’s capital city, which will be a centerpiece of a redevelopment project that will include housing, retail, theaters, parks, museums, a hotel, and a major medical center.
The move up to MLS is expected to cost billionaire lead investor Ron Burkle, a technology, retail and hospitality entrepreneur, between $500m and $600m.
This includes a franchise fee of $200m, up from $150m when Sacramento was first in talks with MLS in 2015. “It’s a free market world, and when the price went up to 200, it went to 200,” Burkle told The Sacramento Bee. “But the commissioner worked with us and we came to a place where we thought we could make it work.”
Other members of the ownership group include Hollywood producer Matt Alvarez and local businessman Kevin Nagle.
Burkle, who is also the co-owner of the National Hockey League’s Pittsburgh Penguins, added: “I like the idea of soccer. The time is right for soccer. It is going to grow and grow, and Sacramento is the second largest city in the country that only has one (major league sports) team [the NBA Sacramento Kings]. I like communities where there is hard work and loyal people. Sacramento seems to be a place that doesn’t get as much credit as it should.”
The team has already signed a multiyear deal with healthcare provider UC Davis Health to sponsor Sacramento’s jerseys once the team joins MLS. Meanwhile, fans have already committed to buy at least 10,000 season tickets in the top flight.
Sacramento will join MLS in 2022 alongside a team from St. Louis, Missouri, which was awarded an expansion place in August. Sacramento is also expected to land a National Women’s Soccer League team in 2020.
The race is now on to become MLS’s 30th expansion team. A Charlotte bid, led by Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper, is considered the favorite. Other leading candidates are Las Vegas, which has two separate bids, and Raleigh, North Carolina.