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MLS executives set visit for Sacramento viability check

Sacramento Republic Bonney Field


Sacramento, California is getting the chance to win over Major League Soccer.

Executives from MLS are scheduled to visit the California state capital this month to assess the region’s viability as a new home to an expansion franchise. According to a report in the Sacramento Bee, Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott and Charles Altchek, a special assistant to league Commissioner Don Garber, will visit the area on Sept. 18 and 19.

“I am extremely optimistic that Sacramento can present a compelling and winning case to Major League Soccer,” Mayor Kevin Johnson wrote in a memo to the city council Tuesday, revealing the details of the visit.

The visit will specifically focus on a development site known as the downtown railyards, where offices, housing, shops, an arts center and a museum just outside of downtown are planned by the 2020s. The development is in the first phase of five.

Garber has been clear that potential expansion sites will need to be centrally located in urban areas to be considered and Johnson’s preferred site, minutes from downtown, may fit the bill.

Johnson has said it’s unlikely the city will help pay for an MLS stadium and it would need to be privately financed. Early estimates peg the cost at between $100 million and $125 million.

The region’s only other professional sports team in the area is the Sacramento Kings and Kings owners have suggested they would consider partnering with a Sacramento MLS franchise. Sacramento is in the early stages of building a new basketball arena downtown with public financing.

Sacramento Republic FC, the first-year USL Pro expansion club, is off to a strong start, consistently selling out their suburban, temporary 8,000-capacity venue at the state fairgrounds outside the city. The club set a new USL Pro single-season attendance record in July, with five weeks left in the regular season.

Garber’s goal is 24 teams by 2020 — 22 slots have been formally awarded and Miami will be added as long as a downtown stadium site can be secured, meaning just one open MLS expansion slot remains. Abbott has said there is no timetable for MLS to decide on the final expansion city.


  1. I still believe San Diego is another better option than any other team besides Sacramento.
    If the Charges’s owner will get a USL team probably will get the same attendance than the Sounders.

    • Balboa Stadium has a ton of potential. Fantastic location in downtown SD, walking distance from the Gaslamp, still freeway-close for most of SD County, and its proximity to Tijuana could provide good CONCACAF competition and friendly opportunities. It just needs a serious face lift, but that’s the easy part. I’d like to see MLS in San Diego but I’ve read so many negative stories about SD sports fans, I don’t know if it will ever pan out.

  2. Although the level of play in the NASL is much less than that of the lesser leagues in England, I absolutely love some of the NASL stadiums. Ones that are soccer specific like Sacramento make the environment small yet loyal. The stadiums look resemble up to date version of some of England’s most iconic lower league stadiums.

    Hopefully some day soon, when money is not an issue in American soccer, we will have the resources and funds and fan following to have promotion relegation. For now though, I hope some of these amazing teams continue to make strides in expansion regardless of their MLS bid turn out

  3. Correction I said NASL when I meant USL Pro. Point stands, averaging over 13k for second rate soccer (would be more if they weren’t now limited by Bonney) bodes very well for projected future attendance.

    Sacramento v San Jose games in SF (AT&T) or Oakland (if the Raiders get a house) would draw very, very well.

  4. Great news. Based on their numbers for NASL (over 20k for a regular season game!) you have to believe they’ll average 20-30k consistently for MLS. They’re selling out every single game now at 8k Bonney Field. For NASL.

    It’s a metro area of 2.5 million, with only one other major sport–NBA. It’s a bigger version of Salt Lake, with a large Mexican population, better weather, and a better regional rivalry to boot. San Jose is 2.5 hours away.

    MLS should jump at this. It’s a much better option than Minneapolis, St Louis, or San Antonio.

    • Rochester drew well back in the day. How are they doing these days?

      You’re having a day dream if you think Sac is a “much better option” than a downtown SSS in Minneapolis backed by a billionaire.

    • What does the mexican population have to with anything? Mexicans cant afford luxury boxes or season tickets!

      Theres a bigger african american population in sacramento that needs to be introduced to the game (players and fans)

  5. I spent some time in Sacramento and attended the two Republic games against West Brom. I have to say I was very impressed with the way the residents have embraced the team. Even outside of match days you could not go to a public venue without people wearing team merchandise, the folks at the games were friendly and passionate about their team. Also got chance to talk to a member of the Republic’s executive team and if the rest of them are as smart and dedicated, they will excel. I think Sacramento will make a great soccer town.

    • It already is and has been a strong soccer town – just not for professional sports as its a 2nd-3rd tier market. Glad you had a good visit though.
      SacTown is also missing a strong collegiate presence but there are many geographically based recreational and club leagues. Especially due to the agricultural valley and existence of latino farm workers.

      I have to say it is a great fan base, but don’t see it being an MLS level club with a new stadium. The politics in that town are stifling and not cohesive enough to meet the new MLS status quo of soccer specific stadiums and overpriced merchandise.

      • Any new owner to pay for a franchise with an LA sticker price and move it to a smaller market doesn’t deserve to manage their own money.

      • Any commenter that believes Chivas has an “LA sticker price” doesn’t deserve a “Post Comment” button.

        Renting in Carson, drawing less than 10k a game, playing second fiddle to Galaxy, with a branding that limits appeal…Chivas would be one of the lowest-valued clubs in the league.

        Every aspect of Chivas would instantly improve upon a move to Sacramento.

      • A bit aggressive.

        The “LA sticker price” is well documented. The league has said it’s asking $75 million for Chivas. That’s a boatload of cash.

  6. I think it’s laughable how Mayor Johnson gladly ponied up $255 million to help the Kings, but now won’t put up any money for a soccer stadium. I don’t think they should have paid any for the Kings, but since they did, it’s unfair to the Republic.

    • Downtown basketball arenas come with other mixed-uses and an ability to host concerts and other events year-round. That being said, what would you expect when your mayor is a former NBA All-Star?

  7. So we know not every city can be the 24th MLS team so either San Antonio, Minneapolis, St Louis, Sacramento, etc will be left out of MLS. I think those cities will continue to thrive as soccer markets and contribute to the growth of NASL which in 10 or 15 years will be on par with MLS. Then what, an AFL/ABA type merger and some supper league of 40+ teams or the start of a two tiered system of pro/rel.

    • I think we’re already in the process of the merger, it’s just happening very, very slowly. MLS will snap up any good team from a lower division that can draw fans and the lower leagues will be left with the dregs. It’ll take a few years but it’s already happening.

    • I think MLS is headed towards a 30+ team league, where MLS acquires/merges with NASL and/or USL Pro franchises. 40 may be too ambitious. In all likelihood, we’ll see the conferences expanded to West, Central, and East.

      A two-tiered system would be a ton of fun for fans of lower division clubs – not to mention it would be closer to the models employed throughout the footballing world – but pro/rel and franchises are two drastically different, opposing business models. The independent club (pro/rel) model is necessarily supporter-driven. Tiny clubs from tiny towns succeed because they have small but undying support from their local communities. By contrast, the franchise model is capitalism run-amok: Cast a super wide net, appeal to everyone while being loyal to no one. For better or worse, it’s very American. I’ve read a fantastic scholarly article on the two differences between the two systems. I wish I knew where to find/cite it.

      In the end, every owner wants his team in the top flight. For the current and future MLS clubs, there is no incentive to accept relegation to a lower division. They’re already #1. Why drop to #2?

    • I hope you do realize the AFL and ABA mergers were very very different from one another. No matter because It won’t ever happen because the minor leagues will never be true “competitors” to MLS in the same way the AFL was to the NFL and the ABA was to the NBA.
      MLS owners would be stupid to merge, as opposed to continuing to expand and get those expansion fees.


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