The mayor and the billionaire: A tweet raises hopes - and questions - about MLS in Sacramento

Long-suffering Sacramento soccer fans are starved for any hints that Sacramento’s now five-year-long effort to win a Major League Soccer franchise may be coming to a successful conclusion.

It’s no surprise then that a tweet by Mayor Darrell Steinberg on Monday showing him standing, soccer ball in hand, between Ron Burkle and Matt Alvarez immediately launched nearly a 100 twitter hearts in response. Alvarez wore a Republic FC scarf.

“Great seeing Ron Burkle and Matt Alvarez this morning!” the mayor tweeted. But what was this meeting about?

Burkle, a Los Angeles billionaire businessman and Alvarez, a Hollywood film producer, lead an investment group that is negotiating terms of a deal to bring an MLS expansion team to Sacramento.

Steinberg said Burkle and Alvarez were in Sacramento to meet with Republic FC officials, including lead local investor Kevin Nagle, at the team’s midtown offices. Steinberg said he went over to say hello and to express his appreciation for the efforts to bring top-tier soccer here. He declined to offer details of the meeting.

MLS officials announced in April that they will expand their league from 27 teams to 30, and that they would enter into serious negotiations with Sacramento and St. Louis in hopes of coming to a deal this summer to usher those two cities into the league.

MLS and St. Louis reached an agreement to make St. Louis the 28th city. Sources have told the Bee that the Burkle group has agreed with MLS officials on the framework of a deal, but final details remain under discussion.

Steinberg said he asked Burkle and Alvarez to take the picture with him. “I said, ‘Hey, let’s pose for a picture and let’s tweet, because I do understand there is a lot of anticipation and excitement.’

“We have all developed a strong partnership and I am hopeful the partnership is going to lead to many great things for Sacramento, soccer and beyond.”

The new team would retain the name Republic FC, which is the name of Sacramento’s current lower-tier United Soccer League franchise.

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Tony Bizjak has been reporting for The Bee for 30 years. He covers transportation, housing and development and previously was the paper’s City Hall beat reporter.
Marcos Breton writes commentary and opinion columns about the Sacramento region, California and the United States. He’s been a California newspaperman for more than 30 years. He’s a graduate of San Jose State University, a voter for the Baseball Hall of Fame and the proud son of Mexican immigrants.