Yuliia Zatula

Sacramento Republic FC gets promoted to Major League Soccer

ESPN Radio
October 21, 2019 - 6:07 pm

By Charlie O @Charlie1320

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That promotion to the top tier of professional soccer in the United States came at a price. The new ownership group had to pony up a $200-million “franchise fee” just for “the privilege” to join the club of people who own an MLS franchise. That is why the city had to wait several years to get a franchise. MLS bluntly told the local owners that they needed to find a partner with “deeper pockets”

Enter Ron Burkle

Burkle is the prototype of what professional leagues are looking for in majority owners. He is a billionaire who made his money in the grocery business (think of the late Peter Magowan of the Giants) and he is now in the entertainment business (think Peter Guber of the Warriors). Burkle also owns the very successful Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL.

Burkle was originally one the people who was involved in the effort to purchase the Kings from the Maloof family in order to keep the team from moving to Seattle. After being very involved, he just quietly went away, but obviously, he did not forget about Sacramento.

“Sacramento’s selection by Major League Soccer for an expansion team is a victory to be celebrated by everyone in our community,” said Burkle to MLSsoccer.com. “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. We are proud to be part of the team that Kevin Nagle put together, which is made even stronger by an incredibly committed local ownership group. 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 fans were the catalysts to seal the deal

In 2014, local soccer fans packed old Hughes Stadium with 20,000 fans for the Republic FC’s first match. That set the tone for what was to come with the team. There was little doubt that professional soccer was going to be successful in the City of Trees.

As the success of the USL team grew, the push to jump to MLS intensified. Over 10,000 local fans made a commitment to become season ticket holders if the team made the move to the major league level.

Republic FC managing owner – Kevin Nagle – worked with civic and community leaders to develop a plan to make the step up to the next level. That is how the focus became the Railyards District as a location for a soccer specific stadium.

City officials were beginning to visualize the stadium as being the start of the development of an area that is overflowing with potential. The stadium started looking like the epicenter for growth the way the Golden 1 Center had done for downtown.

The owners, government officials and most importantly the fans never gave up despite the ups and downs of the process. Today, their hard work and faithfulness was rewarded.

The countdown is on

Sacramento Republic Football Club will begin play in MLS in 2022 and will build a new, $300 million, 20,100-seat soccer stadium in the downtown Railyards District. The stadium will be a centerpiece of a redevelopment project that will include housing, retail, theaters, parks, museums, a hotel and a major medical center. An estimated 20,000 people may be living in the district by the time the development is completed.

“Major League Soccer continues to grow throughout North America and we are so proud to welcome Sacramento as our newest team,” said Commissioner Garber to MLSsoccer.com. “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. Thanks to the determined efforts and commitment of new owners Ron Burkle and Matt Alvarez along with the leadership of Mayor Darren Steinberg, Sacramento will join MLS with a world-class soccer stadium that will transform the sport in California’s capital.”

In the meantime

The Republic FC will continue to play in the USL. They will be back in action on Wednesday night when they will host New Mexico United in a play-in match to determine who will make the first round of the playoffs.

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