The biggest hot-button issue in terms of MLS expansion in the last few days has been the developing situation regarding the Sacramento bid. Kevin Nagle submitted the expansion bid for the city, but the Republic name was not included to the dismay of many fans of the club.
MLS President and Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott tried to provide clarity on the situation during a league conference call on Wednesday.
“The process for the Sacramento bid began some time ago and there have been ongoing discussions between Kevin Nagle and his group and Warren Smith and the Republic about coming together for a joint bid,” Abbott said. “The league was involved in those discussions, the commissioner personally was involved last fall. Recently, it became clear that they had some issues that still require a resolution before they come together and present a united bid.”
Although there seems to be some turmoil among the two groups at the moment, the league office isn’t too concerned right now about how everything will play out. Abbott confirmed the league is willing to wait and see what develops in the burgeoning California market.
“The deadline was yesterday and Kevin and his group moved forward in submitting a bid,” Abbott said. “As Kevin said earlier today, it was their intentions to continue discussions with the Republic. It remains their intention to seek a situation where they can present a united bid and our perspective at the league is we should allow those discussions to play out.”
Most people who have reviewed the situation make it sound like chaos is erupting in the capital city of California, and that the town’s bid for an MLS club is in jeopardy. However, Abbott thinks the opposite of the current viewpoint.
“I think what is clear and unfolded over the last day or so is that although there was not yet an agreement between Kevin and Warren’s groups,” Abbott said. “Those discussions are going to continue and from the league’s perspective we’re going to give them time to play out. I actually think its fairly straightforward when you look at it.”
Abbott reiterated the expansion plan set forth by the league earlier in the offseason. The 25th and 26th clubs will be selected by the end of the year, with an eye on 2020 to start their respective inaugural seasons. The 27th and 28th teams do not have a timeline at the moment, and those two clubs will be selected from the pool of 10 remaining teams who submitted bids on Monday.
There were plenty of issues brought up during the call, geography being one of them. It will be one of many things that will be looked at in a deeper light over the coming months.
“Geography is something we think about, but we think about it two ways,” Abbott said. “One is the coverage that we have across the country and secondly we have the creation of rivalries. It’s clearly a factor, but it’s too early in the process to tell how much of a factor it will be specifically in the selection of the next two clubs.”
As always, the topic of Miami was brought up in the expansion discussion. Abbott admitted the timeline for choosing the next two teams to join MLS will affect Miami in some respect.
“We’re focused on finalizing a stadium deal in Miami and looking at clubs 25 to 28 through the process we had the applications come in for yesterday,”Abbott said. “The role of the expansion process impacts how we’re thinking about the timetable for Miami, but we haven’t yet developed the specifics of how that would work.”