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Sacramento to be awarded MLS expansion team ‘next week’

SAN JOSE, CA - JUNE 12: Pittsburgh Penguins owner Ron Burkle watches as his team celebrates a 3-1 victory to win the Stanley Cup against the San Jose Sharks in Game Six of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on June 12, 2016 in San Jose, California. The Pittsburgh Penguins defeat the San Jose Sharks 3-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Major League Soccer will formally award Sacramento an expansion team on Monday, October 21, according to the Sacramento Bee. A press conference in downtown Sacramento followed by a fan event in the afternoon is expected.

Sacramento Republic FC, which currently plays in the second tier United Soccer League Championship, will move up to MLS, becoming the league’s 29th team.

Sacramento has waited a long time to be finally awarded an MLS team. In 2015, MLS commissioner Don Garber said: “I believe that Sacramento belongs in MLS. And when we are able to bring them in, they will be very successful.”

Since then, however, Sacramento has lost out to the likes of Austin, Cincinnati, Nashville and St. Louis for spots within MLS. Meanwhile, franchise expansion fees in the league have risen from $150m (€136m) to $200m in this time frame.

The key issues for surrounding a MLS bid for Sacramento – namely securing richer investors and having a solid stadium plan – were finally resolved this year.

Sacramento Republic secured city council backing to fund a new $252m sports and entertainment district at the downtown railyards, which would include a new stadium seating roughly 20,000 people. Meanwhile, billionaire financier Ron Burkle – a co-owner of the NHL Pittsburgh Penguins – agreed to buy a controlling interest of the team, as well as the land around the proposed stadium, to help pay for the move to MLS.

The total bill for the Burkle group is estimated to be between $500m and $600m.

A Charlotte bid, funded by David Tepper, billionaire owner of the National Football League’s Carolina Panthers, is considered the favorite to land MLS’s 30th expansion place.