MLS Expansion: Sacramento, from sure bet to ...?

Of the 12 cities on the current MLS expansion list, none looked to be in better shape than Sacramento.

Almost 10 months ago, MLS commissioner Don Garber said Sacramento "checked the boxes that are required."

One those boxes must not have been presenting a united front as a rift threatened to derail efforts to bring MLS to California's state capital and forced Sacramento mayor Darrell Steinberg to step in to try to rescue the bid.

The dispute is between Sac Soccer & Entertainment Holdings and the USL's Sacramento Republic FC. It surfaced with the exclusion of any mention of Sac Republic in the application Sac Soccer & Entertainment Holdings submitted to MLS on Tuesday, as well as no mention by Sac Republic on its Website or in social media about the bid.

While Sacramento Republic FC drew national attention with record attendance for its USL team in a market without any history of soccer support, Sac Soccer & Entertainment Holdings was the heavy hitter with the money and political clout to get approval for a $226 million soccer stadium at the downtown railyards. To be clear: no other bidder comes close to matching Sacramento for having a finalized stadium plan.



The two principals in the dispute are SS&EH's Kevin Nagle and Sac Republic's Warren Smith. Contrary to published reports, Nagle had not purchased controlling interest in Sac Republic, meaning that he and Smith must work out a agreement on Sac Republic's role in any MLS team.

MLS president Mark Abbott confirmed that Garber had worked as an intermediary trying to get Nagle and Smith to reach a compromise. When that didn't happen, Nagle submitted the Sacramento bid without Sac Republic, but that move prompted outrage from hard-core Sac Republic supporters.

“I’d like to minimize some of the brouhaha and hysteria about this,” Abbott said. “I think it’s fairly straightforward when you take a look at it.”

Sacramento Republic issued a statement on Wednesday:

"We are just as surprised as our fans to hear that various news outlets are reporting that a bid was submitted to MLS for Sacramento which does not reference Sacramento Republic FC. If these reports are true, this is deeply troubling to us. This journey has always been an endeavor to elevate your team, Sacramento Republic FC, to MLS. If the bid submitted yesterday by Mr. Nagle did not include Sacramento Republic FC, it was in violation of our agreements and without our authorization; and we will take this up with the appropriate parties immediately. We want to thank all of Sacramento Republic FC's fans for your continued support. This is, and always will be, your team."

That concern about losing Sac Republic fan support -- another essential factor for making Sacramento as close to a sure thing as there is the MLS expansion race -- was very much on the mind of new Sacramento mayor Darrell Steinberg, who by midday on Wednesday said he wanted Nagle and Smith in his office on Thursday to resolve their differences.

“They have the right and ability to negotiate whatever terms they want,” Steinberg said in a hastily arranged press briefing Wednesday afternoon at Sacramento city hall. “We have a higher priority.”

Keeping Sacramento at the top of the expansion list.

6 comments about "MLS Expansion: Sacramento, from sure bet to ...?".
  1. Paul Cox, February 2, 2017 at 7:27 a.m.

    Rich guys losing perspective on who actually drive the game- the fans. Every penny that they get in revenue can be eventually traced back to fans, and blowing up their support in Sacramento is senseless.

  2. Mark Buckley, February 2, 2017 at 8:05 a.m.

    The Republic could join the NASL since the USL will not allow any of their clubs to cause a problem with a new MLS club.

  3. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, February 2, 2017 at 10:48 a.m.

    If it exists after this season. It's kind of a surprise there will even be a 2017 NASL season.

  4. Mario Cesarone, February 2, 2017 at 8:45 a.m.

    Is it just me or does anyone else believe this is all about money as in how much SAC Republic feels its name is worth in this parnership.

  5. Bill Wilson, February 2, 2017 at 10:37 a.m.

    Of course it is all about money....what isn't. There are too many other bids, with unified ownership, that do not have this drama. Sacramento forced their way into the conversation (and the pole position) with a great PR strategy and by delivering results on the stadium front. This unified approach doesn't exist anymore, so move on. The Commissioner seems to have already picked his favorites and is acting like he knows who he wants to win. Witness the humiliation the league is suffering in Miami and the love fest for St. Louis and the late-to-the-party groveling in San Diego. His involvement in being a mediator in Sacramento is an insult to the other cities who spent a lot of time and money preparing their bids and getting organized.

  6. Mark Landefeld, February 2, 2017 at 2:06 p.m.

    Not a good sign when the Kings-basketball-centered money assumes they can "go it alone" without the leadership of the soccer community. That separation almost killed MLS in its first decade.

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