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Sacramento Republic adds new investor, boosting case for MLS expansion


Sacramento’s MLS expansion bid could move to the front of the pack thanks to the addition of the very kind of big-money owner the bid’s group was lacking.

Businessman and philanthropist Ron Burkle has agreed to purchase a majority stake in the USL’s Sacramento Republic as the club pursues a spot in MLS. He is the founder and managing partner of Yucaipa Companies LLC, a private equity firm in California that holds a stake in many different industries.

He has experience in sports ownership as well. He is a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL, but it’s unknown how much of the team he controls. He’s also tried to purchase the NBA’s Sacramento Kings twice.

“Mr. Burkle is an exceptional leader and businessman, a champion sports owner, a dedicated philanthropist, and someone with a deep appreciation for Sacramento,” Republic CEO Kevin Nagle said in a statement. “He is the ideal person to lead the next chapter of our club.”

The addition of Burkle to the Sacramento ownership group brings some much needed stability to the financial side of their bid. They looked to be a sure thing for a place in the league when the city was one of 12 to submit applications in early 2017. They had one of the top attendance figures in the USL, a committed ownership group, and a stadium that could begin construction at any moment. However an internal squabble within their ownership structure and the inability to secure further investment derailed their efforts and forced the league to pass on them in favor of Cincinnati and Nashville.

Adding a billionaire solves that glaring problem. The move corrects the primary issue with Sacramento’s bid, the lack of an investor with deep enough pockets, and it puts them level with other leading candidates for expansion in terms of money. It also could bump them to the front of the line for the open spot in the league thanks to their shovel ready soccer specific stadium.

Overall, Sacramento can now claim the complete package right here and now. The other leading cities are all missing at least one important part of their bid. St. Louis and Phoenix don’t have ready-to-go stadium plans. Detroit has piles of cash, but refuses to build a place to play. San Diego, Raleigh, Tampa, Charlotte, and the rest all haven’t improved upon their chances since first applying two years ago.

While nothing in MLS expansion is a done deal before Don Garber stamps the final paperwork, Sacramento now has everything the league is asking for when it comes to a new team. Provided they don’t experience any more setbacks, it’s hard to see another market passing them up any time soon.


  1. So MLS really shot themselves in the foot with the Crew/Austin debacle. With the addition of FC Cincy and now Austin as the last too franchises added/announced neither added to the larger American television footprint and TV rights contracts are about how many eyeballs you reach. Sure those are not small markets but neither city fills some of the gapping holes MLS has in its national TV footprint.

    Unfortunately for Sacramento neither do they. The big holes nationally are AZ, MI, and the Carolinas. Although a billionaire owner helps for sure MLS needs to focus on filling more of the holes nationally to command more in TV revenue. ATL, Minn, and Nashville all helped fill holes on the map. I really think the last spot this round is between Phoenix and Detroit sorry Sac town we all know your good for it and most deserving but does Garber?

    • I don’t think MLS stops at 28 or 32. I think they keep growing – and focus on regional rivalries. College Football model. ABC buys the time slot and shows a different game depending on locale. Cascadia plus California division. Texas plus the South.. North East etc.. promote fan travel and a local ‘championship’. Therefore they put teams with rabid fans before filling the map.

  2. The longer it takes for Sacramento to get a franchise, the more it seems like MLS doesn’t give a sh%t about fostering an American soccer culture and grass roots development of players and fans.

    • i have a bad feeling about Sacto, like it might go down the path of the Rhinos from the late 90s. Rochester were getting big crowds and people thought it would eventually join MLS. Look what’s become of it. As for other cities, I think a good solution might be to hope for CPL success next season. If it is, then maybe STL, PHX, Cosmos should join the Canadian PL with the promise rom Garber that doing so wouldn’t negate their chances of joining MLS (excluding cosmos, of course). At least technically they’ll be playing 1st division soccer.

      • Not the same thing. Sacramento will be another Portland in terms of fan support. The city is also growing rapiidly in population and expanding its economic base. Rochester is a dying “rust belt” city.

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