Sacramento awarded penultimate MLS expansion franchise

Major League Soccer (MLS) has confirmed that Sacramento’s United Soccer League (USL) team, Sacramento Republic FC, will become its 29th expansion franchise. 

The announcement, which was made at a press conference earlier in the week, will see the Republic pay a $200 million expansion fee to join the MLS in 2022 – a figure which the Sacramento Bee has reported is part of a $500m to $600m investment that owner Ron Burkle is expected to bring to the club. 

Burkle commented on the expansion award, stating: “Sacramento’s selection by Major League Soccer for an expansion team is a victory to be celebrated by everyone in our community. This has been a true team effort between the amazing soccer fans of the Sacramento region along with Mayor Steinberg and City Council, our partners and corporate leaders. The relationship between Sacramento and our club already is a special one, and I’m committed to deepening that connection for years to come.”

The announcement of the expansion slot ends the city’s long wait to enter the MLS as Sacramento has been attempting to secure an expansion into the league since 2015. 

The club’s most recent attempt to secure an expansion saw them overlooked in 2017 due to financial concerns, however, since then it has received the financial backing of Burkle, who is part-owner of the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Pittsburgh Penguins, as well as Matt Alvarez, which has seemingly put an end to any concerns surrounding the clubs funding. 

MLS commissioner, Don Garber, commented on the addition of the Republic to MLS: “Major League Soccer continues to grow throughout North America and we are so proud to welcome Sacramento as our newest team. For many years, soccer fans in Sacramento have passionately supported Republic FC and shown that the club deserves to be competing at the highest level.”

The awarding of the 29th expansion slot to Sacramento in turn means that the MLS has one singular expansion slot left to fill if it aims to stick to its 30 franchise expansion target, with Charlotte expected to be awarded the final expansion slot following a bid headed by the owner of the National Football League’s (NFL) Carolina Panthers, David Tepper

Having started this campaign with 24 teams, the MLS will see Miami and Nashville join in 2020, before Austin follow suit in 2021. St.Louis will then join Sacramento in 2022 to bring the league number up to 29 .

The Republic, who is set to play its home games in front of 20,100 fans at a new $300m stadium, now becomes the fourth MLS team in California joining LA Galaxy, LAFC and the San Jose Earthquakes.